Business ideas: Live music festival

Despite the ever existing fear of rain and mud, Brits love music festivals. With 2015 a bumper year for outdoor events, why not start your own in 2016...

Between Glastonbury, T in the Park and a whole host of others, demand for live music in the UK has always been big – but now it’s even greater.

While they still maintain a rite of passage for most teenagers, music festivals have adopted a more inclusive and family friendly image in recent years.

In fact, it’s estimated the British public spent £2.1bn attending music concerts and gigs in 2015 and that’s only expected to increase this year.

However, it’s not just the big festivals making all the noise – with a number of smaller start-ups making serious waves in the industry.

If you’re an aspiring entrepreneur with a passion for live music, 2016 should be the year you turn your pipedream of starting your own festival into a reality.

Starting a live music festival: Why it’s a good business idea

According to market research house Mintel, music festivals and concerts have been the headline act in Britain’s leisure industry for the past five years. Indeed, out of all leisure sectors between 2010 and 2015, the music concerts and festivals market has shown the strongest rate of value growth, rising by 45%.

Overall, the leisure industry was expected to break the £80bn barrier in 2015, to reach an estimated £80.3bn. This is up 15% on 2010, when the market was valued at £69.6bn.


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And an incredible two in five (40%) Brits have been to a music concert or festival in the past 12 months, with 7% going at least once a month – so there’s definitely a big potential market to target.

Furthermore, the continued rise of ‘music tourism’ is another encouraging trend for potential entrepreneurs with a good ear for business. Music tourism numbers in the UK increased by 34% between 2011 and 2014, with 9.5 million people travelling to music events in 2014.

These music tourists, attending live concerts and festivals in the UK, helped generate £3.1bn in direct and indirect spend – spending an average of £751 each.

While it can cost between £60,000 and £100,000 just to power an event with a 10,000 capacity crowd, music events are becoming increasingly creative to keep costs low. Using pre-existing infrastructure is a great way to save money.

The Swn festival in Cardiff, which takes place in November every year, uses local pubs, clubs and gig venues to stage its artists – attracting thousands to the city each year.

Similarly, don’t let the English weather put you off. Rebellion, an art, cinema and music festival held in Blackpool, is staged indoors, to ensure the event continues rain or shine.

Live music festival business opportunities

Unless you’re lucky enough to inherit a huge farm, the likelihood is that you simply won’t have enough space (or cash) to stage a huge festival with hundreds upon thousands of the great unwashed. (Well, not yet anyway).

Luckily for you, recent years have seen niche festivals become increasing popular as concert organisers attempt to cater to more specific tastes and alternative themes – often on a smaller scale.

The 2,000trees festival, set in the rolling Cotswold Hills, prides itself on local craft beers, environmentally friendly campsites and “a distinct absence of all the bad things associated with massive mainstream events!” While L FEST, which takes place in Staffordshire, caters for the lesbian community.

Promoter Robert Hicks confirmed the potential for alternative festivals:

“The future is in events that are between 10,000 and 15,000 people, events that are about more than just the acts. People want so much more than just music, they want an experience, they want to be looked after, they want to be treated as people rather than just herded through.”

And the good news is, there’s still plenty of niches left to explore in 2016, as well as the opportunity to host a festival in a new location, either in the UK or further afield.

Snowboxx is a winter snowboarding, skiing and music festival held in France. Run by Mainstage Travel, its co-founder Aden Levin believes opportunities lie in foreign lands with consumers constantly looking for something new and unique.

Another opportunity to boost the success of your festival is to tap into Britain’s expanding palate and love of artisan street food. Speaking to the Guardian, Graeme Merifield, director of Wychwood, estimates that ticket sales only go to pay for 60% of running his festival. “The other 40% is made up from pitch fees from traders and caterers, sponsorship money and our bar profits as we run our own bars.”

Typically, the cut taken by festival organisers ranges from around 25-30% – so giving your festival a foodie element could be a great way for you to increase revenue.

Insider opinion

Aden Levin, co-founder of Mainstage Travel, commented:

“Festivals are each year upping the ante and trying to find a niche to differentiate their festival to stand out from the others. To succeed organisers need to find a niche, develop something different and create a strong brand that people believe in.

“As destinations such as Croatia become increasingly saturated organisers need to look further afield to find something different – I’ve already seen festivals in the pipeline for the Sahara Desert and Albania!”

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