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Survival Options for Independent Music Festival Operators.

Andy Robertson

This year has seen turbulent times for music festivals faced with rising costs, low ticket sales and sustainability challenges. Some organisers will have to make some tough decisions in the coming months to ensure their survival but what realistic options are open to them that minimises the financial impact on staff, suppliers and festival-goers.

Whilst some festival organisers take tough decisions to cancel or postpone their festivals when faced by a financial crisis this can have an impact on the event’s brand and perceived trustworthiness amongst staff, suppliers and ticket buyers. Many music festivals that cancel find it difficult to return in the future as everything they build up over the years can potentially be damaged. What are some of the realistic options that organisers can consider to ensure the future survival of their event.

Cutting Costs.
A reduction in overheads and negotiating with suppliers can reduce the costs of running an event but smart financial control and budgeting is essential if pursuing this option. Laying off staff and squeezing suppliers can leave a bitter taste for some and it is likely that the quality of the event will be compromised too. Cutting back on unnecessary expenses may be enough to make the event viable without affecting the quality of delivery.

Go Niche with Line-ups.
Often the most at-risk independent music festivals are those that have expanded over the years to mixed genre events. It may be worthwhile considering specialising in a niche genre but organisers should check using surveys with previous festival-goes to fully understand where preferences lie.

Find new Funding Sources.
Festivals that are struggling financially can investigate alternative sources of funding or investment. In the current climate many of the potential private investors have moved away from music festivals considering them high risk. However, there may still be some potential private investors around who are prepared to risk a financial investment but expect equity demands to be tough on current owners. Other sources of funding can include crowdfunding targeting fans of the event or look at grants available form arts organisations for example.

Partnership Arrangements.
Most independent music festivals belong to associations who act in the interests of their members and they may be able to facilitate arrangements with other festival owners in a similar situation. Working with other festival entities can help spread expensive resources with economies of scale along with joint promotional activity with more favourable supplier negotiations to reduce costs.

Get Creative.
Consider creative ticketing with variable pricing and payment schemes to attract more ticket buyers, time sensitive offers and early bird discounts can always help boost ticket sales early in the festival planning process. Utilise more cost-effective marketing channels and try to gain coverage for free or at reduced costs, digital marketing campaigns using social media are great at increasing sales at reduced costs.

Deals with Corporate Operators.
For music festivals with a long history and well-known brand it’s worth approaching one of the larger corporate operators like AEG or Live Nation. Although they prefer to acquire larger festivals, they may also be looking to expand in certain nice genre markets. Although this may be considered selling out it does provide future security for the event and everyone working with it however, owners may receive little financial compensation if their event is close to collapse.

For festival organisers planning their events using a software management platform like Festival Pro gives them all the functionality they need manage every aspect of their event logistics. The guys who are responsible for this software have been in the front line of event management for many years and the features are built from that experience and are performance artists themselves. The Festival Pro platform is easy to use and has comprehensive features with specific modules for managing artists, contractors, venues/stages, vendors, volunteers, sponsors, guestlists, ticketing, cashless payments and contactless ordering.

Photo by
Jonathan Borba via Pexels

Andy Robertson
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