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€3.75m security bill for French music festivals

With France, the world’s fifth-largest market for live music, continuing to be hit by terror attacks on a regular basis – the two most recent of which, in Réunion and Grenoble, occurred just this morning – new research has revealed the extent to which its festivals, already squeezed by rising artist fees, are facing spiralling costs for keeping their patrons safe.

CNV’s Festivals of Contemporary Music in 2016 report, which surveyed 87 events, found France’s festivals spent a combined €3.74 million on security last year – that’s an average of €13,613 each per day, or €42,970 for the entire festival – with security, logistical and technical costs jumping 11% between 2015 and 2016 alone. Spending on security, CNV estimates, now makes up 3% of the average festival’s entire budget.

The study, presented at last week’s Printemps de Bourges festival, reveals that festivals with a budget of less than €1.5m were particularly affected (averaging 3.7% of total expenditure), with those with spending €1.5m+ allocating 2.6% of their budgets for security. Those with a budget of less than €500,000 were worst hit, “because there was previously little security in place at such events”.

While the big promoters will be spending more than small festivals – 2.6% of €1.5m is obviously more than double 3.7% of €500,000 – Live Nation France’s head of festivals, Armel Campagna, told IQ last year that “business is not the most important thing” when it comes to festivalgoers’ safety. “We’re never going to be able go back to the situation prior to 2015,” he said.

Softening the blow slightly is the fact that the 87 festivals surveyed by CNV were all beneficiaries of the Emergency Fund for Live Entertainment (Fonds d’urgence au spectacle vivant), established following the Bataclan attack in November 2015 to assist struggling live entertainment businesses. According to Le Dauphiné Libéré, the fund totalled €18m in 2016, with €4m announced so far for this year.

“Costs for increased security at events could eventually upset financial balances, which remain very fragile”

However, security wasn’t the only thing that cost festivals more in 2016: artist fees, ‘other expenses’, such as marketing and taxes, and technical and logistical expenses (including security costs) and all rose between 2014 and 2016, by 6%, 4% and 7%, respectively (17% in total).

In the same period, average revenues increased by just 18% (7% ‘own revenue’ – ie from tickets and ancillaries – 9% from sponsorship and 2% from government funding), leading the report’s authors, CNV’s Philippe Nicolas, Eva Husson, Séverine Morin, Patricia Sadaoui and Mary Vercauteren, to warn that “even with the implementation of the Emergency Fund, […] costs for increased security at events could eventually upset financial balances, which remain very fragile”.

Though “fragile” some budgets may be, it certainly hasn’t put a dent in ticket sales: the 30 most popular French festivals in 2016 reported their highest attendances at least five years, while CNV, Irma and Sacem’s Barofest 2016 found last April that the “attractiveness of festivals in France is stronger than ever”.

This, said Luc Gaurichon and Malika Séguineau of promoters’ association Prodiss at the MaMA Convention in October, can be attributed to a growing sense among French music fans that simply attending festivals is an act of resistance against those seeking to destroy their way of life: “Even more so than last year, the French believe the entertainment industry helps to fight against the atmosphere of crisis in France. The public report they continue to go to shows to feel emotion and experience exceptional moments to share.”


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