Author(s): Emma Webster
Publisher: Association of Independent Festivals (AIF)
Date: October 2014
This report, written by LMX’s own Emma Webster to celebrate the AIF’s sixth birthday, places the festival sector in its historical context and looks ahead to the future to see the issues currently facing festival promoters, with a focus on the AIF’s member festivals.
Headline findings include:-
- Since the AIF started, there have been sixty-six member festivals in total, including Bestival, Womad, Shambala, and Kendal Calling. Not all the member festivals still exist – the Big Chill and Glade, for instance, are sadly no longer with us. However, the Association of Independent Festivals continues to grow in strength, from the initial seventeen member festivals in 2008 to forty-four members today from the UK and beyond.
- The survey showed that, between 2008 and 2013, the average festival-goer spent £395 per festival.
- Spending on festivals appears to be steady, based on finding the average of the year-on-year percentage change over the six years of the AIF survey. Spending has risen by 3% per year on average which is in line with inflation – adjusted for inflation, the average rise in spending per year has been 0.1%.
- Multiplying the total ticket sales per year from AIF’s capacity data for its members (assuming all festivals sold out), and the average spend each year from the AIF survey, it is estimated that the total spend by AIF member festival attendees between 2010 and 2013 was around £795,300,000.
- Taking an estimated average spend between 2010 and 2014 of £409 and multiplying this figure by the total potential ticket sales of AIF member festivals in 2014 (assuming all festivals sold out), added to the estimated total for 2010-2013 above, the spend by AIF member festival-goers for the past five years (2010 to 2014) is estimated to be approximately £1.01 billion.
- Examining ticket prices for a number of UK festivals, including some AIF members, shows that, on average, ticket prices have risen on average by 6.3% per year since 2008. It should also be pointed out that artist fees have also increased during this period, however; Festival Republic’s Melvin Benn, for example, estimated that the rise in headliner fee between 2004 and 2014 is 400%.[i]
- Based on six years’ worth of data, the average amount of money spent in the local area per person was £30.77. Multiplying the total ticket sales per year from AIF’s capacity data for its members (assuming all festivals sold out), and the average local spend each year from the AIF survey, the total spend in the local area between 2010 and 2013 is estimated at around £60,300,000. Including the estimated average spend for 2014 gives an estimated total figure of £77,100,000 spent in the local area by AIF member festival-goers over the past five years (2010-2014).
- Even after car sharing and other transport initiatives, there has been a significant increase in the average number of people travelling by car with two people or fewer, with a 13.1% rise on average over the six years of the AIF survey.
- Since 2008, the average number of survey respondents opting to travel by public transport appears to have decreased.
- In 2013, 8% of respondents chose to attend a UK festival over a summer holiday abroad with 35.7% willing and able to do both.
- The good news is that 85% of the festival-goers surveyed in 2013 said that they took their tent home. However, the bad news is that out of those who camp, nearly 7% of survey respondents admitted to leaving their tent behind in 2013, either because it was broken (the most popular excuse), because they couldn’t bear to carry it, because it was cheap and they could get another one, or because they lost it. Multiply this by the total number of AIF festival-goers in 2013 and that leaves an estimated 18,000 tents left behind by AIF member festival-goers, or nearly 54 metric tonnes of tent-related rubbish potentially sent to landfill in 2013. These statistics, coupled with the increase in private transport and decrease in public transport, perhaps suggests that the environmental impact of festivals appears to be increasing.
- There appear to have been significant reductions in crime in 2014, including at AIF member festivals Kendal Calling[ii] and Bestival.[iii] The AIF survey results also appear to show that there was a small overall decrease in crime between 2012 and 2013.
 Total spend figures are based on 11,350 AIF survey responses to the question about audience spend, which forms 0.5% of the total potential population of the potential AIF festival-going audience between 2010 and 2013, i.e. nearly 2.5 million potential festival-goers. This compares to 2693 respondents to the Festival Awards 2010 survey carried out by Virtual Festivals from 155,000+ opt-in email subscribers, representing approximately 1.7% of their subscriber base, therefore the AIF survey return rate is in line with the Festival Awards survey.
 The Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose by 19% between 2008 and 2014 and rail fares have increased on average by over 40% in the same period, while actual earnings rose by 9% (Davis, Abigail, Donald Hirsch and Matt Padley (2014) A Minimum Income Standard for the UK in 2014. Joseph Rowntree Foundation website. Available from: <http://www.jrf.org.uk/sites/files/jrf/Minimum-income-standards-2014-FULL.pdf> Accessed 6 October 2014, p. 43; TUC (2013) Rail fare rise projector. TUC website. Available from: <http://www.tuc.org.uk/industrial-issues/transport-policy/rail-fares-set-rise-40-cent-2008-%E2%80%93-nearly-three-times-faster> Accessed 6 October 2014).
 This is in line with a report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation on the UK minimum standard of living which showed that transport costs have increased in general, largely because reductions in public transport mean that people increasingly need to supplement bus travel with other means of transport (Davis, Abigail, Donald Hirsch and Matt Padley (2014) A Minimum Income Standard for the UK in 2014. Joseph Rowntree Foundation website. Available from: <http://www.jrf.org.uk/sites/files/jrf/Minimum-income-standards-2014-FULL.pdf> Accessed 6 October 2014, p. 19.
 This is based on an estimate of an average of two people per tent.
 Based on 3kg per tent.
 It should be pointed out that the phrasing of the question about crime changed slightly in the survey, meaning that data prior to 2012 cannot be compared to more recent responses. The question in years 2008-2011 was phrased ‘Have you ever been a victim of crime at a festival?’ whereas from 2012 onwards, the question has been phrased as ‘Were you a victim of crime at a Festival in 20XX’? The latter question gives a more accurate understanding of the change in crime over time and will be a useful addition to the AIF survey data in the future.
[i] Virtual Festivals (2014) Melvin Benn: Festival headliner fees have gone up 400 per cent in ten years. Virtual Festivals website, 18 September. Available from: <http://www.virtualfestivals.com/latest/news/14930> Accessed 6 October 2014.
[ii] North West Evening Mail (2014) Low number of arrests reported by Cumbria police at Kendal Calling. NWEmail website, 5 August. Available from: <http://www.nwemail.co.uk/news/low-number-of-arrests-reported-by-cumbria-police-at-kendal-calling-1.1153185> Accessed 6 October 2014.
[iii] Hampshire Constabulary (2014) Police report reduced crime at Bestival 2014. Hampshire Constabulary website, 10 September. Available from: <http://www.hampshire.police.uk/internet/news-and-appeals/2014/september/10092014-bestival-stats> Accessed 6 October 2014.