So, you think Seinfeld’s “Festivus for the Rest of Us”, signified by an aluminum pole with a “very high strength-to-weight ratio”, is pushing the envelope of creativity for a reason to celebrate something? Never underestimate the desire for humanity to celebrate the mundane and ridiculous. For centuries people have orchestrated festivals in celebration of traditions and unique aspects of their community. Today, you can find a festival for almost anything ranging from crafts, arts, film, home & garden, birds, food & drink, religion, seasons, music and much more. Some of the more “unusual” festivals in the world include the Cooper Hill Cheese-Rolling & Wake near Gloucester England, where participants roll down a hill in chase of, yes, a round of Double Gloucester cheese. Or, how about the Moose Dropping Festival held in Talkeetna Alaska. Similar to “cow-flop bingo” in my neck of the woods, this festival has helicopters dropping moose feces while people bet on where they will land. Yes, somewhere in this crazy world there truly is a “Festivus for the Rest of Us”.
But my focus will be on the Fun-Filled music festivals held throughout the world today. Although popular in Europe for years, music festivals’ popularity in the United States began in the early 2000s, where the primary targeted audience was younger, hard-core music fans. Today festivals are changing the way people consume music and buy event tickets. They are definitely having an impact on the estimated $6 billion (with a “B”) North American concert industry which, until recently, concentrated primarily on venues such as stadiums, arena and amphitheaters. In the words of Bob Dylan, “The Times They are A-Changin”.
Unlike the traditional one head-liner concert that take place at a venue for a few hours, festivals are, for the most part, held outdoors and can range from 1-3 days, even longer, and feature dozens of artists, performing on different stages throughout the event. At a traditional concert event, the fan experience is limited mostly to the concert, providing a limited window of opportunity to engage directly or through social media with patrons. In contrast, festival goers are a captive audience able to move about the festival from one performance to another. They consume specialty food & beverage, take advantage of upgraded VIP experiences, and can choose to participate in other festival amenities, all over an extended period of time. The potential upsides are enormous, but do not come without risk.
Tomorrowland, one of the biggest electronic dance music festivals (EDM) in the world, takes place in Belgium, and had its beginning on August 14th of 2005. The success of Tomorrowland prompted festival promoters to organize a spin off event in the United States, not far from Atlanta, GA. TomorrowWorld, as the festival was named, hosted over 140,000 people over the weekend event and infused the local economy with over $85 million dollars, including $70 million to nearby Atlanta. That equaled the revenue brought into the area from hosting the NCAA Final Four tournament in 2013.
The dollar signs are flashing, the cash registers are ringing, and the usual suspects are moving in to stake their claim in the growing festival business. According to Gregg Perloff, Founder and CEO of America’s largest independent festival, Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival, “AEG Live & Live Nation are trying to buy every festival out there that can be bought”. Live Nation’s “Buy-A-Palooza” on festivals has given them 4 out of the top 5 festivals in America and an impressive 70 world-wide. As recently as 2012, Live Nation owned none of the top 5 festivals. Keeping pace with the growth in festival popularity, AEG Live’s bottom line numbers for festivals has grown from 10% in 2010 to almost 30% today.
As I mentioned above, festivals do not come without their risk but what attracts players such as Live Nation and AEG Live, would be the huge up-side festivals provide; the ability to generate a profit upwards of 250 times that of a single concert event. In a 7/30/15 Wall Street Journal article “Music Festivals: Peace, Love and a Business Battle“, written by Neil Shah, Bowery Presents head Jim Glancey says profits for a large, established festival, could be between $5 million and $10 million. In contrast, a traditional sold out single artist event, with ticket prices ranging from $50-$75 can generate around $40,000- $50,000 in profit. That, of course, is without all those added fees we all love so much!
Festivals provide organizers with the opportunity to utilize the latest event ticket and fan engagement technology. Passes to festivals come in single and multi-day and can vary considerably in pricing depending on the event. Passes for Coachella Valley Music and Arts Fest, in Indio Cal, ranged in price from $375 for a 3 day general admission, to $899 for the VIP experience. Ticketless entry and cashless payment are utilized at many festivals through RFID technology in the form of event entry wristbands. No more worrying about where you placed those darn tickets or the need to break out your credit card or cash when paying for something. It’s all in the “flick of your wrist”. And let us not forget Beacon technology, connecting event promoters and organizers with the patron through the world of mobile devices. The technology that keeps on giving, also allows festival promoters to engage with patron throughout the course of the event, providing up-to-the-moment promotions, specials, and information all to enhance the festival goers total fan experience.
Whether you preference is electronic dance music, films, or rolling down the hill after a roll of Double Gloucester cheese, the world of festivals is an exciting opportunity for fans of all ages. Some 32 million people attend at least one festival in the US each year. Approximately 50% of those fans are between the ages of 18 and 34. The technology that is currently utilized, and on the “drawing board” for tomorrows experience, continues to make access to these and other events much easier while providing seemingly limitless opportunities to enjoy the festival and share your experience. FYI, the grand prize at the Cooper Hill Cheese-Rolling & Wake is, you guessed it, the roll of Double Gloucester cheese. I won’t tell you what the grand prize is at the “Moose Dropping Festival”. I’ll leave that to you imagination and sense of “good taste”.
What technology have you found that made your Event experience more enjoyable? Share with us your favorite festivals or the “weirdest” festival you experienced. We’d enjoy hearing. Also, check us out at LockData for information on Event Ticketing and the latest in technology. **HAPPY FESTIVUS!**