Definition: “A festival is an event ordinarily celebrated by a community and centring on some characteristic aspect of that community and its religion and cultures… Festivals often serve to fulfil specific communal purposes, … offer a sense of belonging… may also provide entertainment. “(Wikipedia)
We all love a good time. Music is good for the soul, it’s a fact. So, it’s no wonder music festivals have become all the rage in our busy way of life. But it wasn’t that long ago that these events were few and far between, in fact it was only in this millennium that these ubiquitous summer events have begun to frequent our weekend schedules. The year 2000 saw no more than a handful of outdoor musical events as it wasn’t until 2008 that the spend on live music overtook that of recorded. Yet, by 2013 there were over 680 festivals in the UK triggering massive growth in the industry, highlighted by the sudden upsurge of festival goers to 4 million in 2016. What format do these music festivals take, what is a boutique festival and how can you have a share in organising your own music event?
Independent Vs commercial
According to Anderton (2011) there are two types of festival open to us in this country; the large technically perfect and dazzling variety and the smaller community event which focuses on the experience of its participants. The former is commercially viable with a corporate agenda, focusing on brand partners and gaining profit through multiple commercial sponsorships. The latter independent festivals are reluctant to engage with sponsors, are non- corporate with an ethically minded agenda focusing on sustainability and counter culture. Labelled ‘Boutique Festivals’ or ‘Niche Festivals’ these smaller arrangements have caused a mindset change in the festival industry with a movement towards being more family friendly, offering contemporary music in unusual locations with specialised programming. The key role in production of the event itself is audience participation.
What are the features of boutique festivals?
The growth of these smaller gatherings is a predominately British trend born from a diverse music fan base and a fetes and festivals culture. ‘Boutique’ is something of a buzzword but its connotation is appropriate referring to something small, alternative and well crafted. Many of the newer events on the scene cater for 30,000 attendees or less, offering diverse activities mixing music with literature, art and crafts or they focus on one genre, and reinvent it. The aim is to connect deeply with their target audience creating a dialogue between producer, artist and consumer. Surveys suggest that more and more festival goers are preferring the smaller music festivals mainly because they are less stressful than the larger events. Ben Sebborn, Co-founder & Director of Skiddles (The UK’s largest festival guide) concurs: “With day to day life so stressful, it’s understandable that many people prefer the relaxing nature of smaller festivals.” Large numbers attend for the better selections of arts, music and entertainments and are attracted by the reduced entry tickets and improvements in safety. In addition, individuals are motivated by the desire to try something different, a change from the norm.
The UK’s favourite small festivals
- Kendal Calling,
- The Airfield of Dreams, Upminster
- Eastern Electrics, Morden Park, London
- Camp Bestival, Lulworth, Dorset
- Victorious, Southsea Common
- Festival No 6, Portmerion, Wales
Skiddles 2017 survey of 958 festival attendees showed that 67% preferred the small music festivals; their favourite venue is Kendal Calling, based in the Lake District offering pioneering contemporary music and art alongside markets, pop up bars and a cinema. The survey also sites the main reasons for going:
- 94% go for the music
- 60% to socialise
- 48% for a new experience
- 47% as a break from work
If you fancy organising your own event, however large or small, where do you start?
Get in the zone – have a think about … An original theme and venue for your festival and then have clear in mind who your audience will be. Its all about creating a new world offering novel experiences to draw in your visitors. Start small but think ambitiously with a view to growing the event year on year. Choose a unique location that arouses curiosity but creates atmosphere and be sure to check logistics too such as accessibility and whether the site is suitable in all weathers. Music will be the main draw so choose wisely. The more well-known the artist the greater the squeeze on the budget and the more difficult the task to better these year on year. Also think about how to reduce those food, drink and toilet queues and be sure to carry out a risk assessment. Where ever there are large gatherings of public the organiser has a Duty of Care to make sure what is offered is safe, legal and responsible. Acquire suitable insurance and assess where your funding will come from. If your aim is to run the festival for fun you could receive government funding, but if you want to make a profit you will need to invite sponsors to come on board, perhaps in exchange for promotional exposure? The greater the concentration on finer details the more chance of success so putting these initial thoughts into a concise business plan will help in staying on track and provide a continual check list of what’s next to do.
The Business Plan
- What is the event?
- Where will it take place?
- Who are your target audience?
- What are the objectives for organising the event?
- How is your staffing team made up?
- Do you expect to make a profit?
- What is the schedule of events?
- Are there venue agreements for rental or a guarantee?
- How will the festival benefit or disadvantage the local community?
- What are the event requirements; production, legal, Insurance. A/V equipment?
- What is your budget? Will you rely on sponsors/funding?
- Don’t forget to feature in a contingency of 5-10% to cover unforeseen costs.
The Marketing Plan
- How will you promote your festival? Select the most effective channels for the event. Whilst Social Media will play a large role in generating awareness, other channels are also available; e-mail marketing, street banners, posters. Wherever your audience may be listening or noticing.
- How much will you charge? Look at similar capacity events and the market in general to see what the limits are and then choose a ticket price to cover costs or make a little profit, whichever strategy is decided upon.
- Who will be the ticketing partner? A Promoter or online technology?
Learn from working models A selection of local independent festivals are listed below to give an idea of their diversity and makeup as a point of reference: CURIOUS ARTS FESTIVAL 20 – 23 July 2018 Pylewell Park, New Forest An alternative and friendly festival with a varied programme of live music, comedy and literary celebrations. Including opportunities to try new things such as poetry lessons, film-making workshops, cocktail classes and life drawing lessons. BRAINCHILD 13-15 July 2018, Halland, East Sussex A relaxed environment for people to share ideas and try new things – “A meeting of minds.” Art installations, poetry readings and creative spaces are featured in abundance. Winner of the AIM Award for the Best Independent Festival 2015 & 2016. ELDERFLOWER FIELDS 24 – 27 May 2019, Peppingford Park, East Sussex The most family friendly event on the calendar., offering great food, eclectic live music and activities to keep youngsters happy including trapeze workshops, sports camp archery and nature walks. LARMER TREE 19 – 22 JULY 2018, Cranborne Chase, Wiltshire One of the longer running festivals (27 years) with local, national and international music, comedy, art and outdoor theatre in its line up. New for this year are wood fired hot tub and sauna yurts in the woods. AESPIA 19 – 20 Aug 2018, secret location in outskirts of London Coaches from London transfer guests to a secret location only made known the weekend of the festival. Overalls are provided for festival goers to decorate themselves and mobile phones are prohibited! If you need assistance in creating posters and banners for your own summer event contact Team Roller Banners.