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Why are so many festivals being cancelled in the UK?

It is reported, the UK has approximately 975 festivals in a typical year. They range between commercial, community, city based, religious, folk, multiple venues etc. Attendees can range between a few hundred to hundreds of thousands. 


The economic impact is estimated to be in the region of £70 billion to the UK economy. The UK has a long-standing history in celebrating artist and their music and this has spawned the industry known as live music festivals. Generally, most music festivals have been held outdoor on council owned parks, national trust land, or on private land.


The UK festival audience generally begin to plan and purchase festival tickets in the month of June, according to major online ticket purchasing organisations. Which means that most festivals are delivered in the summer months, which is understandable from the perspective of operating outdoors. However, this leads us to understand the economic concept of supply and demand along competition in a competitive market and the price point to purchase a ticket.


If the cost vs the income to deliver festivals is budgeted correctly. Festival organisers can generate millions in revenue and festivals that have typically and consistently achieved economic success have attendees that range between 80 – 100,000, those festivals can typically generate £8 – 12 million per day.


Online analytics show that some festivals achieve significant searches, Electronic Dance Music (EDM) receives 80,000 searches per month. In the UK, Reading festival, one of the longest running festivals receives 112,000 searches per month.  Whereas Glastonbury festival receives 48,400 searches per month.  


With so much information and data available, Why are so many festivals being cancelled in the UK?


The Association of Independent festivals, represents a large community of festival organisers in the UK.  It was reported by this association that 21 festivals have already been cancelled, postponed, or scrapped altogether, with 100 plus already at risk. 


The main driver for those already cancelled in 2024, is attributed to the rising production cost to host a festival verses the revenue received.  It was also reported in 2023 that 36 festivals were cancelled and come the end of 2024 it is predicted to overshadow the numbers from 2023.

 

The number of festivals that have arrived on the market each year has grown significantly, until we had the pandemic and emerged from that episode, the recovery of this industry has been problematic at best.  For those who have a limited knowledge of politics and economics, a stable government and economy with a balanced budget and strong import and export market, linked with a high productivity in the job market will encourage any business sector a high possibility of success.


To ensure we show that other industry sources have also come to the same conclusion as to why so many UK festivals have failed in recent years.  The NME in 2024 has stated that along with established festivals failing, many grassroot festivals have also gone the same way.  The rationale for the cancellation is also attributed to rising cost in the supply chain.


Many UK councils have experienced financial difficulty in recent years and Birmingham council was one of the largest to publicise financial instability and now officially bankruptcy. Many other councils have followed the economic situation that beset Birmingham Council.


This is troubling because many councils across the UK financially support grassroot, religious and community festivals.  With the situation they face, cuts across the council spend is inevitable and this will mean those festivals will not receive their funding this year.


Are we sounding the alarm, of course we are, it cannot be underestimated what this continued decline could have on the festival industry and the wider economy.  On the other hand, some may argue, the market is oversaturated with festivals and when that happens the market self corrects itself.   

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