Why are music festivals so expensive? | The Economist

Why are music festivals so expensive? | The Economist


I’ve never been to a music festival…
…until today
Surprising I know, because in the past 20 years…
…they’ve become increasingly popular
Let’s take California’s Coachella
It’s been running since 1999 when it had 25,000 attendees
In 2017 there were almost 250,000 of them
And as festivals have grown…
…so have ticket prices
In 1979 a ticket for Glastonbury, the UK’s biggest festival, cost £5
In 2019 it was £248
To put things in perspective, if ticket prices rose with inflation…
…it would be five times more expensive today
In reality they’re 50 times more
So why are festivals so expensive?
Running a festival takes a huge amount of work
This is Jennie Jordan, she’s a festival expert
We never imagined the level of detail you need to go into
Lak Mitchell is a festival producer
He runs Boomtown…
…one of the biggest independent music festivals in the UK
It’s like setting up a small town
We’ve got hundreds of lines of budgets
You’ve got to make sure that you’ve got water…
…to make sure you’ve got Wi-Fi…
…internal traffic management, external traffic management…
…toilets…
…four different security companies…
…food…
…stewarding…
…drink…
…artist internal transport
The list is just bonkers
At Boomtown it also takes 12,000 crew…
…1,596 tonnes of scaffolding…
…3m litres of water and 2,000 bins…
…and all that costs
But then there’s one more thing that makes festivals much more expensive…
…the music
And actually it all comes down to this
It’s much more difficult now to make money selling recorded music
The rise of streaming has basically flipped…
…the economics of the music industry on its head
This is Tom Standage
He’s the head of all things digital at The Economist
And…
…a drummer in his spare time
It used to be that you made your money…
…from selling records, selling CDs, selling LPs…
…and you promoted them by going on tour
…and now you make your money by going on tour…
…and releasing an album is just really an excuse for another tour
And as the importance of touring has increased…
…so have artists’ fees
At Woodstock in 1969…
…Jimi Hendrix got today’s equivalent of $125,000
In 2019 at Coachella…
…Ariana Grande was paid $8m
That’s 64 times more
People out there really think that we’re making millions…
…but we barely broke even last year…
…even though the festival completely sold out…
…because it’s so expensive to put on
Artists are really, really tricky…
…because they will get offers from the big corporate festivals…
…that are like five times what we can afford
Here’s the deal
Over the past decade two companies Live Nation and AEG Live…
…have become a dominant force in the festival market
They’ve been pushing prices up…
…and buying smaller festivals out
Now they own close to a third of the British market alone
Live Nation’s net worth in 2019…
…was estimated at $15.6bn
And they’re scaling their business models…
…turning the likes of the Lollapalooza festival into a franchise…
…and exporting it to countries across the globe
Companies control the risk by running a number of different festivals
That allows you to have mitigating factors…
…if the weather’s awful one weekend…
…you’ve got another festival with income potentially…
…a couple of weeks later
It allows them to get some economies of scale…
…and it allows them to get the top artists’ tours…
…so that they can offer them more than one date over the summer period…
…and that’s very effective
And this means that the most popular acts…
…headline many of the big festivals
While these economies of scale may be cost effective for the big companies…
…the risk is that festivals feel more samey
And perhaps that’s one of the reasons why overall festival attendance…
…has declined since 2016
In Europe 18% of surveyed festivals reported a downturn in ticket sales
As the market gets more challenging…
…some independent festivals have turned economic necessity…
…into an opportunity
When we launched Boomtown…
…we had no chance of competing on big acts as well…
…so we had to kind of create this model and this experience…
…that was unique and had its own sort of identity…
…that set itself out away from other festivals
This is where it gets interesting
A ten-year, British-audience survey
…headline acts are a deciding factor for only 8% of festival-goers
But 53% said the overall experience…
…is the reason they bought their ticket
We asked these festival-goers why they’re here
A line-up will drag me in…
…but when I’m here, sometimes I don’t even see any music
I’ll be honest I don’t know any of the friggen music
It’s nothing to do with the music…
…it’s all atmosphere
And that’s part of a much bigger picture…
In the past 20 years the Western world…
…has shifted from buying things…
…to buying these kinds of things
In other words, experiences
My name is Joe Pine…
…and I’m going to tell you all about the experience economy
Joe has written a book called…
…well, “The Experience Economy”
Well what’s happened is we’ve gone from…
…an agrarian economy based off commodities…
…through an industrial economy based off goods, through a service economy
And today we’re in an experience economy
What experiences really do is that they engage everyone inside of them
It’s this engagement that the likes of Boomtown are banking on…
…to pull in the punters
Do I know you friends?
In 2019 Boomtown hired 2,000 actors…
…to draw festival-goers into a variety of immersive experiences…
…spread across 110 venues throughout the festival
I have a question I would like to ask…
…can you tell me…
…who really was the man behind the mask?
And it’s all designed to create this unique communal experience
Living in the digital age that we are now…
…there’s more need than ever for people to connect…
…and that’s what festivals do the best
And the digital age also means we can document these experiences
And of course show them off online
We take selfies not because…
…we think we’re going to get the perfect picture…
…but because we were there and it proves that we were there
These are similar to…
…that souvenir that you picked up on your seaside holiday…
…that means absolutely nothing to anybody else…
…but is so important to you
That is if you like the kind of evolution of what happened before
If you went round to someone’s house…
…you could see what records they had, what CDs they had…
…and that was a kind of social media
Really posting stuff on Instagram is just the kind of updated version of that
And in the spirit of keeping up to date…
…pretty much every music festival is now selling the experience
Gather round…
…the future
So what else will convince festival-goers…
…that their tickets offer value for money?
What’s the future of this incredible city?
In other words…
…what’s more experiential than experience?
There is an experience that changes us in some way…
…and that we call a transformation…
…and a transformation is the fifth and final economic offering…
…this progression of economic value
We’re using experiences as the raw material to guide people to change…
…to help them achieve their aspirations
So expect to hear that a ticket to a festival in the future…
…will be an investment in a truly transformative experience…
…one that will offer an opportunity to help you discover your better self…
…and one that might even be worth it

100 thoughts on “Why are music festivals so expensive? | The Economist”

  1. *Because a Place is used to Gather People as much as possible and the Realm of Music for the Sake of Overflowing the EMOTIONAL World for All People to be EXPLOSIVE and of course have to Anticipate a Lot of Security things and All aspects of Comfort for All Participants!

  2. They're expensive because charging more money is the best way to make more money. Not that hard to understand.

  3. sziget is like $600 for the week, it’s called greed and inflation, if you are willing to pay it they will charge it

  4. 4:55 That festival where they interviewed a few Brits (LoveBox) happens every (most) July on my doorstep. The people that flood my neighborhood are annoying and pretentious middle class hipsters who always happen to have 1 black person in their group, i don't know why 🤔

  5. Festival culture is pretty amazing, everyone is there to have an awesome time and they watch out for one another too.

  6. it's just like the Apple products lot of people still will pay too much for the same product as you can get for much cheaper thing

  7. Why festivals are so expensive?

    Bunch of scantily clad women go their so festival host found out that they can charge guys a arm and a leg and they will still pay for it.

  8. 07:50 Investment into a truly transformative experience.

    Those kind of festivals already exists. Burning Man is the top of the list. City wide SXSW type festivals.

  9. Because if you were not properly distracted by such redundant nonsense then you may actually have to fix the problems in your society. Make it expensive, keep you working hard, out of energy and thinking such nonsense is a gift to yourself. Multi faceted distractions all to prevent you from killing your government for failing you.

  10. To be honest, I don't think festivals are expensive considering all the organisation needed and how much you have to pay the acts. For most of the acts you'd pay £30 for their own gig

  11. Quite an interesting video. Ruined by the plinkety plonk plucking music that every documentary uses nowadays.

    The festival market is over crowded, the costs high and the risk of not selling enough tickets is always there.

  12. …dancing away while their tax bill is just rising and rising with the increase of government debt!!!! way to go ladies and gentlemen!!!
    wonder what'ya all going to do when the total bill would be submitted to yourselves for all this circuses
    and where are you planning to get the bread then too?

  13. Not sure if I'm sad or angry to hear these stats. Makes so much sense why I will go to a festival and see lots of kids not knowing at least 70% of artists and their songs

  14. There are still some exellent festivals you can join for free and yet hear some well known artists like Pol'and'Rock festival.

  15. Because celebrity musicians can't live without their millions and influence other musicians into that lifestyle. Simple

  16. fantastic video, interesting insight on the reason people go to festivals is the experience not the artists. although, even if the majority don't go for that reason, I'm wondering if it's because of that "core" group that do go for artists, it creates the catalyst needed to bring the rest of the people?

  17. Ive been at Electric Love Festival in Austria and I loved it 😍
    Even made my own aftermovie 👍🏻
    The experience was just amazing

  18. Here in germany, small and cheap festivals are all the rage. You can go to a weekend festival and pay 80€.

  19. Incredibly interesting as I am sitting here, preparing my sunglasses and XTC to go to a festival here in the Netherlands.
    #Paradigm050

  20. Interesting video, although a few thoughts:
    1. very selective interview clips to tell a story. E.g. I'm pretty sure at other festivals people go for the line up.

    2. comparing Coachella with Woodstock (for explaining how expensive artists are nowadays) is weak, as Woodstock was of very different nature and attracted a completely different crowd compared to Coachella today.

    3. I don't agree with the notion of experience economy only. I'd say we are hybrid experience-industrial.

    What are your thoughts?

  21. It's actually ridiculous that back in the day the music quality was better and they got paid less. The example of jimmy hendrix just made me think

  22. I think these "new experiences" are just good old mating rituals – which can also be easily mass-marketed these days like everything else.

  23. If 53% of the festival goers don't care about the music, how are artists able to charge so much? Where tf are they getting fans from if more than half of their crowds are there for the drugs..(experience)?

  24. The reason why it’s so expensive because people are stupid enough to pay the most expensive prices and that’s why it’s so expensive

  25. It’s astonishing that you didn’t mention the stupidity of people willing to pay their whole month’s wages to listen to artists who really aren’t in the music business because of their fans (and probably sadly vice versa too) that keeps the industry supply met, not to mention the mediocrity of the artists’ music and performance that mesmerise tasteless fans! Sounds like you’re one of them!

  26. Bullsh*t -Festivals are one big corporate sellout.
    Todays festival are not an experience, back in the 80/90's before the corporations took over they used to be festivals with real eye opening experiences.
    A 1980's festival costing about £10 – £15 was from my experience having been to many many back in the 80's and 90's and a few in recent years. 80's and 90's were real festivals.
    Todays festivals equate to less than 1% of the experience that festivals used to have before the corporate sellout.

  27. I waited 12 hours to see Robbie Williams last year, 10 to see Noel Gallagher and 14 to see U2. Guess I'm an idiot because I saw none of the frikin festival "experience"

  28. Let's subscribe the magazine owned by reptilians family, my favourite authors said , David Icke. Want to see to what extent this Illuminati ,Frankist zvian family can go.

  29. By the way, I love it , love it very much CONSPIRACY THEORIES. Followers of all alternative media . No , not mainstream media ,lousy and whore media agency. Economist among the few, Monarch programmings media outlets I followed.

  30. 2:43 what they fail to mention is that not only are you paying more but you’re paying more for shitty music(mostly)

  31. They’ll just keep getting more and more expensive until people just stop going. Lollapalooza has been a staple of mine every year. It’s sucked the past few years. Not even close to being worth $300 anymore.

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