Decoding The Music Industry: Review of Summer Festival Season 2023

Afem x beatport panel cover
Oct 10, 2023
Vincent Morris
Revisit the fourth instalment of “Decoding the Music Industry” – reviewing the Summer festival season 2023 with AFEM.

For the fourth instalment of Beatport’s live panel series ‘Decoding the Music Industry’, we invited the Association For Electronic Music (AFEM) to our London office to host a discussion surrounding the current music festival climate.

Hosted by AFEM’s Finlay Johnson, he was joined by Jack Barnett (Business Development Manager, Skiddle), Josh Robinson (Promoter and Director, Hospital Records), and Nikki McNeill (Founder, Global Publicity). The session debriefed the Summer ‘23 season with some key insights into changing audience preferences and the growing public interest in electronic music lineups.

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With 2023 being the first fully normalised year for the music and events industry after COVID, there has been much to anticipate and reflect on. A post-pandemic world has not only significantly altered the landscape of live music experiences, but it has also seen a shift in the way people are going out and spending their money. Inflation and the rising cost of living is forcing promoters to be more savvy with their marketing and more competitive with what kind of experiences they are offering.

“For example, our production costs for a UK festival rose by 40%. So, you know, you can’t put your ticket price up by 40%. Everybody expects ticket prices to go up a little bit, but certainly not by 40%.” – Josh Robinson

Moreover, Robinson stated that payment plan tickets are now key in servicing audiences, who now generally prefer to purchase tickets in instalments. Despite the tightening margins, Robinson still reported a successful year of promoting international events and festivals in the drum and bass field, with strong turnouts and positive expectations for 2024.

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A new generation of music audiences are also now starting to come through, after young people missed out on two years of formative club and concert experiences. According to Barnett, this unique situation has resulted in added pressure on smaller venues, who must now compete with many of the larger day-time and weekend raves and festivals that have emerged.

What we found from the new generation is that students used to go out three-four nights a week. Now, they’ll go out once a month and they’ll go to a £60-70 rave-festival” – Jack Barnett

Publicist McNeill noted the rise of electronic music stars within the general festival and live music circuit – indicating a very healthy growth of the industry and global audiences. She also stated that promoters should consider their value proposition more in a market that is becoming increasingly competitive and challenging. In light of this, niche offerings such as eco-conscious festivals or those oriented around a specific cause or community may be in greater demand.

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“A lot of international festivals still see the UK market as a lucrative market, they want the British pound, they want the tourists there. I think the UK audience are kind of adventurous as well. Often they’re very early adopters going to different countries and strange places, they’re willing to go and try something new and exciting. […] I’m feeling that festivals have to offer more these days – it’s still the experience of it that’s important” – Nikki McNeill

It is apparent that the events industry has recovered fairly well – though not without a heavy fallout that has seen many promoters and organizations go bust, and with many more expected to drop off in the coming year. A new era of the electronic music landscape is forming, and as always, we’ll be on the frontlines reporting back to you with the latest developments.

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