Today two of the biggest festivals in Sweden, Lollapalooza and Big Slap announced that they are not doing a festival in 2024. Already in October when Germany’s biggest ones put out their lineups, we saw this coming. The German festivals had all of the same lineup. Sure, big names, but uninteresting names. That meant that the Swedish wouldn’t be able to pay for the same artists, and also their dates would be taken. Already here we knew that some festivals would throw in the towel. At the same time when this was going on I visited a smaller festival with an alternative program that had sold out and had a staggering 82% of visitors of Generation Z and was going fine. Their formula? Easy, no big headliners, and a lot to experience.
The days that you could just have a big stage with some big names and a couple of beer tents are over. The new audience wants more and has higher expectations. Also, with the new media climate where you are locked into an echo chamber, we are not listening to the same songs and the same artists. I looked at the most played songs on Spotify this year and I didn’t recognize half of the artists and songs on the list. And I work in the music industry so I should be exposed to them, I guess. Sure, they were played but not in my algorithm field. With that, it becomes harder and harder to find new artists that everyone listens to. Instead, we are more eager to explore and experience new stuff. This is what the smaller successful German festival was doing. People want to experience new cool artists since their feed is not giving them that.
The death of these festivals is not the economy or that people buy tickets at the last minute. It’s the consumer behavior that is changed. Now a festival must be a whole experience, not just a big stage where I should spend time to see a big artist that we all know playing a couple of hours later. Most new consumers want experience all the time not just hanging around to wait for something. Also, if they are going to hang around, they need a big artist. We are talking about the top twenty of the biggest artists in the world, like Taylor Swift. And her price range is hard for a festival to meet up with. And past years festivals like Big Slap and Lollapalooza have come up with big names, but not that big names, and not that interesting names, and very few new cool names to experience.
You can see on the lineup on the Way Out West which is smaller more niche but still one of Sweden’s bigger festivals. The names they have released are either new artists that are just breaking through or old names that are big but old and you can get kind of cheap but mainly attract older people over 45 years old, like Pulp or PJ Harvey. That group of audience though has money. But they also put things on food and experience and smaller stages to experience new stuff and keep the prices low. They have the whole experience and might be able to survive.
No there is no festival death. We just have to change the festivals to what the new audience wants. You need to understand music and know what to present to the audience. The bookers that just sit in their offices looking at the stats on social media and don’t go out and hang in clubs and other festivals, will be doomed and get wiped out. Unfortunately, there are a lot of those people so we going to hear a lot about the “festival death”. The time is over when you could pull strings now we just kill dull festivals. As a festival, we just have to adapt, and I hope Future Echoes can do just that and we are in full swing to try new things.