Are We Really Falling Out Of Love With Music Festivals?

Honestly, we’re surprised anyone still listens to the media.

Time and again, studies prove that things are nowhere near as bad as journalists make out. The crime rate is falling, we’re out of recession and the world isn’t going to end in December; not that you’d know it from opening a newspaper. Same goes for the music press: after a few high-profile festivals were forced to cancel this summer, the prophets and doom-mongers crawled out of the woodwork to pour over the guts of a sacrificed chicken and declare the end of the festival was nigh. Once again, the ‘opinion formers’ don’t know what they’re talking about. Here’s why:

Cancellation: the numbers

Aside from a brief Olympic-shaped respite, summer 2012 was a bit of a wash out. Bloc, Sonisphere, WOWFest and M Fest in Leeds collapsed, while legendary party-promoters ATP went into liquidation. If that sounds like a pretty bad year for festivals, it is; so long as you’re only comparing 2012 against the last three years.

A couple of months ago, eFestivals did some number crunching and concluded that 6.13% (or 57 out of 929) of festivals got cancelled in 2012, compared to 4.27% in 2011 and 4.49% in 2010. 2009 did a little better than this year, with 5.77% of festivals cancelled, while 2008 suffered a 6.79% cancellation rate. For those of you keeping count, that’s higher than 2012’s 6.13%, as is 6.25%: the number cancelled in 2007.

While eFestivals admit their data isn't perfect, they point out their figures are “probably an accurate reflection of the state of the festival industry”. Fair enough, you might say, but 6.13% is still a pretty big jump from 4.27%, and you’d be right: it certainly is. However, that’s not the same as saying festivals are in decline. Dig a little deeper and the numbers get even more interesting.

So What’s Going On?

The eFestivals press release notes that exactly 12 festivals cancelled this year due to weather. By removing those 12 from the sample group, the figure of cancelled festivals drops to 4.84%, more or less in-line with the previous three years. In other words, it represents a decline in the same way that your flight getting cancelled represents the death knell of the entire aviation industry. Sure, it’s annoying but it’s a far cry from the apocalypse. Especially when you factor in:

The Weather

As we’re sure you’re aware, 2012 had a pretty miserable summer. But did you know it was the wettest in a century? The last time the weather was that awful we still wore bowler hats and thought World War I would never happen. So we have the fourth wettest summer since records began, making it the wettest since festivals became a ‘thing’, and only 12 cancellations due to weather. That practically deserves a medal.

The Economy

While we may now be officially out of recession, people are still feeling the battering of spending cuts George Osborne clobbered us with. Given that money remains tight and luxury items a strict no-no, it seems reasonable to assume the faltering recovery has kept attendance numbers low, and festival promoters less willing to put their own cash on the line. Provided the Eurozone doesn’t self-destruct in the coming months and drag us down with it, festivals may soon become as sure a bet as they were pre-crash.

The Early 00’s Festival Boom

Before such awful concepts as Lehman Brothers, Northern Rock and ‘sovereign debt crises’ wormed their way into our worried brains, things were looking pretty good. There was money to spend, a big property bubble that would never burst and a need for fun. Hence the festival boom of the mid-2000s. When the economy dropped off a cliff, we were left with a surplus of festivals. Some of the cancellations we’ve witnessed these last few years are simply those new festivals folding after a halting run, as the overall number of festivals in the UK reduces to sustainable levels.

So there you have it, the festival is here to stay. Rejoice, tell your friends and family, go shout it in the street; just don’t forget who told you first.

Thank you to DV247 for this music festival article.

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