where have all the people gone?
i think the simple answer is that they are hiding behind ticket prices. furthermore, i imagine that those who do put their hand in their pocket and go along, are shocked out of future festivals by the 7-euro sandwich, the 6-euro beer and similar.
so i guess the question should be: why are festivals, and the amenities provided at them, getting so expensive? especially in a climate where festival-goers have less and less money themselves.
i began to piece together an answer this summer as i read about the amounts of money that certain bands demand and the shrinking amounts of funding and sponsoring available to organisers.
what can we do to try and reverse this?
firstly, why should any band's festival performance cost upwards of 500,000-euros before expenses (and i feel i am being extremely generous with this amount - a tenth of this should be largely adequate)?
a knock-on effect of these astronomical costs is that the pool-of-fees remaining for all other acts is reduced significantly. this means that the acts who agree to play, either take quite a blow to their fee or, if some of the medium acts don't take that blow, the smaller acts will most likely not be paid anything at all. also, it can lead to line-ups that are mostly pants!
with my own independent projects in which i am singer and bandleader, floatinghome (www.floatinghome.org) and lord altmont (www.facebook.com/lordaltmont). i constantly find myself in situations where i can't pay the musicians adequately (myself included, of course).
i would love to see a situation where festivals stop geographically blocking bands and instead work together with local programmers to ensure diversity in the festivals. i would love, also, to see a situation where bands charge honest fees for the case presented (i understand that it can happen that a band need be flown in). i feel that this would in turn reduce ticket-prices, allowing festival-goers to go to more festivals, so no-one looses out - bands play more shows (and we love to play) - festival-organisers can realise their dream festival - bookers and programmers see better crowds at the shows - festival-goers have a more diverse selection of events to attend, and can afford to attend several and not just a single festival each year.
secondly, why should vendors need to sell their wares at such insane prices?
i presume that the cost of permission to sell at these events must also be increasing, but if heineken sponsored the event, does it really cost them so much to justify selling their beer at such exploded prices? and for other non-sponsor vendors, i presume the price of their license has been driven up by many of the other points raised in this article.
i know we can find more honest companies with better work-ethic and better selection to offer festival-goers! in this magical new age of the return of the small-scale crafts-people there are so many quality options that are not more expensive than the current big distributors rates. if we start working together with them, everything will grow cheaper as we grow together... if a small business can predict demand for their product, they can increase efficiency, reduce cost and adjust the scale of production accordingly. this helps remove spikes in demand, thus increasing the consistency and quality of the product, creating more regular employment, and hence making new festival-goers - everyone wins!
thirdly, what can we do to get by in a time when sponsorships are reduced?
i have recently been talking to friends who work in the domain, and i learned that some of the smaller festivals find themselves with a page full of sponsors just to pay the acts, before any other costs are considered. i guess, also, that if ticket sales are down, certain less-important things get overlooked and the festival experience becomes less comfortable.
there are so many festivals popping up around the country and some of them appear to be working in competition with each other. i feel this to be counter-productive. there could be the same number of festivals with reduced costs and they could all be really nice, if they were to work together... there is no point in suing a festival because their name and vibe is similar to yours, give them a shout and see can you work together to reduce costs. rent the gear together to get a better price or hire caterers and security for several events at the same time (again, they will be better able to predict demand for their service and will be therefore more efficient); maybe one of the festivals have gear that they own that they could share with the other, and vice-versa, so both could avoid the astronomical rental price on a backstage tent, or the second stage monitor desk...
festivals could work together to increase ticket sales: for example, persuade the audience of one to attend the other (i am aware that one inevitably happens before the other, but i am talking about a longer-term plan than a single festival summer); a reduced ticket price if tickets to both are bought at the same time; a shuttle from the site of one to the other, so transport need not be such a problem (i am assuming here, of course, that the dates of the festivals are not the same). maybe, a mention on the timetable of the other, even a discount coupon.
lets try to keep festival-goers going to festivals!