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July 1, 2024

Is this the end of the UK festival season?

The horror stories just keep on coming for UK music festivals. 

Following on from one of the coldest and wettest starts to the summer in years, dozens of established festivals have pulled the plug, blaming inflation, the after-effects of the Covid years and Brexit for spiralling costs. In short, festivals now cost more than ever to put on and thanks to the cost-of-living crisis, Brits have less disposable income, causing a perfect storm for our once-thriving festival market. 

The festival slowdown has already claimed some big names this year, with Shindig, El Dorado, Pennfest and Barn on the Farm closing permanently while Manchester institution Bluedot has taken a year off to recover. This perfect storm has a huge knock-on effect throughout the supply chain, affecting everyone from artists to sound engineers to food trucks, security, event workers and the whole festival infrastructure. 

There’s also no guarantee that if you get to play a festival, it’ll be worth your while. Nadine Shah turned down a slot at this year’s Glastonbury because it was ‘too expensive’. And then there’s this message that has been doing the rounds on social media recently, with the Ibiza Global Festival asking DJs to pay them €5,000 for a slot at their festival. 

Reasons to be positive? 

In some ways, however, the UK festival market had reached saturation point several years before Covid. 

According to the Association of Independent Festivals, there were 600 music festivals at its peak in 2019 and just under 500 in 2023. 

We are a festival-mad nation despite - or maybe because of - our short summer window. But 500 dedicated music festivals over 16 summer weekends still constitute a very healthy festival scene, even though it faces increasing financial pressures that show no sign of abating. 

What does this mean for music marketing?

With fewer festivals and stages, it feels somewhat obvious to note that it’s harder than ever to bag that coveted festival slot. But equally, it gives artists an opportunity to work on their music marketing, putting them in a stronger position for next year’s festival season by standing out from the competition. 

Building a strong online presence is crucial, as it will help open new doors for you. Just look at Manchester indie band The Lottery Winners. Driven by an engaged social media community and innovative and honest content, they rose from obscurity to become the stars of Glastonbury 2023, playing six sets across the festival. 

At One Nine Nine, we’ve recently worked with Annie Mac across her series of Before Midnight shows - including being front and centre for her recent show in Halifax. We’ve also been running social media campaigns for our clients Dubfire, X Club, DJ EZ, Octave One and Darude through the summer festival season in Europe and America. 

A new era for UK festivals?

Festivals are a part of our DNA in Britain, and while the UK festival scene is clearly undergoing significant changes, it’s far from the end. The industry is resilient, and both organisers and artists are finding new ways to adapt. For festivals, this new market is a chance to become more community-driven, offering more intimate and unique experiences. For artists, it’s a chance to differentiate themselves from the competition and grow their social media presence, helping put them front and centre when it comes to next year’s festival lineups. 

Get in touch

Want to stand out with your music marketing? We work with global music and entertainment names, creating and delivering compelling digital, marketing, and creative strategies that change the narrative and support your ongoing commercial and critical success. 

To find out how we can impact your marketing, please contact our team at 01138444111 or email us at contact@onenenenine.agency.

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