The continued popularity of music festivals in the UK

This post has been written and contributed by Kimberly Deer and is published in accordance with our disclosure policy

Going to see a band or musician used to be a limited experience. Piling into a pub or nightclub that held maybe a few hundred people was the usual method before the days of the arena or stadium show. In the late 1960s, Woodstock changed the scene completely by bringing large of numbers of artists and fans to a field and letting things develop from there. This format was soon copied by pioneers on the Isle of Wight, at the ‘Reading Jazz and Blues Festival’ and at ‘Pilton Pop, Blues and Folk Festival’ aka Glastonbury, all of which are now embedded in British music culture.

Almost 4 million of us went to a music festival in 2016, just going to show how mainstream the summer festival has become. Although the majority of festivals will feature some of the biggest names in world music, there is still plenty of space and demand for breakout acts as well as genres that don’t feature in the charts. Glastonbury for example tends to feature acts who boast huge record sales and now streaming figures, but the smaller stages are packed with everything from Jazz, Swing, Soul, Funk and Blues to Hip Hop, Reggae and R&B.

There are also genre specific festivals all over the country, with festivals like Creamfields catering to dance and electronic music fans. From Solihull to Stranraer, there are also independent, smaller scale festivals that showcase local talent rather than trying to attract the big names.

There are now plenty of ‘small but beautiful‘ weekends across the summer, making sure that the loudest message comes from the musicians and not the banners next to them

2017 should be a great year for music in the UK. Radiohead have already torn Glastonbury apart with a truly epic set and were backed up by the Foo Fighters and Ed Sheeran. Eminem and Major Lazer will be entertaining Reading and Leeds along with Muse and Kasabian. Festivals aren’t just limited to the summer however, with the London Jazz Festival taking place in venues across the capital throughout November.

The way festivals look and feel is certainly changing however. From the friendly, local feel of festivals in the 60s, 70s and 80s, to the ‘enhanced experiences’ seen at raves and heavy metal festivals in the 80s and 90s to the family friendly ‘weekend away’ that can be found at Glastonbury, Kendal Calling and the Isle of Wight festival, there is one common theme throughout this evolution; sponsors and associated products.

With a captive audience in one place for upwards of 3 days, brands and businesses would be insane to miss out on an opportunity to plug their product at every opportunity. Carling for example were so happy to spend money on promoting their lager that they purchased the naming rights to the Reading and Leeds festivals in the 00s, with both known as the ‘Carling Weekender’ at Reading and Leeds for several years. From Jägermeister tents offering free promotional drinks to entire festivals set up by businesses then emblazoned with logos and products – ahem – V Festival (which is constantly criticised for being too commercial), music is big business and seen by many organisations as a way to hit ‘Millennials’ or the ‘next generation’.

Even businesses that wouldn’t normally associate with music festivals are getting in on the popularity. Online bingo site Wink Bingo for example set up a ‘Winkstonbury’ promotion to coincide with Glastonbury, with the fun festival theme, including a handy survival guide, continuing throughout the summer. This promotion makes it clear that the demographics of Bingo players are changing, the opportunity to play online and while on the move is one that increasing numbers are grasping.

What the music festival of the future will look like is anyone’s guess. The commercial side of having fun will always be there to satisfy consumer needs and to prop up festival profits, but there is an increasing demand for ‘independent’ festivals that are more about the music than the advertising space.

There are now plenty of ‘small but beautiful‘ weekends across the summer, making sure that the loudest message comes from the musicians and not the banners next to them.


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