The festival industry has grown enormously over the past 5 years and although churn rates from the number of new shows on offer is something that often dominates discussion, the number of shows is not something that stops consumers from attending festivals. The appetite for new festival experiences is, in fact, bigger than ever, but we need to address an emerging challenge that is putting the industry at risk.
It’s got to be said that delivering festivals in today’s environment is increasingly difficult. Shows are becoming more expensive and plunging organisers into the red as costs spiral. Infrastructure costs have grown exponentially and green space rental is increasing as councils are under enormous monetary pressure. Increased costs are pushing shows into the black where they simply can’t afford to carry on – this in itself could change the festival Landscape forever unless action is taken.
Festivals are often seen as a rite of passage, environments where friendships are born, where people fall in love – festivals are experiences that stay with audiences and aren’t easily replicated in other environments. Our audiences are the heart of the industry and in this, the experience economy, the shows have to provide an experience that goes beyond the festival site (and then some) in order to keep them coming back. This plus the fact that there is so much competition now, makes the work of promoters challenging to say the least.
In a culture that is becoming more ‘throw away’, social responsibility is sometimes forgotten about by a minority of our audiences. Those who take less responsibility for their actions are upsetting local residents and in turn putting more pressure on festivals when it comes to Licensing. Perhaps it’s a lack of knowledge around the efforts the industry have to go to get the go ahead for putting on festivals juxtaposed with the increasing power the residents surrounding festival sites have nowadays, but whether it be shouting, defecating or urinating in the street, these actions have a far greater impact than is publicised.
Residents who feel aggrieved are increasingly mobilising their communities to object festival Licences. We, as organisers then sit in front of a Licensing committee made up of councillors who these residents have voted for to be their local councillors. In turn councillors place more conditions on these licenses in an attempt to demonstrate to their electorate that they are clipping the promoters wings and each road closure, additional toilet, additional security personal needed to control these unsavoury actions all cost more money.
This is becoming more and more of a problem across London Boroughs as much as in towns and cities UK-wide and is something we need festival goers to support us on. Audiences are our stakeholders as much as the artists that play at shows or the local council, police and local residents. We want our industry to thrive and we need festival audiences to support us in making this happen by standing up and taking an element of personal responsibility when it comes to how the small majority behave both on and off site. With more and more responsibility placed on event organisers to assure the behaviour of their customers, more than ever, we need our audiences to take an active role in making sure they treat the local community and surrounding areas with as much respect as their own streets and homes.
#EventsMatter and without us showing a united front, festivals will be no more.
Read more on this topic in our White Paper.
Written by CEO Nick Morgan