How Summer Music Festivals are Embracing Customer Experience


Glastonbury is taking a break for a year - but don't hang your wellies up for summer just yet. There are countless other music festivals around. And the times they are a changing. Both the festival-goers and the acts that perform there are ageing, although it's unclear whether one is the consequence of the other. More certain is that, with so many rival festivals springing up across Europe and the U.S., it's getting harder for promoters to lock in headline performers.

The result? The rise of 'challenger brand' festivals - typically smaller in attendance but perhaps more accommodating and empathetic as a result. Alongside the traditional music and arts events, this new breed of festival caters to a more family audience, looking for a holiday break experience for all ages and backgrounds. An example is the Latitude Festival in Suffolk - which, alongside main stage music, features yoga, lake swimming and a raft of family friendly features, including dedicated kids and teen areas.

Festival purists might scoff that such a trend towards a more considerate festival represents selling out its soul to a middle-class consumer unwilling to trade creature comforts for authenticity. But such a conclusion would be both harsh and out-of-date. Whilst the traffic jams, mud and squalor of Glastonbury living may be long established, that is no excuse for institutionalising a poor quality of experience.

These boutique festivals may be physically smaller, but this doesn’t limit their ambition. Standon-Calling has expanded from what began as a birthday BBQ in a small Hertfordshire village in 2001 to a 10,000 capacity event this year. Yet it is as proud of its graffiti workshops for teenagers and Dog Show for families as it is for its music. Now with added hot tubs!

Leading By Experience

Just as caravan parks, theme parks and of course the Center Parcs phenomenon have improved facilities and activities to widen their appeal to family-friendly lifestyles, so consumer expectations are influencing how festivals are designed and run too.

The newcomer festivals are shifting the emphasis away from ‘endurance event’ towards an ‘immersive experience’, where visitors can throw themselves into new environments and activities without necessarily having to downgrade home comforts as a consequence.

HOWEVER, another trend of these challenger festivals is that they don't seem as resilient as the established venues. Despite being hugely popular, the Somersault Festival in Devon and the Secret Garden Party (SGP) in Hertfordshire have both disappeared from the list in 2018. Somersault cited the impact on the land, whilst SGP seems to be more about the organisers disliking the exponential growth of the event changing the atmosphere of the original concept.

For the festival industry itself, the shifting trends are demanding a re-think not only of how they operate, but what they want their legacy to be.

And for other industries looking on, it’s yet another illustration of how aligning consumer trends with a wider customer journey can uncover fresh opportunities from untapped customer segments.