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The Return of Festivals

Appetite for festivals and a return to their communal live-music experience remains at fever-pitch despite the last 18 months - what does this mean for brands pondering the late summer outlook?

Last summer, as festivals were swiftly and inevitably cancelled as the pandemic spread, it initially felt some of the brutal losses faced during the fallow year could be revived by a buoyant 2021 season with hordes returning en-masse. However as 2020 trundled into 2021 and the winter covid wave hit, this hopeful spirit began to rapidly peter away, especially when heavyweight of the scene Glastonbury cancelled for a second year... 

Across the last few months a rapid domino rally of events including Boombox, WOMAD, Kendal Calling, Y Not, and Bluedot sadly dropped their 2021 fixtures, with most citing a lack of government support, particularly around the issues securing festival insurance in the event of forced cancellation, and the delayed release of the government’s Event Research Programme data (which would help festivals plan for covid-safe events). Needless to say, it’s been an extremely challenging few months for the industry, although it all began to feel brighter last month when two festivals actually took place. Bigfoot was a small capacity event fully adhering to regulations, with the likes of Primal Scream and Hot Chip playing to a emotionally charged, delirious outdoor crowd, while Download’s successful Pilot event went a stage further, with 10,000 metal kids and rock fans packing in 18 months of moshing into three days to the likes of Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes.


It all began to feel much brighter last month when two festivals (Bigfoot and Download Pilot) actually took place.

So now where are we? Well, now we’ve reached the 19 July lockdown date and the changed restrictions, if you look at the rest of the summer’s festival landscape then it’s hard not to be feeling plenty of childlike excitement about the upcoming season, with events including Standon Calling and Tramlines scheduled to take place this very weekend with additional covid-status measures in place to ensure safety.

And in the weeks following, a healthy selection of festivals are still scheduled to take place, and for many of the fortunate ones, ticket sales are thriving. Among the larger sold-out events are Reading and Leeds (which punted 170,000 tickets in three days), Boardmasters, Creamfields, End of the Road, All Points East, Field Day, Maiden Voyage, Dot to Dot, and Parklife, with Wireless and Green Man selling out without announcing a single artist! In addition, there is an encouraging number of smaller events still set to run, including Sea Change, Cross The Tracks, and FESTEVOL. How each event will function in terms of covid regulations might differ somewhat, but it’s looking very positive now that some amazing events will happen this summer in a relatively back-to-normal set-up.

The LIVE group (Live Music, Industry, Venues, and Entertainment) recently surveyed 25,000 music fans about the incoming return to live events, and the results were more positive than some news headlines might lead you to believe - giving brands plenty of confidence about how festivals might run for the rest of the summer.

For a starter, while some people are inevitably wary of jumping back in too quickly, 75% of music fans are feeling confident about returning to live music right away. And the time away and enforced isolation certainly hasn't muted the buzz, with 33% of people saying they plan to attend more shows than before, and a further 52% saying they'll attend just as many.

And these fans are definitely more than willing to spend too, with 73% of those surveyed saying they’ve already purchased tickets for an upcoming event, and in that remaining 27%, one-third were keen to return but just hadn’t spotted the right event yet or are understandably nervous of shows being postponed. So the enthusiasm is overwhelmingly there despite the traumatic year.

Now of course music fans are generally not public health experts so the next few weeks will still be dictated by data and modelling rather than the enthusiasm and energy of pent-up ravers. However, you can sense by both the encouraging survey results and more importantly the speed at which events are selling out that the people are 100% ready to head to the fields once again.

Parklife 2021 - Sold Out

So how can brands get involved with some of these events only just a few weeks away? Here are five suggestions:

1 - Festival Activation

There’s still time to take your brand to the festival! FRUKT can help you activate during this summer’s season and we’ll quickly match your brand and budget to the right event. This could range from sponsored pop-up stages to festival partner support and commitment. Given the heightened levels of positivity and emotion, this could be the perfect time for brands to express positioning in powerful new ways or create magic moments that stay with consumers long into the future.

2 - Hybrid Events Are The Future

One of the major evolutions of the music industry during the pandemic was the growth and mainstream acceptance of livestreaming (with 70% of music fans in the LIVE report above saying they interacted with online performances during lockdowns - from DIY artist sessions on phones to large-scale high-production events such as Dua Lipa’s ‘Studio 2054’ and Glastonbury’s ‘Live At Worthy Farm’). Expect to see the continued growth of hybrid events next year - IRL live events with streaming support for digital audiences - so if activating at a summer festival isn’t possible in 2020 then bringing the party to a potentially huge online audience could offer an in-road to the festival season for a brand.

3 - Influencers On The Ground

The growth of TikTok over the last 18 months has further demonstrated the power of using curated influencers who microscopically understand their passions and social platforms for brand projects. We can help you choose the right influencers for the right festivals, creating a unique on-the-ground connection to festivals and their audience that can quickly generate highly relevant content for your channels.

4 - Support The Music Industry

There is the opportunity post-lockdown to offer (much needed) support to artists, record labels, and ancillary industry staff, after a hugely challenging time when live music ground to a halt. This could range from tour support to product gifting, and will build a strong statement for brands keen to reinforce positioning in the music space, as well as building cultural cache and brand image. There is also plenty of value exchange from artists with content opportunities, social messaging, and product placement.

5 - Support The Fans

Covid has had a huge impact on many music fans’ economic outlook, with some struggling to attend festivals following a challenging 18 months. Mental health has also taken a huge toll during the pandemic, so assisting fans to share live music safely is very much needed. Support could range from free customer tickets to superfan ‘meet-and-greets’, and would generate plenty of goodwill and coverage for brands and affiliated artists.

Get in touch with FRUKT if you want to learn more for late summer - we always have our ears to the ground across the entire festival landscape!