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Independent festivals contributed one billion to UK economy in three years

By | Published on Wednesday 7 November 2018

Live music

Independent festivals in the UK contributed an estimated £1 billion to the UK economy between 2014 and 2017 according to new figures published by the Association Of Independent Festivals at its Festival Congress in Sheffield yesterday.

AIF worked with CMU Insights to crunch ten years of data from its annual audience surveys. With a combined audience of 800,000, the 65 festivals staged by AIF members last year generated more than £386 million in revenue, with nearly 10% of that spend going to businesses based around each festival’s site.

The association has been surveying its members’ audiences since 2009, and in that time the average spend of the average ticket-holder has risen by around a third, from £364.17 in 2009 to £483.14 in 2017. The average ticket price has risen by just 20% in that time, meaning that increased expenditure on things like accommodation, food and drink account for a bigger portion of the overall increase.

By combining AIF’s figures for 2015, 2016 and 2017, the sector generated over £1 billion in revenue during that period. The association previously estimated that independent festivals contributed £1 billion to the UK economy in the four years between 2010 and 2014, meaning the sector’s annual contribution is steadily increasing.

Commenting on that trend, AIF boss Paul Reed said: “That AIF member festivals have contributed another £1 billion to the UK economy – and at a much faster rate than the last billion – shows just how healthy the independent festival market is right now and how quickly it is growing”.

“Not only are these independent festivals providing music fans with fantastic experiences, they are thriving businesses that the country can be proud of”, he went on. “And they are helping support the many other businesses around their sites that festival-goers make use of every year”.

Other findings from AIF’s audience surveys were included in a report marking the tenth anniversary of the organisation. It noted that ticket-buyers rate highly the community aspect of the festival experience – ie the opportunity to hang out with friends and like-minded people – while “atmosphere, vibe, character and quality of event” were key factors when choosing which festivals to attend.

The report also confirmed that social media is now the key marketing and communication tool for festivals, with the impact of print media and billboards falling in particular in the last ten years. Crime figures have also dropped at festivals over the last decade, with the majority of festival-goers admitting that a police presence at events makes them feel safer.

Issues still to be addressed mainly relate to the environmental impact of festivals, with car travel to events on the up, and the widely reported discarded tent phenomenon still a serious problem. The latter issue sometimes occurs because festival-goers incorrectly believe that discarded tents will be redistributed to homeless people or refugees, but also because tents can be bought so cheaply from supermarkets these days, it’s too easy to just leave a damp used tent behind.

The report also highlights various initiatives led by AIF over the last decade, including successful lobbying of collecting society PRS to ensure an increase in performing right royalties didn’t affect festivals where music is increasingly just one part of the programme. It also discusses ongoing campaigns to cut down the use of single-use plastic on festival sites, to provide safe spaces in a bid to stop sexual harassment and violence at events, and innovative drug policies that genuinely reduce harm by allowing festival-goers to have substances tested.

Concluding, Reed said: “We are very proud to be celebrating AIF’s tenth anniversary this year. Our special ten year report is full of insightful statistics, trends and information that show how far our community has come and where we need to aim our lights on the road ahead”.

You can download that ten year report here.