The Future of Music Festivals

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Rachel LaManna
by Rachel LaManna
Director of Experiential Marketing

What are your plans this summer? Typically, an easy question and conversation filler is taking so much thought to answer nowadays. Usually, summers are full of vacations, sports activities from little leagues to the big leagues, concerts, and cultural events. But our calendars have been wiped clean. So, what will it look like as we contemplate the other side of the pandemic?

Sporting stadiums, schools, restaurants, small businesses, and camps are all trying to adapt while still thriving in a social distancing environment. The music industry is no different. Virtual benefit concerts, Facebook Live streaming, sing-alongs, and drive-in style events are working to get live music back on its feet and out to fans. Just last week, the Texas Rangers added more sets to their “QuikTrip Concert in Your Car” Series since the original tickets sold out within minutes.

With the U.S. economy lagging and the travel industry heavily impacted by COVID-19, it’s an uphill battle for music festivals. The range of industries that are trying to present successful festivals, including hospitality, local sponsorships and in-kind donations from restaurants and artists, have been hit hard. There is good news though, as cities and local governments are looking to embrace live music as a recovery tool. Festivals bring music enthusiasts and artists together to promote creativity while fueling the local economy. And that is what is needed now more than ever.


Festival goers: We’re seeing new travelers emerge along with a shift in perspective. There are people who view travel as imperative to their lives. However, in the short-term, there will be more of a demand to stay closer to home and take road-trips. As we look towards the future, many festivals should consider the local residents and those within drivable distances to be potential members of their audiences. That’s why large festivals, like South by Southwest, struggled with their decision-making plans because nearly 26% of their attendees traveled from outside of the country.

Wide open and outdoor spaces: According to a Nielsen Data/MRC Data Study, 51% of respondents would prefer outdoor events, and 50% still want social distancing enforced. With the virus redefining our views on personal and public space, the more room for the festival and its prospective fans (and possibly their vehicles) to spread out, the better. Plus, evidence mounts that being outside is safer. Combining the two provides attendees with a safer experience.

Safety first: Yes, people want to leave their homes and go to music venues, but they have health concerns that promoters and venues should address. In the same study, 61% of respondents want hand sanitizer stations throughout the venue, and 35% want attendees’ temperatures taken before they enter the venue. Creating a safety procedure and plan, as well as communicating that information to the fans, will be important in making purchasing decisions.

Cost of entry: There is a great debate on positioning ticket pricing post-pandemic. There are two points of view to consider. No matter what, there is always a segment that expects to pay less. But there may be a spirit of altruism among your guests. They want to help you and the region recover. By building in different pricing tiers and providing limited discounts, you may be able to satisfy both segments of your audience without offending the other.

Tap into tourism and government aid: Music can, in fact, be the best healer for a strained economy and a pathway for revitalization. A vibrant music economy drives value for cities in several important ways. It fuels job creation, economic growth, tourism development, artistic creativity, and strengthens a city’s brand.

Although there is much uncertainty in the future for music festivals, fans are very eager for live music. If cities and the music industry can come together and adapt long-term, they will provide the public with safe solutions for enhancing music experiences and drive an overall positive economic impact on the region. And that would be something to sing about.