What future will Music Festivals have?

What future will Music Festivals have?

May 28, '20

This is a blog, about a podcast, about music festivals and mental health. Zac Fox has written some words discussed in this weeks podcast.


I am the Chief Operating Officer for the Kilimanjaro Group. We promote touring artists, large scale summer outdoor shows and festivals plus theatre work and west end musicals. I started in the industry in 1995 and for the past 12 years I have been responsible for the delivery of our high profile or large scale events including festivals Belladrum, Sonisphere, Wakestock, Kew the Music and Live at Chelsea and green field and stadium shows for Red Hot Chili Peppers, Stereophonics and Ed Sheeran. Prior to joining Kilimanjaro I also worked at several other festivals as a freelancer including Download, Wireless, Hyde Park Calling and Global Gathering,


We have a couple of different models where the festival industry is concerned. There are companies like ourselves, SJM, Live Nation etc who promote tours all year round and then festivals and outdoor shows in the summer and then there are those who just do specific festivals or even just the one festival.

For group one, the income from festivals is part of our annual income. In group two it’s everything. They can work for the entire 12 months on one three day festival. Glastonbury is one of them but of course they are a different animal. They are usually smaller organisations, sometimes just some people who had a field and started up small and got bigger. However, all of these groups are in trouble. As an industry we were the first to shut down and we will be the last to restart. We are feeling that it’s likely we could be looking at an entire year without shows. There has been a woeful lack of appreciation of the impact of this by government. There is plenty of talk about the airline industry and pubs, restaurants and hotels but almost none about live events of any kind, and yet our industry impacts on theirs. Touring bands and audiences spend a load of money on those things.


At the moment the audiences are proving to be very optimistic. We are hearing across the board that only around 3-5% of festival customers have taken the refund option with everyone else holding on to their ticket for next year. At Belladrum, our festival in the Highlands, we put all returned tickets back on sale and they flew out as fast as they usually do. This is all great but the income from those tickets remains the property of the customer till the festival has taken place and also the ticket income is just a small part of the profit from a festival. Those companies will have been really relying on the bar take, the food spend, the merch, car parking, sponsorship and all the other things that folk have the option to spend money on once they are there. It’s also pretty likely that a lot of them won’t have insurance to help. We usually insure against the event weekend being disrupted and we’ll place that insurance a couple of months out from the show. I don’t think many would have thought that there was the chance the event could be cancelled up to 6 months away. These festivals are going to have to live for a whole year with no income and also with the knowledge that they also have to have a price freeze for next year.


Then there are the suppliers. The obvious ones such as stages, lights, audio, video, security, big tops, car parking and traffic management. The less obvious ones such as décor designers, sound management consultants, sign language interpreters, cable tie manufactures. Everyone is going to be really badly hit and who knows which of them will still be there when we restart this industry.


I do believe that it will restart and that it will get to be as strong as it was but not till the need to have social distancing has gone. The entire point is the shared experience of standing in a field, shoulder to shoulder with strangers, and singing your heart out. A great atmosphere is the biggest target for any festival. So much time is spent on deciding what the “vibe” should be and how best to achieve it. Even if we could make it work financially on much less attendees (which we couldn’t) it would kill the spirit of the festival. We need people to be ready to come back and come back properly. Looking at how happy people were to go and sit on the beach in Southend though I’m pretty confident we will get them back. We just need the Government to let us do it without putting so many restrictions in our way that it’s impossible to manage. The worst thing would be if they tell us to restart, remove all of the support and then make it impossible for it to happen.


So, in short, whilst I am optimistic long term, I’m pretty pessimistic in the short term. I’m worried that some of the more unique events won’t survive because they were the ones living hand to mouth anyway. New festivals will pop up though, as they always do. It will just take some time for this to happen. All we can hope is that people choose to spend their money with us again as soon as they can.

Zac x




#podcasts #musicfestivals #music #mentalhealth

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published