Rising prices and reduced attendance for EU festivals
Despite a seemingly successful year, IQ’s European Festival Report 2018 shows that a continuation of ticket price rises and event attendance reduction is a major concern for organisers of European music festivals in 2018.
Ticket prices for European festivals again rose last year, having stabilised over the 2017 festival season. Festivalgoers paid €178 on average for a 2018 festival ticket, a price hike of 8.3% and an increase well above inflation rates across the continent. Of the 105 festivals that disclosed pricing details, 44 froze prices from 2017 to 2018, 2 lowered prices, and 59 (56.2%) charged more.
The continuing escalation of artist fees, along with increasing production costs, are the main contributors to such increases. Eric van Eerdenburg of Dutch powerhouse Mojo Concerts says the “crisis in talent” is responsible for “pushing up the price that the consumer has to pay”, making it hard to attract a young crowd.
“We’re pricing ourselves out of the business by potentially alienating the next generation of fans and not enough people seem to care about that situation,” says Eerdenburg.
Indeed, in contrast to previous years, festivals reported a slight fall in average capacity last year. On average, events saw a decrease of 2.7% in attendance, from 40,575 in 2017 to 39,475 in 2018.
“We’re pricing ourselves out of the business by potentially alienating the next generation of fans and not enough people seem to care about that situation”
Fewer events sold out in 2018 than during the previous year, with 45% of events selling all tickets as opposed to 53% the year before. Of the surveyed festivals, 18% reported a downturn in ticket sales.
Organisers gave a wide-ranging list of reasons for reduced attendance and ticket sales, citing market saturation, competition from new, small festivals, unfavourable weather, lack of headliners, fear of terror attacks and uncertainties surrounding Brexit.
A record number of 130 events took part in the European Festival Report 2018, reflecting the continual expansion of the European festival market which, despite challenges, shows no signs of slowing down.
Get the full lowdown on Europe’s festival summer, including insights into capacity and attendance, staffing, ticketing and pricing, overseas attendance, VIP options, major improvements and more, in the European Festival Report 2018.
European Festival Report 2018
Compared to recent years, where weather and terrorism had massive impacts on Europe’s festival business, 2018 was infinitely more calm, with few cancellations and promoters across the continent pretty much reporting healthy visitor numbers.
But the hangover of such drama has had a lasting affect, with organisers still citing the events of previous years as hitting their overall business during the most recent festival season.
Unsurprisingly, security at large-scale events has become a major consideration, as noted by one of the continent’s biggest festival organisations, FKP Scorpio, whose Jasper Barendregt states, “Due to fear of threats, the authorities planned to check all personnel working at our festivals, in order to [identify any] individuals with terrorist ties, by feeding the names into national security databases. Due to GDPR regulations and public awareness of them, this became a huge project, binding great resources within the company and the festival structure.
And FKP are not alone. Finland suffered its first ever terror attack in 2017 and Mikko Niemelä, production manager at Ruisrock Festival, tells IQ, “[We made] a lot of investment into security solutions with more security personnel and technical solutions. One interesting pilot project this year was an airport-style camera device that was able to see if a person had any objects hidden under their clothes.”
My main worry is the crisis in talent which is inevitably pushing up the price that the consumer has to pay and that makes attracting new, young consumers very tricky
Undoubtedly, investment in safety and security measures has stepped up in the past couple of years, while some event managers who filled in this year’s European Festival Report survey voiced fears over a lack of trained security personnel in the future. Indeed, at this year’s E3S conference in London, where the industry’s top security leaders gathered to debate the current state of the sector, that very point was made time and time again, with tales of even the largest companies having to beg, borrow and steal personnel from rivals in order to fulfil staffing quotas at festivals and concerts.
Eric van Eerdenburg, from Dutch powerhouse Mojo Concerts, tells IQ that the 2018 season could scarcely have been healthier for the company’s portfolio of festivals, but he is gravely concerned by the long term future. “For us everything went as well as we could hope for: Lowlands was sold out with 60,000 people, Down the Rabbit Hole sold out for the first time with 35,000 people and elsewhere North Sea Jazz did very well and our new hip-hop festival Woo Hah! sold out, so it was a terrific season.”
But he warns of storm clouds on the horizon. “My main worry is the crisis in talent which is inevitably pushing up the price that the consumer has to pay and that makes attracting new, young consumers very tricky,” he states. “We’re pricing ourselves out of the business by potentially alienating the next generation of fans and not enough people seem to care about that situation.”
Another trend to emerge from this year’s report is the festival community’s desire to operate in the most environmentally friendly ways possible. This is summed up by Boomtown, one of Europe’s big success stories. Having grown from 1,000-capacity to 66,000 in just a decade, organisers of the UK festival are under no illusion about the challenges this entails.
In Germany, there are far too many festivals and the competition is big, the most important thing is to be really individual and creative
“Protecting the planet and ensuring we reduce our carbon footprint as much as possible is the driving force behind Chapter 11: A Radial City,” Boomtown says of one of its latest site additions. “The festival will continue to implement initiatives and policies to raise awareness of sustainability whilst at the same time look to educate the public to encourage them to protect Boomtown and the land it inhabits – and to take those lessons home and implement them across their normal lives so that collectively we can make a bigger impact protecting the future of our planet.”
Highlighting the seemingly ever-expanding festival market, 130 events took part in this year’s survey – a record number for IQ’s European Festival Report. And while the following pages track some of the trends and quantitative measures of the business as a whole across the continent, on a territory-by-territory basis, there are many issues to take into account.
In the remote Faroe Islands, Fred Ruddick, creative director at G! Festival comments, “As as an organisation in the Faroe Islands we are central to the music business and projection of the country’s music, so we have our own struggles that are in many ways probably quite unique to us.” That observation underlines the vital importance of many events to their local scenes, and Ruddick adds, “We’re a very small event, 3,850 tickets in 2018, but we do receive a fair amount of press attention due to our unique location.”
In Europe’s biggest live music market, Germany, the experience is very different. “The season was challenging for many,” notes Lollapalooza Berlin’s Fruzsina Szép. “The ones who thought they would sell out did not sell out. In Germany, there are far too many festivals and the competition is big. But the most important thing is to be really individual and creative and crazy enough to create special places, venues and spaces at your festivals that are outstanding and have the WOW effect for visitors. It’s crucial to be the first with new ideas and not to copy others.”
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Price rise slows as 11% of European fests slash ticket costs
The increase in ticket prices for European music festivals slowed this year, reveals IQ’s new European Festival Report 2017, with the average cost of a ticket increasing only marginally after a huge jump from 2015 to 2016.
Reflecting increased costs for talent and production, ticket prices spiralled 8% in 2016, with OpenAir St Gallen’s Christof Huber pointing to a combination of rising security/infrastructure costs and, especially, artist fees. In 2017, that growth has largely stabilised, increasing just 1% to €148.36 (from €146.22).
Keeping that average price pegged are a number of factors: while 49% of European Festival Report 2017 survey respondents raised their ticket prices in 2017, 36% maintained pricing at last year’s levels. With artist fees, production costs and security, in particular, costing more year on year, increasing ticket prices hardly come as a surprise.
However, a significant 11% of festivals around Europe decided to decrease their ticket prices in 2017. Some reasoned that fewer festival days warranted a price break, while others simply could not secure big-name headline acts and were therefore able to keep prices down.
One area of ticketing that has undergone significant surgery in the past 12 months is the way in which our surveyed festivals sell their tickets. In our 2016 report, we noted that, overall, 51% of tickets were sold via the festivals’ own websites, while third-party online sales accounted for 27% of total sales.
This year, the dominance of online sales outlets was even more pronounced, with online sales via festivals’ own websites increasing their share to an impressive 60%, while third-party website sales also gained a bigger slice of the pie with 30% of overall festival ticket sales.
Underlining the growing importance of online sales, two years ago our 2015 report recorded sales by festivals’ own websites of just 42%, while third-party online sales were 39%. This could suggest that festival management have determinedly taken control of their own ticketing inventory to try to improve profit margins, rather than pay percentages to third-party sellers. However, the fact that those third-party online platforms increased their share of sales in 2017 might point to a marketing fight-back by the ticketing specialists, albeit at the expense of call-centre workers.
Get the full lowdown on Europe’s festival summer, including insights into capacity and attendance, staffing, VIP options, overseas attendance, new tech and RFID, safety, concerts and more, in the European Festival Report 2017.
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European Festival Report 2017
A total of 120 festivals took part in the 2017 European Festival Report and most of those events reported successful business for the year, despite the numerous challenges that promoters face when it comes to booking talent, securing licences, enhancing site security and planning for inclement weather. Costs across the board may be rising, but the public appetite for music festivals still appears to be on the increase too, so the takeaways from this year’s report are thankfully more positive than negative.
For the purposes of our quantitative reporting (ie the number crunching), we called upon the services of Live Data Agency’s Claire Buckle and Chris Carey, whose analytic skills and economist backgrounds have helped make sense of the data that so many of you trusted us with. Thanks go to both Live Data Agency (LDA) and everyone who took the time to fill in our survey forms.
One caveat is that, for reasons of accuracy, we only collated the numbers from festivals whose daily capacity was above the 10,000 mark. The data submitted by smaller events has nevertheless been invaluable, notably through the commentaries that organisers shared regarding results and strategic planning, but in our efforts to deliver you meaningful information that you can use to help your business, when it comes to data such as pricing, VIP uptake, attendance and staffing, we have discounted the quantitative information for those events with daily audiences of less than 10,000 people.
Europe’s festival organisers had a relatively problem-free summer compared to previous years, when the weather, in particular, played havoc across the continent
As with all European festival seasons, 2017 of course claimed a number of casualties. In the UK alone, the final day at Y Not Festival in Derbyshire fell victim to a muddy fate, Flashback in Nottingham was canned because of poor ticket sales and Hope & Glory in Liverpool folded mid-event amid rows concerning overcrowding and artist cancellations. But generally, Europe’s festival organisers had a relatively problem-free summer compared to previous years when the weather, in particular, played havoc across the continent.
And that sunny overview is underlined by the confidence being shown by promoters such as the people behind Exit, which is expanding to five countries in 2018 with the addition of Festival84 in Bosnia and Herzegovina next year, joining Sea Dance in Montenegro, Sea Star in Croatia, Revolution in Romania and the classic Exit Festival in Serbia. Indeed, cashing in on the confidence infused in fans through their enjoyable 2017 festival experiences, the number of early announcements regarding line-ups and headliners for summer 2018 has been relentless in recent weeks, while early-bird ticket offers for 2018 have been running since the day after some 2017 events ended – and were even on sale at a number of festivals during the 2017 season.
Read the European Festival Report 2017 in the digital edition of IQ 75: