As live versions of a diverse streaming service, are music festivals helping to kill live music venues?
It's never been easy for venues to cut a profit, but have music festivals made it even more difficult for music venues to operate?This article originally appeared on National Post
It’s that time of year, again. Music fans, floral crown devotees and people who simply like to party for days on end in open desserts/fields/parks are planning annual pilgrimages to their sacred places.
Comparing the modern music festival experience to a religious one isn’t such a stretch; the most popular festivals thrive on fostering a sense of community through music. For many attendees, there’s a belief that festivals inspire a sense of peace, love and goodwill that’s increasingly hard to come by in our everyday lives.
It’s no coincidence that churches now make mission trips to top music festivals, where hordes of young people are ripe for evangelization. “The Jesus Tent,” a creation of the Tennessee Baptist Convention, has been a popular 24/7 pop up at Bonnaroo over the last several years. Of the approximately 80,000 people who attend the festival each year, 15,000-17,000 visit the tent. It’s the largest evangelistic event held by the Tennessee convention each year, and possibly of any denomination in the state.
According to Neilson, a whopping 32 million people attend a music festival in the U.S. each year, travelling an average of 903 miles. Music Canada reports close to 16 million fans attend the country’s 558 festivals each year.
Despite the massive success of music festivals, all is not alive and well in the live music industry. While festival behemoths are seeing more fans and dollars than ever, traditional small and medium-sized live music venues are struggling to keep the doors open. Three months into 2017, Toronto has already lost seven venues this year, including the Hideout, the Silver Dollar and the Hoxton. Across the pond, London, England has been ringing the alarm for years. According to a task force commissioned by the mayor, the metropolis lost a staggering 35 per cent of its smaller music venues between 2007 and 2015.
Festivals appear to be rising stars, but some would rather compare them to combustible supernovas primed to destroy everything in their path. Behind the bright stage lights and picture-perfect moments rests an uncomfortable, but worthy question: are music festivals killing live music?
Local and regional live music venues aren’t seeing fans’ money, but someone is. Desert Trip, the highest grossing festival in 2016, raked in a cool $160.11 million. Coachella clocked in second with $94.22 million. In Canada, the Pemberton Music Festival earned $11.58 million while Osheaga brought in $10.88 million. Music spending is thriving, but its patterns have shifted dramatically. Online statistics portal Statistica reports most music-related activities are seeing year-after-year declines of consumer expenditures with the notable exceptions of music streaming, DJ events and music festivals.
Images courtesy of Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for Coachella