Music festivals: is the 'bubble' deflating?

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    Music festivals: is the 'bubble' deflating?

    I'll post the lineup for the 2014 JazzFest after I finish writing this thread.  It will further illustrate the point(s) made (hopefully) in this thread.   

    I read an article on Flavorwire re: the music festival 'bubble' bursting, and since it resonated with me, it might make sense to some of you as well.   It's just an opinion, not a poll or a survey. 

    The festival "thing" isn't for everyone, but for those that have a thing for festivals, the lineup announcements were always a bit exciting.    Even the big, somewhat name-brand festivals (Coachella, Bonnaroo) sparkled, for many years.   Then, something seems to have crept into the situation:  instead of excitement, color and variety, *and* the entry-way to see "emerging" bands with a somewhat progressive lineup, festivals became bland and vanilla, with nothing to characterize them, and it began to look like a race to see whose lineup had the "biggest" names, rather than ... the best.  

    Now they say Coachella has the best venue in the US, so those tickets will sell themselves even if Britney Spears headlines.  :)    That's the same as getting a piece of "vanilla" jewelry at Tiffany's because some people think that the exterior presentation of a little blue "signature" box is more important than what's inside.  (note: that does not include me, FWIW.  :)  )

    Festivals might be seen as a good place to be for people who don't get to many, or any concerts.   Put down a chunk of money and see *ALL* the musical acts you couldn't even imagine seeing in a year.    Still a good deal. 

    Large festivals, such as Coachella or SXSW, are seen as the "Costco" of music festivals (funny!).    A great deal, if you can navigate the thing. 

    As you know, music festivals started out as the "poor mans" option to see music.  Ramshackle, small players, that somewhere along the way, got eaten up and swallowed and CONSOLIDATED.   That's the keyword. 

    This is what happened, even though there are still many regional festivals, many of them no longer exist because the mega-festival took over.   The majority of the market is now in the hands of the mega-festival industry handlers.    This is no different than the mom and pop stores being eaten up by the chain stores. 

    If the small festivals had a lifespan, will the big festivals follow suit?     Lineups are based less on being progressive, and based more (if not entirely) on commercial considerations / success. 

    It's no longer music, it's an event.  :)  

    Know what else is weird?  The lineups of let's say 15 years ago, when the target was people late teens / twenties -- pretty much are the lineups that cater to the same audience, as those people are now well into their thirties.   That's why the lineups are not very progressive, it's a nostalgia trip.  Younger audiences?   They get to see older acts.  :D    Coachella had Arcade Fire as a headliner in 2011.   They're back again.  A  revamoped  OutKast?  And Muse?   They've headlined festivals for years.   Not exactly cutting edge.     Makes you wonder. 

    The people that should be taking the place of the former festival goers (younger people) "are growing up in a world where festivals are big, commercial crapfests"  !!    They are not as interested as Gen-Xers and older audiences.    Are new audiences going to want to camp in the middle of nowhere and pay $$ for a beer all weekend?

    Prediction by author:

    I think that if anything, we’ll see a sort of deconsolidation, where specialized small festivals start small and stay small, and a small group of highly financed large festivals will continue to chase a declining market of ever-aging attendees. I might be wrong, of course — who knows, maybe in five years’ time Basilica Soundscape will be held over two weekends in a bespoke arena in Hudson, and attended by 20,000 girls in faux-Native American headdresses. But I doubt it. And honestly, that’s not such a bad thing. If it means that people go back to attending shows at local venues instead of shelling out a couple of hundred dollars to camp in the desert for a weekend, it’s probably to the ultimate benefit of musicians — and lord knows, they need all the help they can get."


    Thoughts, anyone? I know some of you aren't festival-goers, but feel free to comment. 

     

     

     

     
  2. You have chosen to ignore posts from MattyScornD. Show MattyScornD's posts

    Re: Music festivals: is the 'bubble' deflating?

    Interesting.

    I'm still inclined to the smaller, more regional festivals, but this puts it into focus.

    From my point-of-view here in New England, there are only a few precious months in which outdoor concerts are even feasible, and so it becomes important for a lover of live music and the outdoors alike to get as much out of each season as I can.

    And yet, I still have a job to show up at every day and a finite amount of vacation time, so the festivals do offer a lot of music for (relatively) short money in some attractive venues.  Not all summer shows are on the weekend, but festivals usually are.

    (Sometimes they offer adverse weather, too...but again, I'm from New England.  :P )

    Newport Folk is one of the best examples of this, IMO.  Space is limited to prevent overflow, the event is expertly run, the setting is breathtaking, and the music is mostly pretty great with a good mix of knowns and unknowns.

     

     
  3. You have chosen to ignore posts from yogafriend. Show yogafriend's posts

    Re: Music festivals: is the 'bubble' deflating?

    In response to MattyScornD's comment:

    Interesting.

    I'm still inclined to the smaller, more regional festivals, but this puts it into focus.

    From my point-of-view here in New England, there are only a few precious months in which outdoor concerts are even feasible, and so it becomes important for a lover of live music and the outdoors alike to get as much out of each season as I can.

    And yet, I still have a job to show up at every day and a finite amount of vacation time, so the festivals do offer a lot of music for (relatively) little  money in some attractive venues.  Not all summer shows are on the weekend, but festivals usually are.

    (Sometimes they offer adverse weather, too...but again, I'm from New England.  :P )

    Newport Folk is one of the best examples of this, IMO.  Space is limited to prevent overflow, the event is expertly run, the setting is breathtaking, and the music is mostly pretty great with a good mix of knowns and unknowns.

     


    In part, the perspective has to be "it is what it is" but I did find the POV in the article spot on, if only that I agreed with it.  :)    This goes along with how I feel about professional conferences (my first 'national' conference was the most exciting, but subsequent years were just meh), or even a yoga festival or conference (I was almost star-struck when I attended a national conference, now I don't covet or want to attend one at all), because now I would far prefer something more intimate, or even a targeted workshop where I am going to learn something specific.   

    Speaking of the Newport FF, if you recall, last year the tickets sold out in an unprecedented quick  timeframe, the fastest in their history.   And this was before the lineup was even announced, if I'm not mistaken.   

    So today, for fun, I looked online just for the heck of it, and I swear, do you know what I saw???    They put the "early bird" tickets up for sale on Wednesday of this week.    They sold out immediately.   So, it appears it was decided to just put *all* the passes up for sale, and they have done so;  no lineup announced, of course.    3-day pass is $179.00, not sure about the rest.    So you see, case in point.   If you can't beat 'em ...

     

     
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  5. You have chosen to ignore posts from polar123. Show polar123's posts

    Re: Music festivals: is the 'bubble' deflating?

     

    Yoga, good stuff, but imo the answer is no.

    The big festival industry seems to be thriving, and as you said, many events are selling out before the lineups are even announced. The scramble for tickets is insane, and the waiting list for passes is as long as some pro sports teams. Most have serious corporate sponsorship money behind them, tons of advertising/pr dollars, and word-of mouth. If this is a deflatting bubble, I'd like to see failure :)  Name a few other industries that sell out their product before it is released??

    Sure many festivals have jumped the shark, but it hasn't hurt their popularity. Even having mediocre headliners (Coachella), or a major stretch in musicial styles (Springsteen at Jazzfest) hasn't not hurt sales, much to the dismay of the music purists. And many festivals like Austin and Coachella have become vacation destinations, where the music becomes secondary. Folks go to take in everything the venue and it's surroundings have to offer.

    Some smaller festivals may be vunerable as they try to keep pace. But, tbh, there does not seem to be a lot of slowdown there either. It seems the more successful smaller festivals are the ones that have been able retain their original character, are totally strpped down, and have sponsors with big advertising dollars to help offset ticket prices. Some good examples are Newport, Pitchfork, and Grace Potters' Grand North Point. Maybe this is a blueprint for all festivals going forward?

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     
  6. You have chosen to ignore posts from MattyScornD. Show MattyScornD's posts

    Re: Music festivals: is the 'bubble' deflating?

    In response to polar123's comment:

    Some smaller festivals may be vunerable as they try to keep pace. But, tbh, there does not seem to be a lot of slowdown there either. It seems the more successful smaller festivals are the ones that have been able retain their original character, are totally strpped down, and have sponsors with big advertising dollars to help offset ticket prices. Some good examples are Newport, Pitchfork, and Grace Potters' Grand North Point. Maybe this is a blueprint for all festivals going forward?

    Interesting thoughts, polar.

    Newport is one of the few with a long-lasting pedigree (despite being resurrected over the past several years into a more overtly commercial event with the rise in "folk-inspired" pop.  It's always been popular but more genre-specific I think.  SXSW is another stalwart (more of an industry thing?)

    There are several big shows (Bonnaroo, Vibes) and several more band-centric festivals that have going since the mid 90s.  I really hope that smaller, newer ones like GPN, Solid Sound, Outside The Box, can keep it going and diversify the offerings even more.

    (Heck, even Jam Cruise has been going for 10 years now.)

     
  7. You have chosen to ignore posts from yogafriend. Show yogafriend's posts

    Re: Music festivals: is the 'bubble' deflating?

    In response to polar123's comment:
    [QUOTE]

     

    Yoga, good stuff, but imo the answer is no.

    The big festival industry seems to be thriving, and as you said, many events are selling out before the lineups are even announced. The scramble for tickets is insane, and the waiting list for passes is as long as some pro sports teams. Most have serious corporate sponsorship money behind them, tons of advertising/pr dollars, and word-of mouth. If this is a deflatting bubble, I'd like to see failure :)  Name a few other industries that sell out their product before it is released??



    See, you're talking popularity.  I think more in terms of quality; the quality is sacrificed, it has to be, in order to increase the supply to meet the demand.    When people are manipulated into buying something (anything ... including a ticket to a performance) because a marketing company sees a way to increase supply for demand (and there's nothing wrong with making money, I am in no way an idealist with regard to making a buck ...)   that just means they have to make accomodations along the way.   Again, case in point: the lack of variety and the "vanilla" nature of the lineups.   As I pointed out, they already have repeat headliners in less than 3 years.   What does that tell you?

    A more interesting statistic to me would be analyzing how many one-offs attend over the course of 10 years, how many repeat attendees, and so forth.  Age group would also be an interesting statistic.   All of this just means that the festival "market" is going to be more and more youth oriented as time passes, and if the lineups are interchangeable from year to year, it's now an "unknown" how much of a demand there will be 10 years from now.  Coachella went from an original 25,000 attendees, to what it is now, at 80,000.   People feed off of the popularity and think, wow, I have to be there, too.  

    That's not a bad thing, but let's put it this way:  I picked up container of yogurt recently, and noticed it seemed smaller and lighter, so I checked, and sure enough, it is no longer 6 oz.  Is it the same price?  Yes, of course, it is.  But we're now paying the same price, for less product ... and this is the way a brand maintains marketshare, they slowly have to either erode quality, or amount, in order to offer the product for the same price.   A ticket to a festival is no different, IMO.   This is why the lineups are so vanilla.     There are artists you will simply *never* see at a festival; they only perform at their own concerts.   There are artists who repeatedly play festivals ... in fact, some of them *only* do festivals. 

    As for other industries, there are loads.  Technologuy is a prime example.   How many people camp out to get the latest Apple product, ready to buy it before they've even seen it?  People order automobiles without test driving them.   They buy all manner of tickets to shows on Broadway without knowing a thing about them.   People even buy houses these days with the use of the internet, without having set foot in the place.   It's crazy, but it's not uncommon for people to plunk down money without knowing what they're going to get for it.   How about the stock market for that matter?  :P

     

     

    Sure many festivals have jumped the shark, but it hasn't hurt their popularity. Even having mediocre headliners (Coachella), or a major stretch in musicial styles (Springsteen at Jazzfest) hasn't not hurt sales, much to the dismay of the music purists. And many festivals like Austin and Coachella have become vacation destinations, where the music becomes secondary. Folks go to take in everything the venue and it's surroundings have to offer.

    I don't know many music purists, because most people I know are into rock music, and that varies greatly.   But I don't think it's fair to criticize someone who expects JAZZfest to offer jazz ... so it seems again, that's it's a sign of the times that the older festivals like Jazzfest have to move with the times to attract newer, younger, and a more fused audience.  

    As for classical music ... I know this because I have been surveyed.   Even if symphony hall(s) are sold out, they are mostly filled with an older crowd.  I go to classical concerts, and you don't see many younger people in the audience.   That's a fact.  So classical concert halls and orchestras are vying to that market share and they are exploring ways to lure those younger people in.   You can get a ticket for a classical concert for a very reasonable price if you want to be there -- it's doable.   Another  aspect of the classical world is opera.  No, the Met won't ever die, but Boston closed the  Opera House in 2011.   They just went under.   It happens and it will continue to happen unless there is a way to make that art form current and popular in this day and age. 

     

    Some smaller festivals may be vunerable as they try to keep pace. But, tbh, there does not seem to be a lot of slowdown there either. It seems the more successful smaller festivals are the ones that have been able retain their original character, are totally strpped down, and have sponsors with big advertising dollars to help offset ticket prices. Some good examples are Newport, Pitchfork, and Grace Potters' Grand North Point. Maybe this is a blueprint for all festivals going forward?

    I don't consider Newport FF small, although it's no Coachella by any means.   But there are small festivals all over the US that I also agree are well-attended, appreciated and hopefully will be sustainable over time.

    It's very hard to say if the trend will be as hot in 10-20 years.  It's only been red hot for the past 10, some festivals have only been in existence for 15 -20 years, if that, many far, far less.    How can we benchmark?  We can't.  It's a wait/see.  

    The luster of the big festivals will only be there for the same type of person who likes to go to see concerts in the arena environment.  That's not a criticism, by any means, it just means that anyone who likes a more intimate or "local" feel, won't have any desire to go to the bigger festivals, and that might be why they will reach their peak in terms of supply and demand.  

    This is the end of the article, from above, and I tend to agree with this:

    "If it means that people go back to attending shows at local venues instead of shelling out a couple of hundred dollars to camp in the desert for a weekend, it’s probably to the ultimate benefit of musicians — and lord knows, they need all the help they can get." 




     
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    Re: Music festivals: is the 'bubble' deflating?

    In response to DeadAhead2's comment:
    [QUOTE]

    The biggers ones are, smaller ones, no.  

    [/QUOTE]

    In a nutshell, this is probably all there is to say.  :)

     

     
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    Re: Music festivals: is the 'bubble' deflating?

    BTW, to me, the story can only be told if there were statistics on how many people attend the *entire* festival and stand around all day vs. those that come late in the day, to see the major 2-3 acts, including the headliner.   

    I'd be very surprised if it wouldn't be proven that the number of people who come late in the day dominate, meaning, they purchase a ticket based on the major artists and headliner(s).  Do these venues really fill up early in the day?     Still, it's a lot of bang for the buck, if you can handle the crowded space, once things really heat up.  

     

     
  10. You have chosen to ignore posts from polar123. Show polar123's posts

    Re: Music festivals: is the 'bubble' deflating?

    In response to yogafriend's comment:

     

    BTW, to me, the story can only be told if there were statistics on how many people attend the *entire* festival and stand around all day vs. those that come late in the day, to see the major 2-3 acts, including the headliner.   

    I'd be very surprised if it wouldn't be proven that the number of people who come late in the day dominate, meaning, they purchase a ticket based on the major artists and headliner(s).  Do these venues really fill up early in the day?     Still, it's a lot of bang for the buck, if you can handle the crowded space, once things really heat up.  

     

     



    Yoga, that was a well thought out repsonse, and I agree up to a point. But until we see a definitive flight from quality, or changing demographics having a direct effect on the bottom line, I am going to withold judgment. Where we do agree is that many festivals have jumped the shark, and are now chasing dollars rather than retain their original character, or what made them special in the first place. Will it change, who knows, but Pickathon may be a warning, that even a little change to a festivals make up, along with rising ticket prices can create a backlash.  

    PerJazzfest, I actually find it kind of funny that having Springsteen and Clapton as headliners, supports both of our arguments. That these festivals have become so popular that promoters can actually get away with having two rock giants headline a Jazz show, and that most folks could care less. And, I will go out on a limb and bet most other musicians on the bill are probably thrilled. It will bring in people who might not normally attend a jazz show, and expose them to a whole new world of sound. Is that so bad?

     

     

     
  11. You have chosen to ignore posts from polar123. Show polar123's posts

    Re: Music festivals: is the 'bubble' deflating?

    In response to MattyScornD's comment:

     

    In response to polar123's comment:

     

     

    Some smaller festivals may be vunerable as they try to keep pace. But, tbh, there does not seem to be a lot of slowdown there either. It seems the more successful smaller festivals are the ones that have been able retain their original character, are totally strpped down, and have sponsors with big advertising dollars to help offset ticket prices. Some good examples are Newport, Pitchfork, and Grace Potters' Grand North Point. Maybe this is a blueprint for all festivals going forward?

     

     

     

     

    Interesting thoughts, polar.

    Newport is one of the few with a long-lasting pedigree (despite being resurrected over the past several years into a more overtly commercial event with the rise in "folk-inspired" pop.  It's always been popular but more genre-specific I think.  SXSW is another stalwart (more of an industry thing?)

    There are several big shows (Bonnaroo, Vibes) and several more band-centric festivals that have going since the mid 90s.  I really hope that smaller, newer ones like GPN, Solid Sound, Outside The Box, can keep it going and diversify the offerings even more.

    (Heck, even Jam Cruise has been going for 10 years now.)

     




    It seems the organizers of Newport have stumbled onto a pretty good formula of keeping the festival fresh, and making it really managable for fans. I think folk festivals are a bit more open to musical interpertation. I would not be shocked to see Clapton, or even Soundgarden play there. It kind of makes more sense in a way.

     

     
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  13. You have chosen to ignore posts from SonicsMonksLyresVicars. Show SonicsMonksLyresVicars's posts

    Re: Music festivals: is the 'bubble' deflating?

    I go to some festivals - IMO Funtastic Dracula Carnival is the best fest in the world -  but they are indoors and in the scene I'm into.

    I've only been to one musical event with more than about 1,500 people since the early 80s....a friend got me a ticket to see REM in a stadium in 1992.  I always liked the band and made it tolerable for myself by going very close to the front.  I think giant gigs are terribly sterile and impersonal.  I think the best bands break down the barrier between themselves and their audience....the Fleshtones are the best at it, IMO.

     

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