The future of UK music festivals Contents


1.Music festivals are a rapidly growing, and globally renowned, part of the UK’s £70 billion events industry.1 In a typical year, some 975 music festivals take place across the UK.2 These vary by capacity, location and genre: from commercial multi-day festivals in fields and parks to small, community-led events or city-based festivals across multiple venues. Music also often features heavily at other festivals, from food to literature; however, all are characterised by hosting a series of appearances by a range of different performers and using temporary infrastructure.3

2.Although big names such as the Glastonbury Festival, the Isle of Wight Festival and the Reading and Leeds Festivals are known the world over, the vast majority of the UK’s festivals are community-based micro-events. These are usually run on a voluntary basis with capacities under 5,000 people. The commercial market, which includes both independently owned and operated festivals, as well as those backed by large promoters, accounts for only about 20% of the UK’s festivals.4 Rowan Cannon from Wild Rumpus, which runs the Just So Festival in Cheshire and Timber on the Leicestershire/Derbyshire border, told us that as the UK is home to “a very diverse spectrum of events” our inquiry should “reflect that diversity and not just be thinking about 80,000 20-year-olds in a field”.5

3.In 2019, festivals contributed £1.76 billion in Gross Value Added and at least 10% of that went directly to local businesses and economies around festival sites.6 It was a growth sector: since 2015, total spend on festival sites and at the box office had risen between 151% and 174%.7 In 2019, 5.2 million people attended music festivals, a 6% increase on the previous year and our survey of more than 36,000 festival-goers showed what a significant contribution they made to people’s wellbeing, social lives and careers.8

4.The vast majority of festivals in 2020 were cancelled owing to Covid-19 restrictions and the sector’s revenues dropped by 90%.9 Festivals were harder hit by the pandemic than many other creative industries: as typically seasonal and one-off occasions, events and their supply chains were unable to generate income for an entire year, rather than experiencing a temporary shutdown.10 During our inquiry on the impact of Covid-19 on the DCMS sectors, we heard about the challenges faced by musicians, festivals and the businesses that supply them with facilities, equipment and staff. The loss of live music during the pandemic has focused attention on its centrality to the careers and incomes of not only musicians (the focus of our concurrent inquiry on the economics of music streaming) but also crew members and suppliers.

5.With festival planning starting months, if not years, in advance, it was essential that the Government started looking ahead to the return of festivals this summer before the sector faced another year of lost income. We launched this inquiry to put pressure on the Government to address the barriers to festivals taking place in 2021, such as the need for insurance and a target date for the lifting of restrictions. Following our predecessor Committee’s 2019 inquiry on live music, which highlighted the plight of grassroots venues, we also reflected on long-term challenges to ensure that when festivals return post-pandemic they are even safer and more sustainable than before.

1 Business Visits & Events Partnership, The UK Events Report, (5 May 2020) p 72

2 Association of Independent Festivals (FES0034) para 3.1

3 Association of Festival Organisers (FES0035)

4 Association of Independent Festivals (FES0034) para 3.18–3.23, para 8.6

5 Q90

6 LIVE (Live Music Industry, Venues & Entertainment) (FES0062), Association of Independent Festivals (FES0034) para 3.29

7 Association of Independent Festivals (FES0034) para 3.38

8 UK Music, Music by Numbers 2020, (November 2020) p24, see Annex for survey results

9 Carey & Chambers on behalf of Live Music Industry, Venues & Entertainment (LIVE), UK live music: At a cliff edge, (October 2020), p 6

10 Association of Independent Festivals (FES0034) para 4.2

Published: 29 May 2021 Site information    Accessibility statement