Authentic Experiences

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John Cimperman
by John Cimperman

The popularity of music festivals continues to grow.  This past year alone, over 23% of the U.S. population attended a music festival.  But it’s not the mega festivals like Lollapalooza, Coachella, and Bonnaroo driving this growth, it’s the more boutique festivals that are being produced in markets across the United States.  These festivals are not only attracting a record number of fans, but also driving tourism and economic benefits to their host markets. 
A primary reason for this growth is the fact that consumers, primarily millennials, are looking for unique and authentic experiences.  As a matter of fact, 77% of millennials say their best memories were experienced at live events with music festivals leading the way.  Today’s consumers would rather invest in experiences than material goods.  And, if properly executed, an immersive music festival can deliver these fans and promote a destination.
When looking at the festival landscape, the trend is to merge passion points for their fans and, by doing so, provide a truly unique and engaging experience for the fans.  This “hybridization” of events can be found in successful festivals like Bourbon & Beyond in Louisville, High Water Festival in Charleston, and the Borderland Music + Arts Festival just outside Buffalo, NY.  Each of these festivals integrate the unique assets of their region into the music experience.  For fans, it’s an opportunity to not only experience the music, but experience the unique assets of the region, be it spirits (Bourbon and Beyond), culinary (High Water), or arts & crafts (Borderland). 
In addition to showcasing the assets of a region, these festivals are driving tourism and economic benefits to their host markets.  In just its second year, for example, the Borderland Music + Arts Festival attracted over 30% of its fans from beyond the local market.  And, now in its 7th year, Dover, Delaware’s Firefly Festival generates $68 million annually to the local economy.   
While the legacy mega-festival’s will continue to attract fans with their high-profile music line-ups, it’s the smaller, boutique festivals that can make a mega impact on their local communities.