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What does the cost of living crisis mean for festivals and live events?

We attended Un-Convention to find out more!

Ah, the return of networking and industry events! Recently, Sarah attended Un-Convention, a two day conference for the makers and champions of independent music, which was hosted at Manchester’s Band on the Wall. 

It was a pleasure to be back in a room with hundreds of pioneering artists, managers, venues, labels, promoters, and everyone else in between from the UK’s vibrant music industry. 

Here are some of Sarah’s highlights from Un-Convention!  

The State of the Nation 

First up, we heard from a panel of industry professionals featuring Chris Cooke from Complete Music Update, Tom Gray from The Ivors Academy and BrokenRecord, Paul Reed from the Association of Independent Festivals, Bev Whitrick from the Music Venue Trust, Paul Bonham from Music Managers Forum and Charisse Beaumont from Black Lives in Music. Together, they discussed the current state of the UK music sector, its strengths and weaknesses and how the music industry can grow and not only become sustainable, but prosperous and equitable too.

As a result of the pandemic, ticket sales have been hugely impacted. Many people are still sitting on tickets they bought up to three years ago, and this means they’re waiting for these events before they buy any more tickets. This has only been accelerated by the cost of living crisis, and the true extent of its impact is not yet known. 

But it’s not all doom and gloom! Our client, Skiddle, recently revealed it achieved an 183% increase in growth in the last year, successfully bouncing back despite going 16 months with no events to sell tickets for. During this time, we have been supporting Skiddle with a drumbeat press office, and more recently, leveling up activity with dedicated campaigns around key seasons, such as festivals. We crafted a campaign around the key moments of festival season, devised with SEO and clickability in mind to support Skiddle with growing their online visibility, which in turn encouraged ticket sales. Read more about our festival campaign with Skiddle here! 

While everyone is enjoying the return of live events, the summer, which is a generally quieter part of the year for gigs (aside from festivals) has not seen this. 2022 is overprogrammed, jam-packed with events spanning from 2020 and 2021. Plus, we are seeing more overseas artists touring in 2022 to make up for lost time when countries’ restrictions during the pandemic put a stop to that. 

The festival market 

We learned that 92 per cent of festivals feared business collapse during the pandemic, but thankfully, nowhere near this scale actually happened. However, it’s key to note that the festival sector is not immune to the cost of living crisis. Statistics suggest festivals may be facing a 25-35% increase in infrastructure costs, which could ultimately affect profit margins for 2022 and beyond. 

What this tells us is there is no more important time for festivals to be considering PR and marketing to generate new revenue streams via sponsorship and partnerships, as well as ensuring a sell out show. Find out how we achieved this for our client, Highest Point

Despite all the ongoing effects from the pandemic, it was refreshing to hear that Paul Reed, from the Association for Independent Festivals (AIF) remains optimistic about the live sector’s long-term future. 

Developing regional music scenes 

On day two, we heard from representatives from various regions across the UK, including Manchester, Middlesbrough, Bradford, Nottingham and Glasgow about how each can work together to strengthen its future at grassroots level. 

As a Manchester-based PR agency, with a team full of gig and festival lovers, we know all too well how the Manchester regional music scene operates, so it was fascinating to learn how different regions operate and the support that’s available to each. 

Thanks to Sam Malik from SM Music Management, Sami Omar from Up2Stndrd, Danny Lowe from Press On Vinyl, Tom O’Neill from TSO Promotions, and Kristi Maria from Metronome for sharing your ideas for best practice! 

The live sector 

Next, we heard some more about the state of the live sector, with guest panelists including Bev Whitrick from Music Venue Trust, Alexandra Ampofo from Metropolis Music, David Martin from Featured Artists Coalition and Dan Woolfie, Tour Manager for Blossoms

It’s fair to say that the live sector has suffered the most out of all areas of the music industry in the last two years. If it isn’t the coronavirus pandemic, it’s Brexit or the cost of living crisis! 

We heard that 20% of tickets still originate from before the pandemic, and that consumers currently hold on average 2.3 tickets that were bought pre-pandemic. 

There’s been a shift in the market for ticket sales too. People are more and more buying tickets at the last minute, (due to the risk of illness) and they have shifted a focus towards marketing money going towards the last few weeks before a show. Having this insight is so useful when planning PR and marketing campaigns for a festival or any other live events. 

We’ve worked with a host of clients within festivals, entertainment and events, so it’s always great to gather insight and hear from the industry professionals themselves on the opportunities and challenges we can work together to overcome. Here’s to the next Un-Convention! Hope to see you there?

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