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Experience economy fuels resort festival rise

For decades, grassy and often muddy fields have been the setting for music festivals worldwide, but as the overall festival experience has crept ever higher on fans’ priority lists, different kinds of sites have begun to catch the eye of festival organisers.

From snowy slopes to golden sands, resorts offer the unique selling point and quality infrastructure desired by organisers, as well as appealing to the experiential tendencies of the millennial festivalgoer.

“People’s tastes have changed,” Gareth Cooper, CEO of Broadwick Live and director of Snowbombing festival tells IQ, adding that people in general “have more disposable income” and often view a festival as a “second holiday” nowadays.

Starting 21 years ago as an après-ski party, Snowbombing has evolved into a week-long live music event. The line-up for Snowbombing 2020, taking place from 13 to 18 April, includes Liam Gallagher, the Streets, Foals and Big Narstie.

Mainstage Festivals-promoted Snowboxx (6,000-cap.) also takes its inspiration from the traditional partying aspect of ski holidays.

“We all know that après is the real reason why people go skiing,” says Mainstage marketing manager Juan Lopez. “Sipping a cold one after a day on the slopes is the perfect way to unwind, but there is not much to do on the mountain after that.”

“People’s tastes have changed and they have more disposable income”

To counter that, Snowboxx has brought artists such as Basement Jaxx, Wilkinson and Craig David’s TS5 to Avoriaz in France for the past seven years, alongside a “jam-packed schedule of off-piste activities”. Acts confirmed for the 2020 edition, taking place from 21 to 18 March, include Andy C, Annie Mac, the Sugarhill Gang and Denis Sulta.

Anthony Diaz, CEO of cruise festival specialist Sixthman, agrees that the idea of a combined holiday and music festival is really “resonating” with fans.

In addition to its many “floating festivals”, Sixthman has recently experimented with seaside resort festivals, launching Kid Rock’s Flying High Island Jam and All the Best presented by John Prine at boutique resorts in the Dominican Republic, with further plans to replicate the model in European resorts.

“People are choosing to invest more and more in experiences, rather than in material things, including in immersive music experiences and in vacations,” Diaz tells IQ. “The combination of being on vacation with your musical heroes and with others that share that same passion, it’s unbeatable.”

Fans have also shown an eagerness to travel to new places for festivals in recent years, a fact that the Mainstage Festivals team is well aware of. The idea behind the promoter’s Kala festival, which takes place in Dhërmi, a beach resort on the Albanian Riviera, is to introduce festivalgoers to a holiday location they are unlikely to have visited before.

“The Kala crowd is looking for new experiences and new adventures, so somewhere as beautiful and off the beaten path as Albania ticks all the boxes for them,” says Lopez, who refers to Albania as “Europe’s best kept secret”.

“The combination of being on vacation with your musical heroes and with others that share that same passion, it’s unbeatable”

Since Kala started in 2017, there has been a 27% increase in foreign tourists to Albania and, although the event organisers cannot take “full credit” for that, Kala is now the “flagship event” for Albania. “It’s the country’s first and biggest overseas festival and we look forward to growing along with the broader tourism industry over there,” says Mainstage CEO Rob Tominey.

For the Mainstage boss, cooperation with tourist boards is an integral aspect to overseas festivals, “not only to promote the festivals, but also to showcase the local culture.”

Broadwick’s Snowbombing, which has taken place every April at Austria’s Mayrhofen ski resort since 2006, also collaborates closely with local tourism boards and tour operators, as well as the resort’s management.

“We turn what would traditionally be the quietest week of the season into one of the busiest,” explains Cooper. “It’s an end-of-season boost for the local economy and brings very good clientele to the resort – the kind who come to socialise and make use of bars and restaurants.”

However, a festival in a resort, by its very nature, costs more for the fan. Accommodation for five nights at Snowbombing is priced between £269 and £1,500, in addition to equipment hire, ski pass and transport to and from the festival.

“We could go cheaper and use a resort in France,” admits Cooper, but “that’s not the quality we’re looking for.”

It seems that cheap and cheerful is not what Snowbombing attendees are after either, with four-star hotels, complete with swimming pools and spas, proving the most popular accommodation choice.

“When you have the right destination, people just want to go”

Quality is key for Sixthman’s event too. Guests can choose between different suites at the resort, with all concerts, meals, alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks included in the price, as well as unlimited use of the resort’s swimming pools and beaches.

Despite high-end prices, Sixthman does not attempt to tier pricing or up-sell fans with VIP packages or events. “All our guests are VIP,” says Diaz, which helps foment a “positive”, community-like feeling among fans.

Yet, for Mainstage, cheaper prices are one of the draws of its destination-based events.

“There are a number of benefits to attending a festival abroad vs in the UK,” says Tominey. “The costs can often be more favourable with cheaper ticket prices as well as cheaper costs while there.

Even at Snowboxx, the Mainstage team tries to keep the price low, “steering clear of all-inclusive deals” and negotiating with hotels.

“We’ve seen in the past how accommodation and transfer prices have spiked around destination festivals, after a few years of them being in the location,” says Tominey. The Snowboxx team offers seven-day accommodation and festival wristband packages for between £254 (three star) and £442 (five star).

The most important aspect of this new kind of festival, however, remains the same for all. As Cooper puts it: “When you have the right destination, people just want to go.”


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The Magnificent Seven: 2018’s hottest new boutique festivals

Launching a music festival when the market is so saturated takes nerves of steel, yet countless brave souls around the world are doing just that.

While the international behemoths are using 2018 to debut the likes of Lollapalooza Stockholm, Download Madrid and All Points East in London, Gordon Masson profiles seven new events that are hoping to attract a loyal following through their different approaches to the business…

“I can see Peace Train becoming one of the most important festivals in Asia”

DMZ Peace Train (Korea)

21–24 June 2018

With a motto that proclaims, “Let politics, economy, ideology, race, freedom and peace be experienced through music,” the DMZ Peace Train Music Festival’s inaugural event took place in June.

Format: A 5,000-capacity event including a conference and showcase elements, and entrance to a nearby amusement park.

Location: The conference took place at the appropriately named Platform Chang-dong 61 in Seoul, before a train took attendees and artists north to Goseokjeong, which is located at the entrance to the Korean Demilitarised Zone on the border with North Korea for the two-day music festival.

Performers (Korean): Jambinai, Crying Nut, Galaxy Express, Billy Carter, Say Sue Me, SsingSsing, Idiotape, Kiha & the Faces, Se So Neon, Adoi, Hitchhiker, Kirara, Lee Seunghwan, Kim Soochul, Sanae Kang.

Performers (International): Vaudou Game, Colonel Mustard & the Dijon 5, Joyce Jonathan, Mitsume, No Party for Caodong, Zenobia, Newton Faulkner, Glen Matlock.

Industry support: Co-ordinated by the governor of Gangwon Province and the University of Seoul, the conference side of the event was run by Shain Shapiro’s Sound Diplomacy, while the likes of Stephen Budd (Africa Express, ONEFest, NH7), Martin Elbourne (Music Cities Convention, The Great Escape, NH7), Martin Goldschmidt (Cooking Vinyl) and Mark Meharry (Music Glue) were on hand to help with the organisation of the festival.

The future: “We have big fields and parkland next to the core festival site, so I can see Peace Train becoming one of the most important festivals in Asia in the years ahead,” Martin Elbourne tells IQ.

“53 Degrees North can and will become a byword for true youth empowerment”

53 Degrees North (UK)

5–6 June 2018

Organised by the Hull-based Warren Youth Project, a charity that helps local young people deal with problems, 53 Degrees North has already had an impact on hundreds of lives. “Last year, The Warren had 1,454 young people registered, and they came to us 17,059 times in need of support. But the funding that’s necessary to give that support is becoming scarce,” explains Mez Sanders-Green, one of the Warren’s festival organisers.

“We didn’t want to just ask people to donate money – instead, we wanted to create something that would make the people of Hull smile whilst helping us sustain our vital services, this is why we put on 53 Degrees North.”

Format: A two-day, 3,000-capacity, city-centre event.

Location: The event is staged in Zebedee’s Yard, a venue in the centre of Hull that is surrounded by old buildings, giving it an amphitheatre vibe.

Performers: Slaves, the Horrors, Dream Wife, Life, Our Girl.

The future: “In just one year, 53 Degrees North has delivered the triple whammy impact of being a showcase for radical emerging and major acts, empowering live-work-experience for young people and raising desperately needed funds to support those young people to become their best selves. Because of that impact, 53 Degrees North can and will become a byword for true youth empowerment – give them real chances and they will smash it out of the proverbial park,” states Sanders-Green.

Industry support: “Ross Warnock at UTA, Adele Slater at Coda and Steve Backman at Primary Talent were great to deal with,” according to Sanders-Green.

“The various channels that Vice offers can give their acts more media exposure”

Noisey Festival (Denmark)

2–3 November 2018

A collaboration between Beatbox Entertainment and Vice Media, Noisey is targeting the young, hip Copenhagen crowd with a line-up that encompasses established and rising stars across hip-hop, rock, pop and other genres.

Format: Taking shelter indoors from November’s cold Copenhagen weather, the festival will cater to a capacity of about 3,500 fans.

Location: Noisey has secured TAP1, a former distillery in the Danish capital’s city centre, for its inaugural year, with two halls that will host around 20 acts across the weekend. Beatbox partner Xenia Grigat explains: “This won’t be a showcase festival – it’ll be a mix between known headliners and some rising stars. But thanks to the partnership with Vice, who opened their Copenhagen office last year, we’ve generated a lot of interest, as agents and labels can see that the various channels that Vice offers can give their acts more media exposure than they might otherwise receive.”

Performers: Jungle, Sigrid, Nines, Ugly God, Liss, Stella Donnelly, Riverhead, Kelly Lee Owens, Westerman.

Industry support: Free Trade, Earth Agency, ATC, Coda, UTA, 13 Artists.

The future: Grigat notes: “Noisey is really Vice’s brand, but we know they are very excited about checking out this festival concept, so if it goes well in Copenhagen, they could potentially take it to other cities, or expand its size in 2019.”

“The goal is to create one of the biggest winter music festivals in the world”

Festival 84 (Bosnia-Herzegovina)

15–18 March 2018

After the team from Exit Festival started Sea Dance in Montenegro in 2014, RE:volution in Romania a year later and Sea Star in Croatia in 2017, this year saw the launch of their newest chapter: Festival 84 in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Format: Following an opening party, the festival, which includes music and winter sports, ran for two full days and nights, and included a farewell party. More than 20,000 people attended the inaugural Festival 84.

Location: At the very heart of the Balkans, Jahorina mountain is close to the Bosnian-Herzegovinian capital city of Sarajevo.

Performers: The inaugural line-up concentrated heavily on the dance market with acts such as Sigma, Asian Dub Foundation, Joris Voorn, Umek, Burak Yeter, Bad Copy and Helem nejse.

Industry support: Echo Location, Bass Culture, William Morris, Radius Artists, David Lewis Productions.

The future: “Exit is famous worldwide not just as a favourite among music happenings, but also as one of the few modern festivals that has roots in activism that are still nurtured today,” says one of the organisers, Bojana Kozomora. “By merging Exit Festival’s brand with the Jahorina mountain and Sarajevo’s Olympic brand, the goal is to create one of the biggest winter music festivals in the world, which will – like Exit – serve as a champion for social responsibility.”

“Every person in the teams involved went the extra mile to make it a truly special first-year festival”

Kala (Albania)

20–27 June 2018

Showcasing one of Europe’s last hidden gems, Kala’s debut edition was held on Albania’s picturesque coast at the meeting point of the Adriatic and Ionian seas.

Format: Mainstage Festivals organised a 2,000-capacity, seven-day, beach-based festival, providing partygoers with an alternative to other Mediterranean festival destinations. The event also offered an array of sports and wellbeing activities, from snorkelling, kayaking and paragliding to sunset yoga and beach massages.

Location: Dhërmi beach, a short boat ride from the popular Greek island of Corfu.

Performers: Colleen ‘Cosmo’ Murphy, Moodymann, The Black Madonna, Hot Chip, Tom Misch, Todd Terje, Roy Ayers and Ross From Friends, among others.

Industry support: CGI Music (artist booking and programming), the Rest is Noise (PR services), Giles Bristow (production manager) and the Albanian ministry of tourism.

The future: Year one attracted 1,800 attendees – 1,400 of whom travelled internationally to get there. “The feedback from the festival has been overwhelmingly positive. It took over a year and half to plan Kala and every person in the teams involved went the extra mile to make it a truly special first-year festival,” says festival director Alan Crofton.

“The next few years we will look to progress steadily to ensure we maintain the intimate customer experience that was achieved this year. There are already exciting developments underway, which we can’t wait to reveal over the next few years in Albania.”

#MSG plans to use its programme to build a credible and sustainable future for the export of Greek music

#MSG (Greece)

22–25 November 2018

Music Showcase Greece (#MSG) has been organised by the Greek ministry of culture and sports, and in collaboration with the municipality of Thessaloniki, the festival is supported by the region of Central Macedonia, the Cultural Center of Central Macedonia, Athens Culture Net, founding donor Stavros Niarchos and Moni Lazariston Festival in Thessaloniki.

#MSG is marketing itself as a four-day music marketplace that is “something more than just a simple festival that aims to entertain the audience.” This free festival has been set-up to promote the modern, Greek music scene and includes parallel events such as music industry workshops, B2B meetings, a conference schedule, and cultural trips around the city, in order to entice international attendees.

Format: A four-day festival showcasing 20 Greek acts across nine city venues.

Location: The event will rely on a number of venues in the city of Thessaloniki (Salonica) in northern Greece.

Industry support: #MSG’s organisers have placed a particular emphasis on the curators of international music festivals, record label execs, agents and journalists on the event guestlist, with confirmations from China, Vietnam, Slovakia, Poland, Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands, France, Portugal, Spain and Israel.

The future: #MSG plans to use its programme to build a credible and sustainable future for the export of Greek music and artists, both by showcasing the best of the country’s talent and by developing its music industry infrastructure through the creation of a dynamic international network of music representatives, which will meet every year in a different Greek city. The next edition will be held in Athens in 2019.

“Wepe to establish a strong musical community and provide the region with a contemporary Middle Eastern festival culture”

Meteor Festival (Israel)

6–8 September 2018

Meteor was created in order to serve as a “cutting-edge, alternative musical journey that can surpass borders and distort time and space.” Promoter Eran Arielli tells IQ: “We wanted to take things to the next level, go beyond solo shows in concert halls and arenas and provide the local crowd with the immersive festival experience that they long for, which up to this point was only available abroad.”

The event will host more than 50 international acts and just as many local artists, and was curated with the understanding that the limits of genre and scene are broken, and a wide bridge now connects styles, generations and audiences.

Format: Meteor is a 15,000-capacity, three-day camping event with six stages, a diverse and high-quality catering area, an open-air cinema and an arcade tent, and also includes art installations and performances.

Location: The festival will take place in a pecan orchard in the Upper Galilee region of northern Israel, just footsteps away from the historical Jordan river.

Performers: Flying Lotus, Kamasi Washington, Nina Kraviz, Soulwax, Pusha T, Mura Masa, DJ Koze.

“When constructing the line-up, one of the main themes that came to mind was that of the hipster/clubber,” says Arielli. “It was also very important for us to integrate artists from minority groups and have a strong presence of Arabic and African music and culture.”

Industry support: Coda, WME, ICM, Earth Agency, Blow Up, ATC, Qu Junktions, CAA.

The future: “With Meteor, we honestly hope to establish a strong musical community and provide the region with a contemporary Middle Eastern festival culture.


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