European Festival Report 2023

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An ILMC/YOUROPE Publication


LONDON | 27 FEB–1 MAR 2024

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Contents European Festival Report 2023

Year in review: Fields full of marvellous memories


Festival focus: Walter Hoeijmakers – Roadburn Festival


European Festival Survey 2023


Festival focus: Cindy Castillo & Javier Arnáiz – Mad Cool Festival


Your map for sustainability success


How to create a circular economy for your festival


The state of sustainability communication


Editor James Drury

Festival focus: Claes Olsen – Øya Festival


Is it time to rethink the festival carbon footprint?


Sub editor Michael Muldoon

Expanding sustainability work


WE LOVE GREEN: Pushing the limits of sustainability


WE LOVE GREEN’s sustainability measures




It’s all about exchange


Designer Philip Millard Contributors James Drury Chris Kemp Oumar Saleh Holger Jan Schmidt Morten Therkildsen Pascal Viot Katharina Weber European Festival Survey Data Analysis Chris Carey

YOUROPE updates


Festival focus: Codruța Vulcu – ARTmania Festival


To VIP or not to VIP


Festival focus: Mikołaj Ziółkowski – Alter Art Festival


It’s time to rethink show stop procedures for artist & audience safety


Hitting the challenges of the post-Covid generation head-on


Festival focus: Chris Macmeikan – Festival LAB


Cover image Electric Love Festival © pikzelz The European Festival Report is released as part of YOUROPE’s three-year project 3F – Future-Fit Festivals 3F – Future-Fit Festivals project lead: KME Karlsruhe Marketing und Event GmbH

IQ Magazine Unit 31 Tileyard Road London, N7 9AH Tel: +44 (0)20 3743 0300 Twitter: @iq_mag

Co-funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Education and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA). Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them. The European Festival Association Auguststr. 18 53229 Bonn Germany 3



ow! What a summer that was for the thousands of European festivals that brought joy to millions of fans. Looking through the photos in this, the second European Festival Report, I feel inspired seeing how many incredible memories were forged in fields during 2023. Compared to the difficulties of 2022, when teams were rusty and the rush to bring this vital part of people’s cultural lives back put a huge strain on everyone involved, 2023 was massively improved. Many promoters saw record ticket sales, staffing challenges were greatly reduced, bands were touring more widely, and travel and logistical problems had been solved. But there were still challenges. As we discover in the European Festival Survey (pages 17-24), production costs have risen sharply, and at a time when audiences are struggling with inflation, passing all these costs on wasn’t feasible. Booking artists, selling tickets, and supply chain issues remain concerning. We’re not quite “back to normal” just yet. In this edition, we have a particular focus on environmental sustainability, including a ninepage section packed with tips from festivals that are well-advanced on the journey to reduce their carbon footprints, advice from experts, practical examples, and links to a treasure trove of free resources. The health and safety of audiences is paramount, and experts Morten Therkildsen and Dr Pascal Viot discuss the role of artists in show stop procedures on page 52, while Prof Chris Kemp says a high level of service from security teams helps reduce friction with audiences on page 56. We also look at the debate over VIP ticketing (pages 47-50). While some festivals know it is an important part of making the books balance and are responding to audience demand, for 4 European Festival Report 2023

others, creating separation of the audience isn’t conducive to their event’s vibe. A key aim of this publication is the sharing of information, so all festivals can grow and improve together, making the community stronger for everyone. That’s a founding principle of our partner YOUROPE, which marks its 25th anniversary this year. You can read about the many activities of this important force for good from page 38. Even in a competitive market such as this one, I find that level of cooperation an inspiring and hopeful model. Finally, I would like to say a massive thankyou to everyone who helped bring the second European Festival Report to life, including the festivals that took part in our survey, everyone who shared their knowledge and experience, those who shared their amazing photos, and the contributors and teams at IQ and YOUROPE, who worked so hard to bring you this publication. I hope you find it engaging, useful, thoughtprovoking and, above all, that it serves as a testament to the hard work that goes into the happiness that festivals bring to people across Europe every year.

James Drury Editor



nother special year in the festival world is over. Not only was it the 25th anniversary of YOUROPE but also a very intense summer, with success stories, cancellations, and extreme weather. Did we imagine we’d be back to normal at this point after the pandemic? Maybe, yes. But the past year has proven that there is no such thing as normality at this moment. According to the survey we conducted for this report, the most important challenges right now are rising production costs, artist booking, selling tickets, and staffing and supply chain issues. This is nothing really new for our sector, but the combination we have at the moment is certainly exceptional. I am convinced that we now have to be simultaneously cautious and courageous. On the one hand, we have to be careful that festivals do not become a “luxury item” as we try to cover rising costs through excessive VIP offers and dynamic pricing, thereby widening the social divide. On the other hand, we have to have the courage to trust younger artists and position them as headliners, as we urgently need new acts of this format. I am pleased that we are cultivating a culture of exchange on these and other topics in our industry and especially in our association, despite competition and individualism. We identify problems, share experience, and support each other. This is one of the greatest achievements that YOUROPE has brought about – dialogue on an equal footing between all players on the field, even if they supposedly play for different teams. The European Festival Report (EFR), which we are publishing for the second time, together with IQ Magazine, as part of YOUROPE's 3F project, makes a major contribution to the above. We want to demonstrate where our industry currently stands. Of course, you can't

present the entire spectrum of such a heterogeneous business in every detail, but I think we've established a great mix. 3F stands for "Future-Fit Festivals." It is our three-year network project co-funded by the European Union as part of Creative Europe. Within 3F, we are focussing on the resilience, responsibility, and relevance of festivals, and its guiding questions are reflected in everything YOUROPE does; in the design of our European Festival Awards, for example, which will take place again in January as part of ESNS in Groningen. But also in our publications and training events, such as the YES Group seminar and GO Group workshop, as well as our biannual European Festival Conference (which took place shortly before this issue of EFR went to press) and saw us examine the present and future of festivals. I will leave it at that and hope you enjoy reading our second European Festival Report. But not before pointing out, once again, the great opportunities that we have at our festivals to tackle social responsibility. Together, we reach millions and – in addition to all the spectacle, music, and entertainment – we can draw attention to the injustices of our time and perhaps even help a little. You will find more on this topic later in this issue. Christof Huber Chairman, YOUROPE – The European Festival Association 5

Year In Review

Ruisrock © Riikka Vaahtera

6 European Festival Report 2023

Year In Review

FIELDS FULL OF MARVELLOUS MEMORIES With Covid in the rear-view mirror, the festival season 2023 was looked forward to with excitement. The European summer saw millions of fans create lifelong memories in fields, but numerous challenges remained. This is how the year shaped up… 7

Year In Review

Southside 2023 © Frederic Hafner Festivalgoers at Orange Warsaw Festival © Magda Zaklika


he 2023 festival season was a massive improvement on 2022’s post-Covid rush when some markets still fell foul of lingering restrictions. As we’ll see later, 64% of festivals sold more than 80% of their tickets, with 21% of festivals telling us their ticket sales were “much better” than last year. Many events saw record ticket sales. Promoted by Live Nation-owned Luger, Swedish festival Way Out West reported its highest attendance yet, with 55,000 fans flocking to this year’s edition. Luger’s Natalie Ryan-Williams said: “This edition was really special to us, and we ended up with a new attendance record, having the most attended day in the history of the festival on the final day. “We are very happy to find that even in a time of financial difficulty, the audience – which includes a younger generation finding their way to us – seems to want to prioritise coming to the festival, and for that, we are very thankful.” And in France, 126,000 people flocked to Arras for Live Nation’s Main Square Festival. “If it took more than a year of hard work, we are happy and grateful to have been able to live these moments with you,” organisers of the event – which marks its 20th anniversary in 2024 – told fans. Dutch festivals Down The Rabbit Hole and Lowlands sold out at impressive speeds. Fellow French festival Lollapalooza Paris

8 European Festival Report 2023

extended to three days in July and celebrated with Stray Kids, one of the first K-pop bands to headline a major European festival. Norway’s Tons of Rock sold a record-breaking 100,000 tickets in 2023 and won an industry award for Best Commercial Partnership for its collaboration with the Norwegian postal service, which enabled festivalgoers to mail home all the merch they bought at the festival instead of carrying it with them. Lollapalooza Berlin became the first German festival to get accredited to sustainability standard ISO 20121, delivering a lineup with more than 50% female acts. And the company launched a new two-day electronic music event, U Nation, during Pride Week in Helsinki. The festival promotes diversity, inclusion, environmental sustainability, unity, and responsibility. As Europe’s second-largest festival promoter after Live Nation, Superstruct also saw its share of successes. Among them were Sziget, which marked its 30th anniversary this year with another sold-out event, including welcoming its 10 millionth visitor. Sónar in Barcelona marked its 30th anniversary with more than 120,000 attendees, 32% of whom came from 100 countries outside of Spain; and Germany’s largest dance festival, Parookaville, sold out all 225,000 tickets to its seventh edition. The company’s ID&T brand marked the third decade of Dutch dance event Mysteryland with the announcement that 80% of the festival’s power consumption came from

Year In Review green grid power, with the remaining 20% from other sustainably produced sources. Germany-based multinational DEAG expected to notch up a record number of visitors to its festivals this summer, with crowds expected to pass 800,000 across its core markets of Germany, the UK & Ireland, and Switzerland. “DEAG’s festival segment is showing fantastic growth across all genres of music in England, Scotland, Ireland, Germany, and Switzerland,” said DEAG CEO Peter Schwenkow. “The outstanding response from audiences points the way for us to new formats, new locations, and a gratifying further development of this extremely interesting music festival field.” In the UK, AEG Presents-promoted BST Hyde Park’s tenth anniversary edition saw its biggest ticket sales ever. Headlined by Guns N’ Roses, Take That, Blackpink, Billy Joel, and Lana Del Rey – plus two nights each from P!nk, and Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, the event sold around 550,000 tickets, topping the previous record of 530,000 set in 2022. “I never thought I’d be able to say we sold more tickets than last year, but we sold more tickets than we’ve ever sold before. It’s incredible, everybody sold out,” said AEG Presents CEO of European festivals, Jim King. And it wasn’t just the big festivals that saw success. In August, a string of Spanish festivals reported very positive attendance figures for 2023, including boutique event Festival Jardins Terramar, which welcomed 24,220 spectators across 12 days; Cap Roig Festival attracted 53,025 attendees across 23 dates for an overall occupancy rate of 94%; Mallorca Live’s Es Jardí concert series, staged from 16 June to 6 August, brought together 60,000 people over 23 nights; and the historic Porta Ferrada Festival in Sant Feliu de Guíxols celebrated its 61st edition on the Costa Brava with 73 concerts and close to 60,000 attendees from 30 June to 20 August. “We started […] with 11,000 spectators, and now, ten editions later, we are close to 60,000,” said executive director Sergi Roselló. Italy’s Roma Summer Fest at the 3,000-cap Auditorium Parco della Musica Ennio Morricone achieved record ticket sales and saw revenue increase 28% year-on-year to more than €8.5m from 153,000 ticket sales. As well as record-breaking ticket sales, staff and crew are more experienced than last year and, at least in the main, back to their usual efficiencies. Logistics are not as complicated, and global headliners are combining tours with festival appearances once again. According to FKP Scorpio co-CEO Stephan Thanscheidt at the International Festival Forum in London in September, he’s relieved that people are having fun again after a hellish 2022. “Nobody had fun last year, so seeing people having fun organising such immense projects has been great.” The CTS Eventim-owned company welcomed 35,000 people to its Highfield Festival, 25,000 to

M’era Luna, 50,000 each to Hurricane and Southside, and 60,000 to Deichbrand. “The enormous popularity is the nicest confirmation for us,” fellow co-CEO Folkert Koopmans told IQ Magazine. “We are still feeling the aftereffects of the two pandemic years in many areas, especially in terms of price increases. And part of these costs, unfortunately, we have to pass on to the guests, even if we try to reduce this burden to a minimum. The fact that we have now organised successful festivals all around in the second year after the pandemic and that people have had a good time and trust us to offer them very special festival experiences again in 2024 makes us very happy.” Yet, it was a year of mixed emotions. The industry is not yet “back to normal,” and while some festivals saw their best event ever as fans flocked to see their favourite artists, others had a torrid time. So, what pressures does this vibrant summer business still face? We dug behind the numbers to look at some of the challenges that remain.

M’era Luna © Robin Schmiedebach

Production costs vs ticket prices The most significant challenge facing festivals in 2023 was the massive rise in costs caused by issues relating to Covid and artists taking huge productions on the road. As far back as May, FKP Scorpio co-CEO Koopmans warned of the impact of this issue and estimated that only 20% of events were profitable. 9

Year In Review

“We’ll have normal summers in the future, but the probability of normal summers is decreasing” Professor Robert Lončarić, Zadar University

“The fact that we didn’t make any money with a sold-out Hurricane in 2022, but actually lost it, was also due to the fact that we had basically sold the tickets three years earlier,” he told German publication “But since all festivals are now being overwhelmed by the costs, I believe that in the end, only 20% of them will still be making money. This problem was already indicated in 2016/17, but after corona it got particularly bad. “Of course, like our other festivals, we don’t want to give up Hurricane because, ultimately, they are [all] important, they’re part of the portfolio and, in addition, they’re building up a lot of bands. But as I said, it’s a problem, and we’re monitoring further developments very closely in view of the growing demands everywhere. “We’re struggling with it, trying to keep the costs under control. But it’s incredibly difficult. Of course, we also have an extremely high break-even point. And my company now earns money primarily from the big concerts, for example, from the Rolling Stones or Ed Sheeran.” Fellow German promoter DreamHaus (Rock am Ring/Rock im Park) also said production costs were increasing in the region of 25-30% for this year’s festival season. “There are not that many suppliers that can supply festivals of our size, so we’re also in a corner where we can take it or leave it,” said the company’s head of festival experience, Catharine Krämer. “We could lower the cost of the whole festival experience, but this would have a significant impact on the whole quality of it.” At the IFF, which took place in September as the season closed, Thanscheidt reflected on his colleague’s earlier statement, noting that while the company had seen a successful year for festivals, “there’s a limit that a lot of fans would pay to attend festivals nowadays, so we’ve had to advertise better camping and VIP experiences to entice more people into coming. “Keeping ticket prices under control while maintaining profit margins at the same time is proving extremely difficult right now.” But what can be done about this rise in costs? At a time when people’s pockets are being hit by inflation, significant rises in ticket prices are not really an option for most events, whose audiences tend to be younger and therefore less able to afford 30% hikes in prices. Interestingly, some festivals are finding ways to reduce ticket prices for those least able to afford

10 European Festival Report 2023

them. At YOUROPE’s fifth European Festival Conference in Croatia in November, Artur Mendes from Portugal’s Boom festival shared that since 2002, his event has had a 10% allocation of “friendly price” or “guest country” tickets out of its total of 40,000 tickets. A total of 500 tickets are given free to people from the guest country – which changes each edition and is selected based on places where income is significantly lower than average, while friendly price passes are for people on low incomes. The results of these initiatives mean that Boom’s audience comes from 169 countries, and only 20% of attendees are Portuguese. “Interestingly, we see that every time we have a guest country, the following edition there is more interest from those territories to buy tickets and work at the festival.”

Cancellations This year saw a significant increase in the number of festival cancellations as rising costs and an audience struggling with inflation combined with disastrous effects. In the UK, a study by the Association of

Year In Review

Independent Festivals (AIF) in the first half of 2023 showed there were 600 music festivals held in the UK in 2019, but only 482 took place in 2023. The organisation said the 19.7% decline included festivals that disappeared during the pandemic and those that tried to return in 2022 but either failed or took place but did not make it through to 2023. Among the high-profile casualties across the continent this year was Download Germany, which was due to take place for the first time, featuring headliners Slipknot, Parkway Drive, Volbeat, and The Prodigy on 23 and 24 June. “Despite the first-class lineup, the massive number of open-air events made organisation and implementation considerably more difficult this summer,” a statement from organisers, Live Nation GSA, said. “Unfortunately, the associated technical production obstacles proved to be insurmountable.” In the Netherlands, what would have been the sixth edition of hip-hop festival Oh My! was called off in July, with organisers blaming “the cost-of-living crisis, increased production costs in general, and last-minute safety and crowd regulations we need

to implement due to recent events in our industry.” Langelandsfestival, one of Denmark’s largest and longest-standing festivals, filed for bankruptcy in June after racking up debt in the millions. The event has taken place since 1991, but this year’s event was cancelled at the end of 2022 as organisers explained that they had made a huge investment in talent for that year’s 30th-anniversary event. The festival was subsequently unable to “sell the number of festival tickets that was crucial to ensure an acceptable festival economy.” “After all the bills for 2022 are paid, the result is a large deficit in the millions,” read a statement. And in August, Poland’s Fest Festival filed for bankruptcy after selling just 50% of the tickets available for its fourth edition. Several mid-sized Norwegian festivals cancelled due to “skyrocketing” costs, including Beitostølen Live, a two-day festival in the south of the country. “After difficult years of pandemic and war in Europe, our festival concept, the public’s buying habits, and the industry in general have changed significantly,” said a statement. “With increasing competition,

Down The Rabbit Hole © Max Kneefel Sziget Festival 11

Year In Review

Grape Festival MetalDays © Marko Alpner Bilbao BBK Live Festival © Sharon Lopez

rising prices, demands for advance payment at all stages, failing ticket sales both this year and last year, less sponsorship income, and the absence of public financial support, the math, unfortunately, does not add up.” Kadetten – a hip-hop festival launched in 2022 that featured Megan Thee Stallion, Central Cee, and Burna Boy – cancelled its 2023 edition earlier this year. “The cancellation comes solely from the costs of the artists and availability in 2023,” wrote Kadetten organisers. “The prices of everything have skyrocketed; in addition, the predictability for American artists has become a logistical nightmare with flights etc.” Other festivals that cancelled include the 19-year-old Skral in Grimstad, Oslo Americana (and its sister events in Sweden), and Festival Imperium. What effect will these cancellations have on consumer confidence? It’s yet to be seen whether the 2023 trend of buying tickets later than usual will continue into 2024, as some people wait to see whether an event will go ahead or not before committing.

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Artist fees One issue that will be familiar to many festival organisers this year is the rise in artist fees. Acts are facing the same rise in production costs as everyone else, meaning they have to increase fees to balance the tour books. There’s also a suspicion among some in the industry that after years of no live income due to Covid, some are seeking to make up lost revenue. Adding to this, the strength of the dollar makes artists coming from the USA more expensive to book. Some American acts are deciding that it makes more financial sense to stay at home than come to Europe. This all combines to make the job of a booker harder than ever. As Walter Hoeijmakers from Dutch festival Roadburn tells us (see page 16): “We’ve seen the main bands or the headliners are asking for way more money, to the point that we can’t afford certain bands.”

Weather At the European Festival Conference, a presentation by professor Robert Lončarić of Zadar University threw into sharp focus the challenges climate change is bringing to festivals across Europe. One slide showed the huge rise in the number of “extreme weather events” in 2010 compared with 2023, and it drew gasps from the audience. “We’ll have normal summers in the future, but the probability of normal summers is decreasing. And continental areas of Europe are in the most danger of extreme hazard events,” Lončarić said, advising organisers to “have a meteorologist on speed dial.” One of the most prominent festivals affected by the weather in 2023 was Germany’s Wacken Open Air, which was forced to deny entry to around 25,000 ticketholders after adverse weather conditions left the site “looking like Mordor from the Lord of the Rings movies,” Wacken’s head booker Jan Quiel told the IFF in London. “It was heart-breaking having to send so many people home. That was even worse than having to cancel due to Covid. We also incurred a heavy financial loss due to the additional costs we paid to have an extra campground to host more shows.” The Superstruct-backed festival’s co-founder, Thomas Jensen, estimated the revenue shortfall caused

Year InFeature Review

by the capacity reduction to be in excess of €7m. The event subsequently rebounded and sold all 85,000 tickets for next year’s event in a recordbreaking four-and-a-half hours. The final day of Slovenia’s MetalDays was scrapped due to torrential rain and flash flooding in the area, and the 25,000-capacity, Superstructbacked, UK festival Bluedot was forced to cancel its final day due to unprecedented rainfall. It has axed its 2024 edition to enable the ground to recover, say organisers. The first day of Primavera Sound Madrid was cancelled due to persistent severe weather, while in July, Dutch festivals Awakenings, Bospop, and Wildeburg were cut short due to warnings of severe thunderstorms and hail. Primavera Sound director Alfonso Lanza told Spanish daily El Pais: “Of the 40 days of pre-production, it rained on 35, which caused all the bus and car spaces to be flooded, and the mobility plan was not what we originally planned.” There are no plans for the event to return to Madrid in 2024. And it’s not just torrential rain festival organisers have to deal with. Last year, France’s Villa Pop Festival was cancelled due to fears over wildfires. Festivals are turning to expensive measures to prevent weather from becoming an issue in the future. After seeing more rain in the three days leading up to the June 2022 edition of Austria’s Nova Rock than in the previous six months, this year, promoter Nova Music Entertainment (part of CTS Eventim’s Barracuda Music) spent €300,000 on renewed lawns and drainage, plus a new network of paths for arrival and departure. A new shuttle service was also in operation.

Attendance Many people attend their first festival as a teenager – it is a rite of passage for young people across Europe and often the start of a long relationship with these events. But the Covid lockdowns meant many did not get to have this experience, and there is

concern among some organisers that there could be a “lost generation” of people who never get into the festival habit. “Though 2022 brought about a lot of excitement with everything coming back to a semblance of normality, I’d say that there’s been a gap where we’ve seen a generation not accustomed to attending festivals due to the pandemic,” Pavla Slivova of Czech festival Colours of Ostrava told IFF. “In my opinion, there needs to be a change in marketing. What worked in 2019 or 2022 isn’t working this year, so we need to refocus our attention on what Gen Z finds attractive these days.” Agent Alex Bruford of ATC agreed when it comes to thinking about what would appeal more to that particular demographic. “There were a number of festivals that struggled with attracting the Gen Z crowd, who aren’t gravitating towards more hedonistic activities than previous generations,” he said. “We need to have a collective think about what an actual festival means to them and what’s appealing and appropriate to today’s young people.”

Provinssi Finland © Mika Rinta Porkkunen Open’er Festival ©Roza Smolka

Independents In recent years, there have been many headlines about huge private equity-backed companies buying up festivals as consolidation in the industry grows. But there are still plenty of independents. Among them is Serbia’s EXIT Festival, which started in 2000. EXIT boss Dušan Kovačević said: “The biggest challenge of remaining independent in 2023 is the increasing costs in the festival industry. Corporate-backed festivals often have substantial financial resources, more marketing power, and established connections that allow them to gain needed funding more easily in moments of crisis. “Without the backing of major sponsors or investors, it can be challenging to maintain a sustainable business model and deliver a highquality experience while keeping ticket prices fair.” Nevertheless, Kovačević says the main benefit of remaining independent is “freedom.” “Independence 13

Regions | Europe

“Excel sheets are not the ultimate god of the Rock En Seine festival; creativity and © Olivier Hoffschir artistic expression are”

Zermatt Unplugged © Anja Zurbruegg

A To Jazz Festival

EXIT boss Dušan Kovačević

and has been independent ever since. “Remaining an independent entity offers us the freedom to execute our creative vision without constraints, enabling us to curate a unique and authentic experience for our attendees,” says co-founder of the 40,000-capacity event, David Nguyen. Scan the QR code opposite to read IQ Magazine’s article on ten key independent festivals in Europe.

War in Ukraine

Stars In Town © Julius Hatt allows us to think and grow beyond financial reports. Excel sheets are not the ultimate god of the festival; creativity and artistic expression are. This way, we get to cultivate the spirit of the festival that made it so magical in the first place.” In Belgium, promoter Greenhouse Talent bought Gent Jazz Festival after previous organiser – the non-profit Jazz en Muziek – went bankrupt at the end of 2022. “Whenever festivals are taken over by bigger machines, they start to get streamlined and become a little bit samey. That is something we would like to avoid,” says Greenhouse boss Pascal Van De Velde. “We’re a very independent company. We don’t like to rely on bosses or structures that have goals not directly connected to promoting shows. We are concerts and festival-driven and to keep that purity is very important.” Czechia’s Rock For People was founded in 1995

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Festivals across Europe continued to stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine in the face of the Russian invasion, which started in February last year. Music Saves UA is a fundraising initiative created by the Ukrainian Association of Music Events to provide humanitarian help in the country. This year, the organisation toured 20 festivals, 12 of which are YOUROPE members (see page 45), raising money and awareness of the plight of residents and the live music industry in the war-torn country. The festivals donated money to the cause by collecting deposit cups, recycling cans or bottles, selling charity merchandise, booking Ukrainian artists, asking for donations from guest list members, and more. Festivals’ efforts raised €91,000 for the charity (74% of which came from YOUROPE members) this summer. A particularly strong supporter of the plight of the Ukrainian people is Slovak promoter Michal

Kaščák, who organises the 30,000-capacity Pohoda festival. He first visited his neighbouring country in December last year and said it was a transformative experience. Since then, he has integrated multiple Ukrainian elements into his festival; helped Ukrainian crew, artists, and musicians secure work at festivals and events around Europe; and performed with his band Bez Ladu A Skladu in the country. And he urged festivals across Europe to do everything they can to help. “We should all speak more about it; we should use the power of our events, the power of our art, the power of anything to try to change the approach to Ukraine,” he told IQ Magazine. “I’m afraid that people will come to the stage where we will think that the war is a normal part of our lives, as it’s not in our countries, it’s not so painful, and it’s not so horrible. But people in Ukraine dream about freedom. They can see absolutely clearly that it’s not a special war operation: it’s genocide – one country trying to destroy another nation.”

Making a positive impact As well as creating marvellous memories for fans and bringing in millions of euros in investment to regions and countries, festivals do a significant amount of social good. Whether through educating audiences about important issues such as equity, sustainability, or human rights; helping develop eco-friendly measures and technology; or investing in local communities, festivals make a major contribution to the planet. Hungary’s Sziget runs a scheme called the Love Revolution, which this year returned to the Main Stage to provide a ten-minute programme of presentations and short speeches during the breaks between changeovers, to raise awareness of social issues. Since it was founded over two decades ago, Serbia’s EXIT has been behind many important projects, including Life Stream, in partnership with the United Nations World Food Programme, the mass reforestation scheme Green R:Evolution, and a pioneering mental health programme. Many festivals raised large sums of money for charity. Among them is Denmark’s Roskilde, which this year will distribute DK10m to associations and organisations that work with children and young people. Glastonbury famously gives £1m a year to charity shared between organisations including Oxfam, Greenpeace, and WaterAid, while for over 25 years, Festival Republic has supported the likes of Action Aid, Oxfam, and In summing up this year’s Ruisrock festival in Finland, head promoter Mikko Niemelä seemed to speak for all festivals: “Ruisrock exists to make the world a happier and a more joyful place, and we hope that our mission has been successful. This year, our festival was the most beautiful it has ever been, and for this, I want to thank our wonderful audience, artists, partners, and the whole festival team.”

IQ Magazine

Music Saves UA 15


Walter Hoeijmakers Roadburn Festival, Netherlands


ne of Europe’s leading underground festivals for heavy music of all types, the 4,500-capacity Roadburn has been running since 1999 and takes place in the Dutch city of Tilburg. The festival won Best Small Festival at the European Festival Awards 2022. How was this summer’s festival season for you? We were extremely happy that we could continue putting on Roadburn. But it was a bit of a strange affair, this one. For the first time in 16 years, we weren’t sold out. It was down to the geopolitical situation, inflation, and people having less money to travel. Around 75% of Roadburn attendees come here from all over the world, but this year, we noticed that percentage changed. We had way more people from the Netherlands and Belgium than before. On the other hand, people celebrated this year’s Roadburn as something really special. We branched out artistically and musically and sought to redefine “heaviness” by bringing in way more genres of music. And people really responded well. There was a bit of a backlash from the old-school Roadburn audience who prefer a heavy guitar-driven festival focusing on blokes with guitars. But on the other hand, we got more younger people into the festival, and they gave us a lot of credit for our forward-thinking attitude. The people that came noticed that it was a very special edition, that the community feel was stronger than ever before. It felt like a landmark moment for the festival, and people knew they were part of something special. Looking back, I feel very proud of what we achieved. We needed to change a bit to secure the future of Roadburn. Over the years, our audience had become people aged 40, 50, and older. But after the pandemic, this demographic found other interests, other priorities, so we needed to bring in a whole new generation. And it’s working. What challenges does the festival industry face? And how are you aiming to address them? One of the key issues is a discrepancy in expectations across the business: between agents, managers, and the festival; between attendees and the festival; but also, between the festival and its suppliers. Everything is way more expensive than before. We’ve seen the main bands or the headliners are asking for way more money, to the point that we can’t afford certain bands. We’ve also seen that the smaller bands have fewer opportunities to tour, so their fees have increased as

16 European Festival Report 2023

well. For us, it’s like a minefield of expectations. Those bands now consider themselves as headliner material, and they increase the fee three times as much as a regular club show. But we can’t increase ticket prices to accommodate this increase in fees, because people won’t pay more. Adding to this, attendees have expectations based on their pre-pandemic experiences, when everything cost less. Audiences are suggesting acts for us to book that we simply can’t afford or aren’t touring when the festival is happening. A big shift recently is that many bands have changed strategy when it comes to touring Europe. Before the pandemic, American or British bands would tour two or even three times a year. Now, most bands have just one shot at a tour that is financially viable. So, they’re very slow in confirming, and they try to collect offers for the whole year through so they can strategically choose the best time financially to tour. One of our solutions to this is to broaden the genres we present and to give new exciting bands a chance to play. But this is a fine line because people also expect the big hitters. It can be difficult to manage audience expectations. But we are always very open with our attendees. We pride ourselves on telling the truth, explaining what’s happening behind the scenes. Sometimes people don’t understand and get angry, while others accept it – it’s like a polarisation of the audience. This is something very new, post-pandemic. What role do festivals play in Europe’s cultural landscape? I think that the boutique festivals are really culturally important right now. They’re where you can discover new bands; they’re the platform for the new generation to grow into fully fledged bands. Music festivals that embrace the grassroots communities and grassroots bands make for a healthy scene in the future. Otherwise, we will be stuck with only the bigger bands that still can draw the crowd, and everything lower down will die out.

“Headliners are asking for way more money, to the point that we can’t afford certain bands”

The pandemic may be in the rear view mirror, but that doesn’t mean this year was plain sailing when it came to the festival season. Discover what we uncovered in our survey of hundreds of European festivals.

© Bart Heemskerk


Survey Results


f 2022 was the year the festival season struggled to its feet after the pandemic, with all the associated difficulties and stresses, 2023 was a very different picture. Production teams were back to full strength, running smoothly. Festivals across Europe delighted millions of music fans who watched their favourite artists perform, discovered new acts, and danced with smiles shining brightly. Behind the scenes, the overall results have been mixed. While some festivals saw their best year ever, others struggled to reach the ticket sales of the previous year. More concerning, there’s a multitude of challenges facing the industry: huge rises in productions costs, from the cost of staffing to the price of energy; rampant inflation hurting consumers’ spending abilities; headliner availability; the cost of artists; a summer packed with stadium shows by some of the world’s biggest artists, competing with festivals for fans’ money; and the effects of climate change causing disruptive weather events. What’s it taken to get through 2023? How did festivals fare in the face of these challenges? To find out, the European Festival Survey asked festivals across Europe to answer questions on topics from ticket pricing and length of festival to concerns in the industry, staffing issues, and more. A total of 235 festivals from 29 countries across Europe responded (a massive increase on last year’s 157 respondents), reflecting a broad variety of events from under 1,000-capacity to those seeing more than 50,000 people attend, taking place from city centres to greenfield sites. They told us about the many creative ways they found to overcome the cost rises, as well as some of the difficult decisions that had to be made to balance the books. Over the following pages, we’ll dig into the detail of the survey results, taking a snapshot of the festival season across Europe in 2023, and look ahead to what lies on the horizon in 2024.

The big picture So, who were the festivals that responded to our survey? Of the 235 festivals that responded, 92% describe themselves as multi-day, with just 8% being one-day events. The average length of a festival was 4.25 days – up from 2022’s average of 3.9 days. Incredibly, the festivals surveyed generated almost 1,000 days of music – that’s over two and three-quarter years.

01 EVENTS 250 200


150 100 50


95 53


0 Singleday





What sort of setting could festivalgoers find themselves to watch all these amazing performances? A majority of festivals (116) described themselves as being city-based, while 95 were on greenfield sites. Over two-thirds (68%) of respondents’ events were 11 years old or older, with 15% on their 6th to 10th edition. While this clearly demonstrates how long festivals have been a part of cultural life in Europe, perhaps it also indicates the ravages of the Covid period or the financial difficulties faced this year – a total of 9% were two to three years old and just 3% were on their first edition. It seems that established events continue to thrive and are equipped to overcome the challenges of the last few years, while younger events may not have been able to make it through.

02 WHICH EDITION IS THIS? 80 70 68% 60 50 40 30 20 10 3%




0 1st edition

18 European Festival Report 2023

2nd or 3rd 4th or 5th 6th to 10th edition edition edition

11th+ edition

Survey Results 03 DAILY CAPACITY

While many of the festivals are well-established, the survey represents a broad range of sizes. 14% were very small (500– 2,500-capacity), while 11% were 2,501–5000-capacity. 18% could host between 5,001 and 10,000 people, while the same number were capable of accommodating 10,001-20,000 people. 11% had a capacity of 20,0001-30,000 and 14% could host 30,001–50,000. 14% were 50,001-capacity or larger.

20 18 16 14 12 10 8 6 4 2 0 500– 2,500

2,501– 5,000

5,001– 10,000

Ticketing Festivalgoers were offered a wide variety of options when it came to buying tickets to events. And while almost all festivals (80%) offered whole-event tickets, and there was also the option for day tickets – just 30% did not offer this choice. 21% of festival were free admission. With massive production cost increases across Europe, it’s heartening to note how little of this was passed on to consumers. The average whole-event ticket price was €191.93, up 8% on last year’s average price of €177.99. And interestingly, the average day-ticket price fell from €90.45 to €83.02 – a fall of 8%. If we focus only on the larger festivals (those of 10,000capacity and above), the picture is similar, showing an increase in ticket price of 9% for whole-event tickets (from €188.79 to €205.09), while day tickets increased 7% (from €85.81 to €91.60). And, while these prices are not insignificant, festivals still represent excellent value for money – especially comparing the cost of a festival pass to that of a one-off stadium concert or arena show.

10,001– 20,000

20,001– 30,000

30,001– 50,000

50,001 +

04 TICKETS 200 180




140 120 100 80 60 40



20 0 Day tickets

Whole-event tickets

Per-show tickets

Free admission


2022 €200




€100 €85.81


€50 €–

Day tickets

Whole-event tickets 19

Survey Results FKP Scorpio co-CEO Stephan Thanscheidt told the International Festival Forum (IFF) in September: “In Germany, most big festivals didn’t sell out. But our flagship events did. I’m not sure if there’s just one reason for this but ticket price was one. People were struggling with inflation. We tried to prevent excluding people by price, but it was difficult.” So, how were ticket sales this year? Faced with Europe-wide inflationary pressures as mentioned by Thanscheidt and considerable uncertainty among consumers, it was positive to note that 21% of festivals sold out this year, and 64% of events were over 80% sold. However, in 2022, there were more sold-out festivals (29%), while almost three-quarters sold more than 80% of their tickets. That said, the 2022

figures included tickets that had been bought before the pandemic and had been rolled over, so higher attendance figures could well be expected. In good news, 21% of festivals said their ticket sales were “much better” than last year, 29% said they were “somewhat better,” and 26% said they were about the same – painting a positive picture for 76% of events. Just 6% said their sales were “much worse” than 2022, and 18% said they were “a little worse.” This is a brighter picture than 2022, when 11% of festivals told us their sales were “much worse” than 2019, and 25% said they were “a little worse.” Last year, 44% said their sales were either somewhat better or much better than 2019 (50% this year).

06 TICKET SALES 30% 2022



25% 23% 20%







10% 8% 5% 4%








0% 0–25%







100% (sold out)

07 SALES VS 2022 35% 2022


30% 25%



20% 18%

15% 10% 5% 0%




20% 16%

11% 6% Much worse

20 European Festival Report 2023

A little worse

The same

Somewhat better

Much better

Survey Results

SPOTLIGHT Economic impact of EXIT Festival Serbia Festivals contribute significantly to local and national economies. Let’s take a look at one example – EXIT Festival in Serbia. Over the four festival days this year, this long-standing festival in Novi Sad saw more than 200,000 visitors from more than 100 countries pass through its gates. The festival’s research shows that in 2023, it contributed €21.2m to the economy of Novi Sad and Serbia, bringing the event’s total economic contribution since it was founded in 2000 to around €250m. On average, Western European tourists spent €873 each, while international travellers represented around

Festivals continue to attract people across national borders, and 63% of festivals saw up to 10% of their audience coming from outside their own country. Reflecting the opening of borders since the end of the pandemic restrictions and an increasing desire to travel, 27% of festivals said they saw an increase in the proportion of people coming from another country, while 66% said their proportion of foreign visitors remained the same. 8% saw fewer people come from abroad – a significant improvement compared with 2022, when 20% said they saw fewer people crossing borders. And when it came to how festivalgoers get to the events, there were many options. While 66% did not include transport in the ticket price, 14% included a shuttle service, 8% offered local bus transport, 4% included local train travel, and 4% bundled national train travel with their ticket.

65% of visitors. The festival says that in July 2023, around 85% of visitors came to Novi Sad because of EXIT, and 46.6% of the audience visited the festival for the first time.

08 PERCENTAGE OF VISITORS FROM ABROAD 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0% 0–10%







09 CHANGE IN PERCENTAGE OF VISITORS FROM ABROAD 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0%

More visitors came from abroad

No change

Fewer visitors came from abroad 21

Survey Results

Challenges Unsurprisingly, the biggest concern of festivals surveyed was the massive rise in production costs seen this year – 37% of respondents cited this as their number-one challenge this year, followed by issues with booking artists (18%). As early as May, FKP Scorpio co-CEO Folkert Koopmans, who’s behind major German events such as Hurricane and Southside, warned that festivals would struggle to make a profit this year, estimating that only 20% are still profitable. In an interview with German daily Kreiszeitung, Koopmans warned the sector was being “overwhelmed” by spiralling costs. “We’re struggling with it, trying to keep the costs under control. But it’s incredibly difficult. Of course, we also have an extremely high break-even point. And my company now earns money primarily from the big concerts; for example, from the Rolling Stones or Ed Sheeran.” Cost rises are across multiple budget lines. Not only have staffing and crew costs gone up as a result of scarcity during Covid-19, but there are huge rises in prices for fuel and electricity as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The second-biggest concern among promoters, the availability of headliners, also contributed to major budget problems. There are a number of issues at play here. Some acts sought to make up lost revenue from the pandemic by increasing their fees, others simply couldn’t balance their touring budgets

without a lift in fees; adding to this, massive competition between events drove up artist costs, plus the strength of the US dollar caused exchangerate headaches. It was a perfect storm of factors that resulted in a significant strain on budgets. As a result of all these factors, many festivals have spoken of a 30% rise in their production costs. On a brighter note, a lack of staff – a major problem in 2022 – was the main concern for only 7% of respondents (in 2022, 53% said they were shortstaffed, while this year, 30% were understaffed). Yet, the low priority this issue was given by respondents demonstrates that although being some hands short, it wasn’t a major issue for the majority of events. Traditionally, festivals have relied on volunteers to overcome the enormous human requirements of making a successful event. In 2023, 79% of festivals told us they were legally allowed to have volunteers. Volunteers often exchange their time for free festival passes, making it an attractive option for many people. However, 21% of festivals are not allowed to have volunteers on-site – a significant number when you consider the cost of staffing. When it comes to paid staff, the festivals surveyed represent an incredible 26,000 full-time equivalent jobs. They also employed 54,000 part-time staff.


Rise in production costs


Booking artists


Selling tickets




Supply chain issues



22 European Festival Report 2023











In other good news, the number of festivals who thought selling tickets was their biggest problem fell dramatically from 51% in 2002 to 20.5% this year. How did festivals respond to the issues they faced this year? 57% of festivals said they made some major changes this year compared to last year. The answers tended to fall into two camps: either expansion, (larger capacity, more stages, or additional days), or cutbacks, such as one fewer stage or a lower artist budget. Sustainability and gender balance efforts were also high on agendas for change this year. Perhaps as a result of fears about costs, just 41% of festivals plan to make major changes next year. Of those planning to make a change, quite a few were planning to cut artist budgets, focus on “less expensive domestic talent,” or otherwise cut budgets to accommodate rising production costs. Some plan to grow further, while many are expecting to invest in sustainability measures or more facilities for disabled people. A significant minority said they would be seeking more funding.

2023 YES NO





Looking to the future


So, what are festival organisers most concerned about as we head into the 2024 season? 35% still feel production costs will be an issue next year, while 20% think selling tickets will be more difficult, and 20% are concerned about booking artists. The war in Ukraine was a concern for 1% of festivals this year, but almost 4% feel it will be an issue in 2024.



Rise in production costs


Selling tickets / audience attendance


Booking artists

20% 8%

Staffing 6%

Supply chain issues Political outlook (including Ukraine war)


Voluntary work (challenges and regulations)


Crowd behaviour












40% 23

Survey Results



With the huge number of resources required by festivals, European promoters are keenly aware of their events’ impact on the environment. Our 2023 survey showed 81% of festivals say they plan to become climate neutral in the future. Most of these aim to achieve this by 2030. Impressively, 13 festivals told us they were climate neutral already. When it comes to assessing what elements of their event are most environmentally problematic, most respondents felt it was travel and transport, while 21% felt energy consumption had the biggest effect. 14% felt the materials used to build the sites and the disposal of waste were most damaging, while just 6% thought food and drinks were most damaging to the environment. Interestingly, research by A Greener Future (formerly A Greener Festival) showed that travel, including audience, crew, artists, production, and third-party transport, was responsible for an average of 58% of a festival’s carbon footprint. The secondlargest source of emissions was most often food and drink production and consumption, averaging 35% (see Sustainability section, page 26).


Representation The low number of female artists on festivals bills has long been an issue across the live music industry. And while progress is being made, thanks to many festivals who have programmes in place to address this and a number of organisations seeking to improve the situation, things are not yet equal on stages. Earlier this year, IQ Magazine worked with music industry directory, contacts, data, and jobs platform ROSTR to carry out analysis of the lineups of the top 50 festivals in Europe. The results showed 64% of all solo acts were male, while 35% were female, and 1% non-binary. In our survey, which was made up of 235 festivals of a very broad range of sizes, 39% of acts were female or female fronted. This was a slight increase on 2022’s results, which showed 33% were female. And while there is clearly some way to go before there’s a true gender balance on festival bills, it’s worth noting that some of the biggest female stars who might otherwise have headlined festivals opted instead to play stadiums in 2023. Nonetheless, IQ and ROSTR’s analysis showed that in London alone this summer there were 22 stadium shows by 12 artists. Beyoncé was the only female act, accounting for 22.7% of shows and 8% of headliners. This means 93% of stadium artists in London this year were male. However, when it comes to festival teams, things look much better. The average percentage of female members of a festival team was 53%. This is up 1 percentage point on last year’s figures.

60% 58% 50%




21% 14%



Energy Travel & transport (including audiences)

Materials & waste



Food & drink

Artist travel




30% 81.4%


20% 10%







Already 1–2 are years

3–5 years



40% 39% 30% 20% 10% 0% % of female-fronted or majoriy female lineup

24 European Festival Report 2023


% of females in festival teams

By 2030

After 2030


Cindy Castillo & Javier Arnáiz Mad Cool Festival, Spain


ince 2016, Spain’s Mad Cool Festival has attracted a broad, international audience to Madrid to watch some of the world’s biggest artists perform. This year, the Live Nation-produced festival relocated to a new site closer to the centre of Madrid, offering improved transport links, opportunities to improve sustainability measures, and enabling the event to expand capacity to 70,000 per day. Acts in 2023 included The Black Keys, Robbie Williams, Lil Nas X, The Prodigy, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Mumford and Sons. How was this summer’s festival season for you? JA: Our 2023 edition was a great success in all aspects, with a large audience and fantastic live performances. Building on the momentum from post-pandemic 2022, the festival is establishing itself as one of the country’s most important events. CC: It was truly remarkable. It was a great opportunity to enjoy live music again and to continue offering beautiful experiences to our audience.

Can you tell us about some of the sustainability measures you’re implementing at Mad Cool? Why is sustainability important to you and the festival? JA: We are continuously working to implement measures that align with the goals of the 2030 Agenda’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It is essential that the festival serves as an active catalyst and a platform to reach our entire audience and instil these objectives for the betterment of our planet. CC: Yes, at Mad Cool, we’re committed to sustainability. We’ve already implemented measures, but sustainability is important because we want to minimise our environmental impact and set a positive example. What challenges does the festival industry face? And how are you aiming to address them? JA: Festivals need to focus on implementing changes that make them more sustainable and environmentally friendly, with the aim of reducing their negative impact on both people and the planet. We must develop initiatives to minimise our carbon footprint, promote equality, reduce plastic use, foster diversity, embrace circular practices, preserve natural environments, minimise waste, and place a strong emphasis on raising awareness about social issues. In reality, festivals should serve as a significant platform for promoting these objectives.

CC: Certainly, the festival industry faces a range of challenges, from logistical issues in artist bookings to environmental concerns. At Mad Cool, our approach is to continually improve and innovate in these areas, ensuring that our festival remains an exceptional and enjoyable experience for everyone involved. Our commitment to overcoming these challenges is what drives us to constantly evolve and refine our operations. What role do festivals play in the cultural landscape? JA: Festivals, and music in general, play a pivotal role in culture and in people’s social lives. They have a substantial economic impact on the areas where they are held, primarily through the tourism they attract. However, their benefits extend beyond financial gains, influencing social and cultural development in the region. They contribute to the creation of a social identity, civic pride, cultural enrichment, physical transformation of areas, and the cultivation of audiences. Economic, cultural, and social impact metrics and indicators support this notion. CC: Festivals are a vital part of the cultural landscape. They bring people together, showcase diverse art forms, and foster a sense of community. They play a significant role in shaping cultural trends and providing a platform for both established and emerging artists.

“(Mad Cool Festival) was a great opportunity to enjoy live music again and to continue offering beautiful experiences to our audience” Cindy Castillo 25


Your map for sustainability success A new free guide for festivals aims to help them become more environmentally sustainable by the end of the decade. Katharina Weber delves into the important advice.

P The Green Festival Roadmap aims to help festivals to reduce their emissions by at least 55% by 2030

roducing more sustainable events can be a hard-to-navigate jungle of measuring CO2 emissions, handling waste streams, and trying to get rid of cars (among other things). To give live events a reliable guide to sustainable actions, including many practicable measures for years to come, YOUROPE released the European Green Festival Roadmap 2030 in July 2023. Its goal is to enable every festival to make the transformation towards a more sustainable production by 2030 – the date by which the EU aims to have cut emissions by at least 55%. The Green Roadmap aligns with measures suggested in the EU Green Deal, a massive collection of policies that will see the EU become climate neutral by 2050. The UN Sustainable 1




26 European Festival Report 2023

Development Goals (SDGs), as well as industry requirements, are also considered in the roadmap. The roadmap is public and free to use for any festival or cultural event. It is the result of a collaboration with experts from the YOUROPE network such as A Greener Future (AGF), Greener Events Norway, and the GO Group (Green Operations Europe) think tank. “The European Green Festival Roadmap 2030 supports the festival sector in finding appropriate measures to fight emissions and other harmful environmental impacts,” said YOUROPE general secretary and GO Group co-founder, Holger Jan Schmidt. “To bring about the necessary change towards more sustainable events, it is important to set clear goals, think large and long-term.” For this purpose, the roadmap provides a framework to improve the sustainability of cultural events that is as comprehensive as it is ambitious. The suggested actions are sorted into seven areas from strategy and energy to travel and biodiversity. They range from reviewing management structures to specific practical measures in the creation and production process. There are four types of actions in every area, ranging from basic to challenging, depending on how difficult it is to implement them. They are arranged on a timeline that suggests completing basic measures by 2024 and challenging measures by 2030.










Create and implement a Food & Beverage Policy and associated documents

Policy for the Write a sustainable Food & Beverage goals and its festival, which focuses the festival‘s - for example, pledges in relation to Food & Beverage to reduce the to source sustainable products, the health of carbon footprint of menus, to protect food waste crew, performers and visitors, to reduce etc. and bar staff Provide training to in-house catering the sustainable members on the requirements of Food & Beverage Policy. Health & Safety Ensure that all Food Safety and documents and Regulations are covered in all


training. for agreement Write a Food & Beverage Charter bars and with all external/third party caterers, & Beverage traders, which aligns with the Food Policy Handbook Write and send out a trader/catering ensure proper to provide guidelines to Charter. implementation of the Food & Beverage for traders/ Hold meetings/workshops/webinars the Food & caterers/bars to clearly discuss Handbook; what Beverage Policy, Charter and the and to give is expected of them for your event, prior to opportunity for questions and feedback

Increase the environmental, economic and social standards of food •

• •

and move Review all in-house catering menus menus using towards 100% vegetarian/vegan local, seasonal, and organic ingredients. and sustainably Use 100% reusable/compostable options that sourced serveware, and consider food do not require serveware. to Encourage, or require, visiting caterers/traders options. review their menus and their serveware in the Produce from lower income countries sourced and developing world must be ethically Fair Trade certified, if applicable. FSC or PEFC Produce from forests must be Oceans must be certified, and produce from the

Calculate the Carbon Footprint of Food & Beverage at your event • •

of any food and Calculate the Carbon Footprint by the festival beverages produced/sold directly bars Request that all external traders/caterers/ ingredients/ conduct CO2 assessments of their dishes/menus/drinks from all sources Gather the CO2 assessment data eq that will be and evaluate the amount of CO2 produced by the current menus.

MSC certified. systems Provide proper waste management serveware and for food waste and compostable correctly. ensure this is managed and treated an organic Support chefs and traders by creating traders with supply chain and connecting food local, organic producers/wholesalers.

the event.


The roadmap is part of YOUROPE’s three-year project “3F Future-Fit Festivals” for the enhancement of the entire European festival sector. It was also the first pan-European publication of its kind to be jointly developed and published by and for the festival sector. It can serve as a relevant tool for organisers of festivals and other large open-air events, even beyond Europe. If you ask the experts who developed the roadmap, the green transformation it aims to facilitate is long overdue. “Climate change is already upon us,” says Linnéa Svensson of Greener Events Norway and YOUROPE’s GO Group co-founder. “Heavy rain and severe drought are becoming increasingly normal, which tells us there’s no time to lose. It is time to act now – and this roadmap will [help] you to get started or even to become more advanced.” She and co-author Claire O’Neill from AGF have been pushing the green agenda for decades and the two say they are glad they could put their combined experience and knowledge into this work. “After nearly two decades working with festivals worldwide for sustainability, we’re really happy to harness and share learnings in this European Green Festival Roadmap with YOUROPE,” O’Neill said. “The roadmap helps prioritise and simplify the actions individual festivals need to take and shines a light on areas for collective effort by the industry and beyond.”

The free European Green Festival Roadmap is packed with sustainability measures from transport to biodiversity Left, below: Report co-author, A Greener Future’s Claire O’Neill, presenting the roadmap at ADE Green © Roeland Hoefsloot 27


How to create a circular economy for your festival


n a circular economy, products are reused or recycled rather than being thrown away and replaced by new products made from new resources. Waste is no longer regarded as rubbish but as valuable materials, ready for reuse. That circular

The state of sustainability communication


estivals are an excellent platform from which to share environmentally friendly ways of living. But how do European festivals communicate about sustainability in a fan-friendly way? To answer this question, Netherlands-based conference and showcase festival Eurosonic Noorderslag (ESNS) initiated a research project. Harmonising Sustainability: Evaluating Practices and Communication in European Music Festivals surveyed 130 ESNS festivals that take part in its ESNS Exchange talent exchange programme organised with the support of YOUROPE – and analysed the content on the websites of 39 partner festivals. “The content analysis showed that larger festivals tend to prioritise sustainability communication more than mediumsized and small festivals,” said Ilona Deuring, project manager of ESNS Exchange. “The most commonly addressed topics were energy and water management, transportation, and strategy.”

28 European Festival Report 2023

festivals are possible has been proven by pioneers like Dutch DGTL, but it’s quite a challenge. To help festivals on this journey, the Spanish Asociación de Festivales de Música (FMA) published a guide to circular festivals earlier this year. Why the focus on circularity? Firstly, because it is “one of the basic pillars of sustainability,” said Marina de la Fuente from law firm Gabeiras y Asociados, who helped develop the guide. And secondly, because there are new regulations on waste at national and EU levels: the goal is to produce less municipal waste and to increase recycling rates. Using Spanish regulations as an example, the guide offers suggestions on how to improve waste and materials management at festivals to comply with the new rules. According to De la Fuente, festivals must take responsibility for the waste they produce by law (“polluter pays principle”), e.g. by delivering it to public or private waste handlers and documenting it accordingly. Not complying means risking severe penalties up to €3.5m – the same goes for littering. The guide helps figure out when, where, and how much waste is generated at a festival with a useful template. It presents the impacts of bad practices and offers good alternative solutions. Lastly, it includes a set of recommendations on how to progress towards a circular festival. Scan the QR code to get the guide.

A total of 53 partner festivals answered the survey, revealing a slightly different picture, with food and beverages; material and waste management; and transport listed as the topics receiving the most attention in sustainability communication. Survey respondents also stated that, in this field, their biggest challenges were inadequate support from local authorities, limited supplier options, and a lack of financial resources. The study found that most festivals use their websites, social media or their events to communicate about their sustainability efforts. “However, advertising about sustainability topics is not common. Information about travel and transport; material and waste; and strategy are mostly communicated via the app, social media, and [via the] website,” Deuring says. According to the survey, the only thing preventing festivals from communicating more about sustainability is that there is so much other content they need to tell audiences about. The survey also found that, although great tools supporting festivals in developing and communicating a sustainability strategy are available, many festivals are not aware of them. Distributing these tools, like the European Green Festival Roadmap 2030 and Future Festival Tools, could lead to more sustainable festivals, the research concluded. Scan the QR code to get the full report.


Claes Olsen Øya Festival, Norway


ounded in 1999, Øya Festival in Oslo has since become one of Norway’s largest and best-known festivals. It has been a leader in sustainability measures since 2002 when it set a goal to be one of the world’s greenest events. How was this summer’s festival season for you? After the difficulties with staffing and production in 2022, it was good to be back to a normal year. The team was fully up-to-speed, and everything worked really well. In fact, I would say this year was the best festival we’ve done, organisation-wise. However, it wasn’t all plain sailing. The weekend before we opened, a huge storm was forecast to hit Oslo. We had to have an emergency meeting to work out how we could handle the issues that presented. Then the mayor of Oslo closed the city – just two days before our doors were due to open. Eventually, the storm came, but it wasn’t as bad as forecast – it was just heavy rain. So we managed to open on the Wednesday without any problems. All the Øya team pulled together, and it all worked out fantastically in the end. Øya is renowned for its sustainability measures – can you tell us about some of them/the most innovative/successful ones? Since we first started 24 years ago, we’ve been focussed on sustainability. Over the past two decades, we’ve managed to achieve some amazing results, including that we’ve been running on renewable energy since 2008. We have very high rates of recycling and very low food waste. We use a measurement system to help us understand everything we do in this field. We’re still working through the data for 2023, but between 2019 and 2022, we reduced our total emissions by 30%. And it looks like we will end up at the same level for this year as we did in 2022. General waste is at a record low: in 2023, we were at around 0.35 kg of waste per person per day for the entire festival – 73% of all waste is hand-sorted by volunteers from the Nature & Youth organisation. We’re also working on a new sustainability strategy for 2023-2030, which will be published soon. In addition to our work on environmental issues, we’re also proud to tackle diversity and representation matters. For example, we collaborated with Oslo Pride on both arenas; we’re a member of the Art of Balance network, which works for diversity and inclusion in the culture sector; and we were one of the first Norwegian festivals to introduce the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower.

What I’m most proud of is since we started this work in 2003, we’ve not only innovated and grown every year, but we’ve also inspired others to do so – not only in Oslo but internationally. For us, sustainability is key because it’s about the lasting effect we have on the planet. It’s bigger than us – it’s important for the whole world. It’s about inspiring people, whether they’re in the industry, artists, or the general public. What trends do you think we will see play out in the next few years at festivals? Our festival has a broad audience, aged 16-50. That means, unlike many events, our focus isn’t on Gen Z – it’s everyone. We are one of the few festivals left that programmes multiple genres and stages at a time when many are narrowing their demographic. Personally, I don’t want to do that. There’s still space for broad music festivals. We’ve seen a trend of events chasing artists, but if you deliver good events, then people will come. There’s also a trend for festivals using influencers to help promote their events. I think authenticity is key, and I’m not convinced people trust influencers in the long run. Ultimately, it’s about doing what you do and doing it well. Next year is our 25th anniversary. [Since we began], we’ve created some trends and chosen not to jump on others, but the basics are still fundamental: you need to have a good team of people and treat them well. Then, it’s easier to create a good atmosphere. What challenges does the festival industry face? And how are you aiming to address them? One of the biggest challenges is artist fees. This is particularly keenly felt when it comes to US artists. They can command very high ticket prices at home, so when it comes to European festivals, they expect fees along similar lines. But I don’t want to end up with super-high ticket prices, because people won’t be able to afford to come. Concerts are getting expensive everywhere, but we’re still a long way from the prices in the USA. In Norway, we don’t have the demographic of a huge music-interested, super-rich community. 29


Is it time to rethink the festival carbon footprint?


rebranding, a report, a new service – it was a busy year for not-for-profit event sustainability company A Greener Future (AGF). The year started with its rebrand from A Greener Festival to its current name during its flagship event, the Green Events and Innovations Conference (GEI), in February. “In our new incarnation, we broaden horizons and raise ambition to do the important work of bringing the whole events, music, entertainment, and sports ecosystem into more sustainable structures and ways of operating,” explained AGF CEO Claire O’Neill. AGF started out as O’Neill’s “dissertation and passion project” in 2005. In the subsequent 17 years, it has become a global pioneer of live event sustainability by providing the world’s first event sustainability standards (the Greener Festival Awards); the Green Artist Rider with Wasserman Music; green certification for festivals, events, arenas, venues, suppliers; and greener touring consultancy. This summer, the company published a report challenging what we know about the festival carbon footprint. While it’s commonly assumed that audience travel is responsible for about 80% of emissions caused by festivals, the average from festivals analysed in the report was closer to 41%. All travel, including audience, crew, artists, production, and third-party transport, was responsible for an average of 58% of a festival’s

30 European Festival Report 2023

carbon footprint. The second-largest source of emissions was most often food and drink production and consumption, averaging 35%. The majority of the festivals reviewed used biodiesel and grid electricity, significantly reducing their energy emissions compared to festivals using fuel generators. The average emissions per person per day were 11 kg CO2e. Festivals with a capacity over 25,000 had a larger overall carbon footprint but tended to have lower emissions per person per day (7 kg CO2e) than festivals with a smaller capacity (13.6 kg CO2e). Yet, according to the report, larger festivals will very often have larger environmental footprints onsite with increased overall resource use, risks of pollution, and strain on the local area. The report is based on the analysis of the carbon footprint of 17 UK and European festivals that took place in 2022 and 2023. The events were already taking on significant sustainable actions, so the results tend to represent bestpractice events. Nevertheless, there is an important takeaway O’Neill said: “It’s important to have a fuller picture to understand the carbon footprint of festivals and events, not least because significant impacts can be overlooked. Event sustainability tends to focus on waste, cups, and audience travel. While important, this is a narrow view that misses broader impacts. That can delay important decisions at the planning and design stage, such as moving away from animal and other high impact food and drinks.” Most recently, AGF developed a sustainability diagnosis service for events, suppliers, and organisations that are just starting out on their sustainability journey. The non-profit is also collaborating with The O2 arena in London on “carbonremoved events.” The O2 wants to remove residual carbon caused by all The 1975 shows played in the arena in February 2024. February will also see the return of GEI in London on 27 February (the day before ILMC and in the same location). Scan the QR code to get the report.


Expanding sustainability work


ince 2017, Estonian showcase festival Tallinn Music Week (TMW) has been incorporating the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into its activities and programme. In a dramatic expansion of this work, this year, the city of Tallinn commissioned the festival to create a sustainability strategy for not only the music sector but the entire city. The strategy’s goal is to raise awareness and show how to contribute to the SDGs in a better way. “SDGs are the only agreed widely known sign-system towards a sustainable future that has spread globally, as well as across sectors,” says Kertu Süld, head of administration at Tallinn Music Week. “We need common goals. Not just national or individual ones.” Süld is convinced that the strategy could serve as a blueprint for others. “Even though our SDG tool for the music sector is backed by examples from Estonia, it still gives clear guidelines on how to work with all the goals – and those guidelines can easily be transferred to other cities.” The UN’s 17 SDGs are at the heart of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which was adopted by all United Nations member states in 2015.

The SDGs call for a liveable future for everyone, with a holistic set of targets covering topics such as ending poverty, improving education, and spurring economic growth – all while tackling climate change. TMW’s spring 2023 survey of the music sector in Tallinn and Estonia revealed that just over a third of the respondents had not heard about SDGs or did not know what they involve. And another third of the respondents knew about SDGs and sometimes considered them as part of their everyday work. According to Süld, TMW focuses on six SDGs in its festival work, with the key topics being a caring digital culture, human-centric urban space development, inclusion of marginalised groups, gender equality, and environmentally conscious behaviour. In addition, Estonia created what it calls “the 18th SDG”: the viability of the Estonian cultural space. “This goal is the core of our activities; to promote and advance the Estonian cultural scene, especially in the field of music,” Süld said. The festival has implemented these SDGs with measures such as adding mental health topics to its conference agenda, having a gender-balanced lineup in 2023, creating opportunities to help less integrated groups participate in Estonian society (such as people on low incomes and the Russian-language community), and organising “trash-cooking dinners” which help educate people on avoiding food waste. TMW has been developing the strategy together with the network UNESCO City of Music, of which Tallinn is a part. The results are due to be published in December 2023.

Campers at EXIT Festival Litter pickers at Pukkelpop © Sfeer Zondag Gurten Festival © Manuel Lopez Festivalgoers at Ilosaarirock © Arttu Kokkonen Roskilde Festival site crew © Kasper Heden 31


Pushing the limits of sustainability French festival WE LOVE GREEN acts as a living laboratory to test green event solutions


E LOVE GREEN is a great example of what happens when a festival starts thinking about sustainability from the outset. As a self-proclaimed “laboratory for sustainable development solutions in the live entertainment and events industries,” everyone involved in the festival develops and tests eco-friendly solutions. YOUROPE’s Katharina Weber talked to the festival’s head of sustainability, Marianne Hocquard, and head of engaged content, Marie de La Giraudière, to find out how WE LOVE GREEN successfully integrates all people involved with bringing the event to life, why it’s important to consider impacts beyond carbon emissions, and the advice they can give people who are new to sustainability. How is WE LOVE GREEN’s ‘living laboratory’ approach incorporated into your everyday production life? Marianne Hocquard: Sustainability is at the heart of our production. The sustainability work at WE LOVE GREEN is a collective effort, running through each department: management, production, partnerships, communication, artistic programming, and content management. It’s overseen by a dedicated team, which grows stronger every year. Starting with a sustainability coordinator at the festival’s creation in 2011, the sustainability department now has four people working year-round. This substantial payroll represents the festival’s primary expense related to sustainability and is the foremost indicator of its commitment. This is a significant specificity, particularly for a festival that is independent and associative.

32 European Festival Report 2023

What was the idea behind creating charters for all the different participant groups in your festival? Marie de La Giraudière: Charters are essential: the production of the event involves a wide variety of stakeholders who are responsible for the setup, operation, and life of the festival. Organising and producing an event is a collective adventure. Since 2011, these charters have evolved to become more specific and suitable to the activities of each part of the festival. Today, there are charters for suppliers, artists, restaurants, volunteers, partners, and even festivalgoers, who are required to sign their charter when buying tickets. What’s in the charters? MH: They contain the principles behind the festival’s policies, such as no single-use plastics, eco-certified products, waste sorting, water conservation, vegetarian catering, encouraging collaboration with local organisations, and so on. Beyond the charters, in 2023, we integrated binding sustainable development clauses directly into contracts: for example, clauses in artist contracts specifying maximum electrical power consumption in kWh per stage; and clauses in service provider contracts requiring them to complete the carbon assessment questionnaire to receive payment for their services after the festival. How hard is it to get people to sign these requirements? MH: Signing the charters happens quite naturally, primarily because our stakeholders are familiar with our festival and its commitments. Moreover, a charter remains a rather indicative document, without real contractual value, constraints, or obligations. However, the addition of contractual clauses led to more discussions; for example, the transition to 100% vegetarian artist catering, and the stipulations on maximum electrical power

consumption or sound levels. But we are taking things gradually and provide comprehensive support, for example, by proposing production alternatives with less energy-intensive equipment and by developing vegetarian menus for restaurants with the creation of a specific recipe creation tool. How has your carbon footprint developed over the years? MH: Our carbon footprint has increased over the years due to the festival’s growth and the expansion of our calculation scope; for example, since 2022, we’ve been including festivalgoers’ accommodation in the calculation. A lack of complete data is also a critical factor because it leads to extrapolations, which can result in overestimations or underestimations of results. However, with comparable scopes in 2022 and 2023, the festival’s carbon footprint has decreased from 1,690 tonnes to approximately 800 tonnes CO2e, although the 2023 number isn’t final yet. What led to this significant reduction? MH: Primarily, it was about improved data collection. For example, in inputs, service providers’ freight, and artist travel, which limited extrapolations and overestimation, along with the shift to 100% vegetarian catering and a more domestic lineup attracting local audiences. Why is it important to measure your carbon footprint? MH: The carbon footprint is an accessible and proven monitoring tool for quantifying our carbon footprint, understanding it, and identifying areas for reduction. It allows us to evaluate the effectiveness of our actions by comparing results year-on-year. It’s a complex and time-consuming exercise as it requires collecting data from artists, suppliers, audience, and team, but this also means that it engages everyone in reducing their carbon impact. Still, it’s important to remember that a carbon footprint it is not comprehensive in assessing a festival’s total environmental impact. There is a need to complement it with other impact measurement tools.

offer a varied menu that might differ from their usual practices, and we also needed to ensure it was well-received by our diverse audience, artists, and teams. In the end, it went very well on both fronts, thanks to the dedication of our teams and the openness of festivalgoers to this topic. The operation was a success and will certainly be continued. This transition reduced the festival’s carbon food footprint by a factor of six compared to 2022, from 301 to 48 tonnes CO2e.

WE LOVE GREEN introduced 100% vegetarian catering and tested reusable serveware in 2023 © Mickaël A. Bandassak

Was there anything you’ve tried that didn’t work at all? MH: The adoption of compostable tableware for our public food court. These containers are meant to be composted or digested into methane. However, following an in-depth study involving the local authorities and several waste management providers, the festival’s team realised that this wasn’t necessarily the case. The problem was that much so-called “compostable” tableware contains a layer of bioplastic (PLA) that degrades only over a very long time, hindering the compostability of the entire waste stream, so waste-processing platforms reject these containers. Also, most providers couldn’t handle the high volumes of waste produced at a large-scale festival. This is why we decided to supply reusable tableware instead.

How does your sustainability work affect your finances? MdLG: We’ve calculated that sustainable energy, water, and dry-toilet choices in eco-responsible production cost the festival approximately 30% more than conventional providers and sometimes up to six times more for certain actions such as hosting committed associations and companies, supplying reusable tableware, diversifying the energy mix with solar panels and green hydrogen, having a yearround sustainability team, and so on.

Starting to work on sustainability can be hard because it’s such a huge field (if you’ll pardon the pun). What advice would you give festivals that don’t know where to start? MH: 1. Start by making a ‘state of play’ of your festival, its practices, and note what could be considered an initiative related to sustainability. 2. Identify initiatives to enhance the festival’s sustainability and prioritise them. Keep in mind that you can’t do everything all at once; take a gradual approach by focusing on one or two areas and one or two actions each year. 3. Implement performance tracking and monitoring indicators for these actions. 4. Establish a dialogue process among the different festival teams to address sticking points and potential areas for improvement. 5. Above all, don’t view sustainability as a constraint but as an opportunity to foster creativity and engagement for everyone.

Looking back at all the things you’ve tested over the years, what’s the craziest thing you’ve tried that still worked? MdLG: The transition to 100% vegetarian this year, as the first major French festival to do so, was a challenge. We had to support the restaurants to

Would more regulations help or hinder sustainable development? MdLG: We believe it is crucial for public authorities to take a proactive stance on this issue by implementing incentive mechanisms and even introducing eco-conditionality for financial support. 33


WE LOVE GREEN’s sustainability measures Energy



Waste Management

Reducing energy consumption

100% vegetarian (festivalgoers, artists, crew)

Free tap water for all attendees, artists, crew

Zero single-use plastics policy

Facilitating the use of public transport

Reusable water containers to avoid single-use packaging

Reducing residual waste by separating materials for reuse and recycling

Adapting the programme to public transport hours

Promoting energy efficiency Setting limits for energy usage in artist contracts Challenging restaurants on their energy consumption 100% green energies (solar, green hydrogen, 100%-certified renewable electricity from the grid, biofuel from non-food biomass) 95% LED lighting

Only seasonal, local, certified organic or sustainably farmed food No highly processed products No raw materials threatening the environment Partnership with Ecotable to verify compliance with these rules Supporting restaurants in fulfilling requirements by offering information, workshops, tools Donating unsold meals to charities

176 push-button or motion-activated taps Plans to transition to motion-activated fountains to further reduce water waste Dry toilets only (except two artist dressing rooms with WCs)

14 waste streams: household waste, recyclables, glass, bulky waste, food, toilet waste, cooking oils, plastic films, cigarette butts, cork stoppers, electronics, wood, cardboard, earplugs Partnership with AREMACS to reduce waste before the festival and manage waste onsite Making all teams aware of the rules Supervising sorting bins Coordinating various collection and recycling service providers Awareness activities for the attendees

Transport & Mobility

Increasing the frequency of metro shuttles for the return journey Offering several hundred discount vouchers for train travel No carparking (except disabled parking) Offering a free large secure bicycle parking area Helping artists research train connections to avoid flying Paying for artists’ train travel when they replace flights Optimisation of artist travel by sharing some artists with other European festivals Increasing amount of local and national artists in the lineup Reducing transport miles of providers, e.g. organising five shared refrigerated trucks for all restaurants Providing e-bikes for crew

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Get inspired by the French festival’s broad catalogue of greening measures

Raising Awareness

Carbon Offsetting

Circular Economy

Creating charters for all stakeholders

Working on local initiatives to preserve and regenerate biodiversity on the festival site and its surroundings (reseeding neighbouring areas, creating wetland zones)

Aiming to become 100% circular by 2025 (Green Deal Circular Festivals)

Calls to action: committed speakers address the audience before headline shows Think Tank stage for committed conferences about environmental and social issues Positive initiatives village for exchange with committed organisations Year-round communication on social media: sharing activities of committed partners; explaining environmental and social issues; producing podcasts Making conference programme available for free and all year long via podcasts Year-round communication with professionals Participating in professional and public gatherings and projects Developing training modules on ecoresponsibility for festivals and cultural operators

Purchased a plot of land (17 ha) in the southwest of France to replant and protect it

Supplying reusable tableware in parts of the food court, serving 10,000 dishes in 2023; goal: 100% in 2024 Using recovered materials for scenography Reusing and redesigning signage from previous years Deposit-based water bottles


Community living

Supporting biodiversity on and around the festival site by reseeding neighbouring areas and creating wetland zones

Engaging all stakeholders in causes championed by organisations committed to environmental / social issues

Small study on biodiversity (birds) in 2022

Collecting donations for NGOs through ticketing system and by redirecting cashless balances

Large-scale study on the impact on different plant and animal species starting fall 2023

Donating furniture and equipment no longer in use to charities


Improving the accessibility of people with disabilities: specialised association to welcome people, hearing loop, vibrating vests, Universal Accessibility Route, platforms Presence of associations specialised in alcohol, drug risk reduction and hearing-loss prevention

WE LOVE GREEN is a multidisciplinary, socially committed, three-day festival with a music, gastronomy, conference, arts, comedy, and sports programme. The 40,000-capacity event takes place in Le Bois de Vincennes, the secondlargest park in Paris, and features no camping. Sustainability has been at the heart of WE LOVE GREEN since its foundation in 2011. The festival has been experimenting and innovating eco-responsible event solutions across several main areas: energy, catering, water, waste management and circularity, transportation and mobility, biodiversity, community living, carbon offsetting, and awareness. It tests and develops new technologies, devices, and methodologies, improving them from edition to edition. The festival shares the findings with the industry, public institutions, companies and by participating in working groups, conferences, and EU-funded projects like Green Deal Circular Festivals and Green Europe Experience (GEX). 35

© Sergio Albert

© Sharon Lopez

© Martina Mlcuchova

© Tobias Kaestner

© Petri Anttila

© Daniel Gassner

36 European Festival Report 2023 © Mikalai Valadkevich

© Jokko

© Hanna Bu

© Marko Alpner

© A To Jazz

© Fabi Sedlmaier 37 © Sziget Festival

© Olivier Hoffschir

It’s all about exchange Pohoda Festival in Slovakia

How YOUROPE works on the resilience, responsibility, and relevance of the European festival industry. By Holger Jan Schmidt


023 might have been the 25th anniversary of YOUROPE – the European Festival Association, but there wasn’t much time to celebrate. Because it was once again a very busy year. Which is a good thing. However, the anniversary wasn’t completely neglected. We toasted to it at the start of 2023 at the 12th European Festival Awards in Groningen (see page 41) and at the end of the year at a celebratory dinner that was part of the European Festival Conference (EFC) in Zrće Beach, Croatia (see page 43). The most important European institution for popular music festivals, which currently represents more than 120 festivals and associated members from 29 countries, has done much to ensure that the industry continues to develop and improve. As part of its various working groups and projects, YOUROPE is constantly working on what is probably the most important of its objectives: exchange. It plays a very special role in the association. The exchange of knowledge, experience, talent, and expertise forms the foundation of the association’s activities, in which YOUROPE can fortunately count on the cooperation and contributions of its members and a broad network of experts and partners. The results include knowledge-transfer events; helpful publications on various topics; the collection and public presentation of know-how; and communication formats. Many of these are addressed as part of this European Festival Report, which is an important part of these activities itself.

38 European Festival Report 2023

In this context, YOUROPE’s three-year network project, 3F Future-Fit Festivals, sets out a framework that revolves around three key questions: n What makes European festivals resilient to the challenges of the future? n What does the responsible festival of the future look like, and how can it be achieved? n How will the festivals of tomorrow ensure that they continue to play a relevant role in popular culture and in the lives of millions of young people? These questions are reflected in different focus areas and varying levels of detail as part of the programming of four seminars and workshops on the topics of safety, sustainability, and communication as well as at the EFC with its holistic perspective. They are also considered while selecting the nominees and winners in the specialist categories of the annual European Festival Awards. The carefully curated inputs in the YOUROPE members meetings, delivered by experts from inside and outside the network, also contribute to the exchange. As does the willingness to publicly share know-how and experiences from the stages of the most important industry gatherings. These include ESNS (NL), ILMC (UK), GEI (UK), Reeperbahn Festival (DE), ADE and ADE Green (NL), MaMA Music & Convention (FR), SoALive (BU), BIME (ES), Tallinn Music Week (EE), and c/o pop (DE). At the time of writing, experts from the YOUROPE network spoke at 50 panels and sessions at 25 conferences in 2023. This is supplemented by participating in, contributing to, or supporting various other projects of EU-funded programmes such as Future Festival Tools and FUSION – Festivals As Social Innovation Incubators (both Erasmus+), ESNS Exchange (Creative Europe), and EverywH2ere (HORIZON Europe). YOUROPE members share their best practices, serve as a living laboratory, or offer a stage for upcoming talents from other countries. It’s always about exchange – across borders, for the community and, last but not least, so that every single festival gets a little better, step by step.

It’s all about exchange | YOUROPE

YOUROPE updates By Katharina Weber

YOUROPE Hub Many organisations have published a great deal on how to produce safer, greener, and more inclusive festivals. The problem is, if you don’t know where to look, this information can be hard to find. To save event professionals the pain of having to scroll through pages of search results, YOUROPE created a platform, the YOUROPE Hub, which is intended to become the place to go if you’re looking for information on festival and live event production. The Hub was launched in July as part of YOUROPE’s EU-funded project 3F Future-Fit Festivals. It contains guides, reports, roadmaps, and scientific papers, but also case studies of best-practice examples, as well as practical tools like CO2 calculators. Further, the Hub serves as a platform to communicate all outputs of 3F, like the Green Festival Roadmap 2030 (more on pages 26–27). Thematically, the Hub’s resources mainly focus on 3F’s core topics: occupational health and event safety; environmental sustainability; and inclusion and diversity. At the time of writing, the Hub held about 80 documents, among which are the 3F outputs, including the European Festival Report 2022; best-practice examples of festivals with projects in environmental sustainability, as well as social innovation; multiple guides and roadmaps covering highimpact areas such as travel, energy, and food; publications on event safety issues such as crowd management; and documents on social sustainability issues, including accessibility and mental health in the live music industry. Besides, the Hub also holds the YOUROPE Standard Terms, a public legal document that live events can use to determine contractual obligations with artist agencies. The association’s team will keep adding resources to the Hub indefinitely. The goal is for it to hold 150 documents by the end of 2024, which will also mark the end of 3F. Scan the QR code to find out more.

GO Group Do you want to learn how to make your event more sustainable, have intense conversations about the future of the events industry, all while having fun with the “green festival family”? Then GO Group (Green Operations Europe) is the place for you. The pan-European, cross-industry think-tank was finally able to resume hosting its annual workshop in April 2023, after three years of pandemic-induced break. The 9th edition, this time held in Barcelona, welcomed 33 participants from 24 organisations from eight countries in Fabra i Coats, a former industrial area turned centre for creativity and arts. “The goal of GO Group workshops has always been to make festivals smarter, greener, and more sustainable,” said YOUROPE general secretary and GO Group co-founder, Holger

Jan Schmidt in Barcelona. Facilitated by YOUROPE, the workshop was made possible with the support of Barcelonabased festival Primavera Sound, the research consultancy Sound Diplomacy, and the Spanish festival association FMA. FMA presented its new “guide towards circular festivals” (see page 28) and YOUROPE shared its Green Festival Roadmap 2030. The teams of the EU-funded projects Future Festival Tools and FUSION (see page 44) introduced their free, interactive resources that teach sustainable production and how to organise innovative projects at festivals, respectively. Spanish festivals Primavera Sound (Barcelona) and Rototom Sunsplash (Benicàssim) were presented as goodpractice case studies. Participants discussed the environmental impact of festivalgoers’ favourite drink (beer), were introduced to “Fluctuations,” the concept of a festival travelling on rivers, and built versions of their perfect festival in a 3D mapping workshop. Sound Diplomacy presented a tool it has developed to measure the economic and social value that events bring to a city – a great way to show authorities why they should receive public funding. And the final panel examined how AI could shape the future of sustainability, such as by creating AIs for bodies of nature like forests, making it possible for humans to talk to nature. A report presenting learnings from the workshop with links to most presentations is available in the YOUROPE Hub. Scan the QR code to find out more.

YES Group As a think-tank in the field of event safety, security, and crowded spaces management, the YOUROPE Event Safety (YES) Group promoted best practices and taught event organisers how to make events safer during two training events in 2023. The first in-person YES Group seminar after two years of online meetings due to the pandemic also marked an anniversary: it was the 30th seminar held. More than 40 participants from 14 European countries gathered at the municipal theatre (Stadsschouwburg) of Groningen in the Netherlands to learn from each other. Over two days, participants discussed topics such as how to tackle the lack of security staff that followed the pandemic, the role of psychology in influencing people’s movement at big events, and the difference between “security” and “safety.” Participants learned from analyses of incidents, such as three recent crowd crushes at major events and the evacuation of Open’er Festival (PL) due to bad weather, as well as research projects like Das Fest’s (DE) study on how to better understand weather. On top of the annual seminar, in November, YES Group presented a one-day conference programme at IBIT Fachtagung Veranstaltungssicherheit, Germany’s leading conference on crowd management. Professor Jürgen Gerlach, who co-wrote the 3,800-page court report on the Love Parade catastrophe, talked about what led to the death of 21 people at the festival 13 years ago. Crowd communication and event 39

YOUROPE | It’s all about exchange safety experts discussed what changes in media use and the communicative behaviour of younger generations meant for communicating safety measures. Das Fest talked about its experiences – the good and the bad – after introducing a new safety concept at this year’s event. For the first time, they offered so-called SOS islands, a special contact point for visitors in need of help. Lastly, participants learned why using the correct terminology is necessary to create the right mindset for safety and security.

Focus on communication Communication is at the heart of all festivals, and as such, is a core topic for YOUROPE. To promote learning in this field, the association presented and supported several panels at Höme’s Festival Playground (DE), a conference and festival for festival makers. This year, the event sought to forgo the traditional conference format of talks and discussion panels in favour of a more hands-on approach featuring numerous workshops. One of these was YOUROPE’s renowned 3D mapping

20 years of European Talent Exchange

workshop, which invited 40 or so participants to build their perfect festival out of elements like building blocks, clay, and figurines. In groups with people they had never met, participants talked about their own perceptions and had to align them with other people’s experiences. They tackled prompts such as: what is the status quo in the festival sector? What are the challenges? What could a better future look like? After finishing their models, participants were invited to reflect upon their own model and other groups’ models from different perspectives, which taught them to view festivals holistically. Another workshop presented the basics of emergency planning and asked people to think without pressure while acting quickly. This YES Group-hosted format intended to convey the theoretical and practical basics of emergency planning and, using various examples and exercises, to demonstrate its application and its limits in reality. YOUROPE also supported three other communication and marketing panels – Ad Campaigns for Beginners, Find Your Purpose – How to Build Committed and Loyal Festival Communities, and a panel in which three festival fans could directly address festivals with their wishes and needs.

Dua Lipa

By Holger Jan Schmidt


023 marked the 20th edition of ESNS Exchange, the European Talent Exchange Programme formerly known as ETEP. The programme was established in 2003 in response to the significant challenges faced by European pop music in international promotion and distribution. The primary objective of ESNS Exchange was, and still is, to forge a robust network among stakeholders, with the aim of facilitating, supporting, inspiring, and promoting the unrestricted global circulation of creative European musical talent. To date, the project has supported 2,145 European artists hailing from 35 countries, enabling them to perform at an impressive 5,288 shows across 187 partner festivals in 44 countries. Among these acts were the likes of Dua Lipa, Editors, The XX, AURORA, Phoenix, Shame, and Sigrid. As Dua Lipa has said: “ESNS was a massive step in my career.” At the time of writing, this year, ESNS Exchange has so far created 315 shows by 134 acts at 82 festivals, with several festivals still to happen in the last weeks of the year. The most booked acts at the time of writing were The Haunted Youth (BE) with 13 bookings, Deki Alem (SE) with nine, Avalanche Kaito (BE) with eight, and Sprints (IE), Tramhaus (NL), and UCHE YARA (AT) with seven bookings each. While the list of festivals booking talent from the project

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is topped mainly by showcase festivals like The Great Escape (UK, 36 bookings), Reeperbahn Festival (DE, 23) and Iceland Airwaves Festival (IS, 11), the most active open-air festivals in the game were Sziget (HU, 11), Glastonbury (UK, 8), and Dour (BE), Haldern Pop (DE), and Roskilde Festival (DK) with seven bookings each. Scan the QR code to find out more.

Crowds gather for the European Festival Awards © Jaan Kroon

European Festival Awards By Katharina Weber


s is tradition, the festival year 2023 opened with a look back at the previous season at the European Festival Awards 2022 in January. For the 12th time, YOUROPE gave out the prestigious pan-European award for popular music festivals at the first important music conference of the year, ESNS in Groningen. The most awards went to Roskilde Festival, whose team took home the Best Major Festival, Lifetime Achievement, and Impossible Without Youth Awards. The award for Line-Up of the Year was given to Hellfest (FR), which was chosen by public vote. MOJO (NL) was honoured as the Best Promoter, thanks to festivals like Lowlands and Down the Rabbit Hole. Goosebumps were felt when Atlas Festival (UA) and Music Saves UA won the Take A Stand Award. Like so many other events in the country, Ukraine’s biggest festival can no longer take place due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. When the war began, the Atlas team joined Music Saves UA, a humanitarian aid organisation founded by members from the Ukrainian music industry. They have supported the Ukrainian population with a number of initiatives including collecting

©Jaan Kroon

Roskilde wins Best Major Festival ©Jaan Kroon 41

YOUROPE | It’s all about exchange

2022 EFA Winners

Best Indoor Festival ICELAND Airwaves (IS)

Lifetime Achievement Award Roskilde Festival (DK)

Newcomer of the Year Fred again (UK)

Green Operations Award Rock Werchter (BE)

Best Small Festival Roadburn (NL)

Line-up of the Year Hellfest (FR)

Health & Safety Innovation Award Watt En Schlick Fest (DE)

Best Medium-Sized Festival Best Kept Secret (NL)

Promoter of the Year MOJO (NL)

Brand Activation Award Wacken Open Air & Krombacher (DE)

Best Major Festival Roskilde Festival (DK)

Agent of the Year Josh Javor, X-ray Touring (UK)

Impossible Without Youth Award Roskilde Festival (DK)

Best New Festival Superbloom (DE)

Award for Excellence & Passion Holger Jan Schmidt (DE)

Take a Stand Award Atlas Festival & Music Saves UA (UA)


Vlad Yaremchuck receives the Take A Stand award ©Jaan Kroon donations, supplying goods, and evacuating people. Vladyslav Yaremchuk (Atlas Festival and Music Saves UA), who accepted the award in Groningen, told YOUROPE recently: “We still celebrate receiving the Take A Stand Award this year. It opened many doors for us, and many festivals were eager to join our cause as they became aware of us and our results.” And there wasn’t a dry eye in the house when Roadburn Festival’s artistic director, Walter Hoeijmakers, made an emotional acceptance speech for the Best Small Festival Award for the Dutch event. Georg Häusler, director for culture, creativity and sport at the European Commission, introduced the nominees for the Impossible Without Youth Award. This one-time award was created by YOUROPE and the European Festivals Association for classical music festivals during the European Year of Youth (2022) to honour a festival that went above and beyond for its young audience. On winning the award, Kara Djurhuus, head of philanthropy at Roskilde Festival, said: “It was a great honour to receive the Impossible Without Youth Award. Making a difference for young people is the purpose of Roskilde Festival in everything we do, and the award is a recognition of the important role festivals can play to support young people – in their hopes, aspirations, and struggles to create change. We share the award with all the strong youth communities we collaborate with –

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Lifetime Achievement & Excellence & Passion Award

“It is a great honour and a special one. Given the challenges of the post-pandemic restart, my work being noticed and apparently considered important and valuable is flattering. If there are actually people out there that I can inspire with what I do and with my passion, that would be amazing. Because it is precisely this inspiration from the great people in our community that keeps me going. And yet, I would like to remind people that passion and burnout tend to go hand in hand – we have to be vigilant about how we treat ourselves, and that is often not easy.” Holger Jan Schmidt on winning the Excellence & Passion Award “Since the beginning in 1971, Roskilde Festival has been based on and created by a volunteer community that unites not only around the festival but around the purpose of making a difference for young people all over the world. The recognition that lies in receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award – an award that has traditionally been given to individuals – as an appreciation of the entire Roskilde Festival community, means the world to us all. It recognises that to truly make a difference, we need to stand and work together. We are very proud and honoured to be an example of that.” Signe Lopdrup, CEO of Roskilde Festival Group, on her festival winning the Lifetime Achievement Award

without them, there is no hope for a better future.” Hosts Claire O’Neill (A Greener Future) and Gordon Masson (IQ Magazine) led the sold-out ceremony in the Grote Zaal of De Oosterport whilst Dea Matrona (IE), Schmyt (DE), and Árný Margrét (IS) performed. In total, 16 lucky winners received trophies, highlighting their achievements for the live music business.

It’s all about exchange | YOUROPE

Photos © Rahel Inauen

European Festival Conference


very two years, YOUROPE invites festival makers from all over Europe to a special event: the European Festival Conference. This year, approximately 50 delegates from 16 markets attended the fifth edition, which took place at Noa Glamping Resort and Hotel Olea, Zrće Beach on Pag Island, Croatia. The area, which is known as a popular destination for summer party vacations, was quieter at the end of November and, despite a serious windstorm, proved to be a great location for a conference fully dedicated to festivals, with lots of opportunities to get to know festival makers in an intimate setting, free from outside distractions. The two-day conference was packed with panels on topics such as ticketing, booking, marketing, and weather. YOUROPE also focused on diversity, inclusivity, and mental health, acknowledging the often-intense workload that comes with working in live events. Milica Dragomirović (PR representative, EXIT Festival), who is involved in projects on mental health and wellbeing, shared some of her experiences, whilst Markus Wiersch and Kevin Leider (both of Das Fest, DE), each representing the older and younger generation in their organisation, talked about their experiences with handing over festival production to junior staff. After the consequences of climate change made themselves strikingly obvious across many major festivals all over the continent this year, it was an unavoidable topic. Two affected festivals were Wacken Open Air (DE) and Open’er (PL). Open’er promoter Mikołaj Ziółkowski talked about how he arranged the biggest Polish evacuation in three decades. 65,000 visitors vacated the premises in 30 minutes when a storm approached the festival site in 2022. Wacken’s

co-founder Thomas Jensen talked about the non-stop rain and unprecedented mud that forced the festival to tell 25,000 ticketholders they couldn’t come this year. In a panel dedicated to ticketing, Kiki Ressler, agent of two of the most successful and longest performing German bands, Die Toten Hosen and Die Ärzte, plus Artur Mendes, festival co-director of Boom Festival (PT), discussed a fairer future for ticketing. Questions raised included how much more expensive tickets can become and whether festivals can remain affordable for their audiences going forward, and how festivals can introduce social ticketing so as not to exclude low-income audiences. A panel hosted by Greg Parmley (ILMC) discussed an increasingly complex, globalised world where issues can cause cross-border impacts. Questions answered included how can festival organisers deal with rising artist fees, competition from arena shows, and inflation? How do the wars in Ukraine and Israel influence festivals? And what does the increasingly segmented market mean for independent and corporation-owned festivals? There were many burning questions that led to discussions beyond the panel. As a break from the conference rooms and to allow delegates to enjoy a whiff of healthy sea air and to get to know their host country better, guided tours were organised to the picturesque city of Zadar and Pag Island. To top off the conference, YOUROPE invited conference participants to a dinner celebrating the association’s 25th anniversary. Scan this QR code to read EFC Report 43

YOUROPE | It’s all about exchange

FUSION: Bringing social innovation to festivals


icture a festival – you lounge in the sun, have a beer with friends, see some great shows, and go home. Right? Well, maybe not. While this might be the typical festival experience for some, festivals become more than a collection of concerts when they offer something beyond that. Sure, memories are made standing in front of the main stage together with 50,000 fans singing in unison, but they are also made in the NGO area together with only five people who come into contact with topics such as gender diversity, sea rescue, and environmental protection for the first time. Even topics as serious and controversial as these can make a great addition to a festival’s programme – if they are presented properly. Helping festivals to do just that was the core task of the EU-funded project FUSION – Festivals as Social Innovation Incubators. YOUROPE’s social awareness initiative Take A Stand recruited experts in youth work and festivals, such as Roskilde Festival (DK), to develop resources facilitating the cooperation between youth and live events. The ultimate goal was to enable young people to use festivals as a steppingstone to implement their own ideas, products, and technologies for the benefit of society. “I am convinced of festivals’ potential to accelerate innovation and social change,” said Kara Djurhuus, head of philanthropy at Roskilde Festival. “Festivals gather young people across backgrounds and create a strong sense of community and togetherness, which can inspire us, stimulate hope, and spark individual and collective agency towards a more sustainable future.” For her organisation, taking part in the project was a no-brainer. “With FUSION, we accelerate this potential by inspiring the European festival sector and organisations working with youth and social innovation to activate young people’s passion for festivals as a key driver for change.” The festival’s current Utopia programme found plenty of inspiration in the FUSION project. Here are some of the project’s outcomes:

The Good Practice Guide Roskilde Festival, a long-time advocate of using their festival to tackle social issues creatively, took the lead in developing the project’s first output, the good practice guide Social Innovation at Festivals – A Collection of 15 Inspiring Initiatives from across Europe. Its goal was to inspire readers to create similar projects at other festivals. Roskilde Festival presented four examples from its own event in the guide, including its Circular Lab in which young entrepreneurs present audiences with innovative ideas or products that create more sustainability and less waste. In the festival environment, the young innovators can test their solutions on a small scale, so they can learn what is needed to scale up their ideas – to a local, national, or even global level.

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Other examples include German festival Superbloom’s YOUR Planet, an interactive playground for social, sustainable, and innovative initiatives and projects; the cooperation between Sziget Festival (HU) and charity Superar, which makes it possible for children from underprivileged neighbourhoods to perform at the festival; Finland’s Ruisrock Festival and its annual scheme inviting a council of young people to propose ideas and actually implement them; and Pohoda Festival (SK), which employs homeless people as luggage porters, leading to conversations between people from a marginalised group and the audience, that otherwise would never happen.

FUSION Toolbox The second output, the FUSION Toolbox, explains how to create and implement an innovative project at festivals. As an interactive instruction manual, each page describes a different step of a different stage in the development process. Besides information, the pages contain photos, videos, good-practice examples, links for further reading – and a bit of festival magic. The instructions are aimed at both festivals and associated organisations (such as NGOs, youth workers, non-profit organisations, volunteer associations). Both perspectives are presented alongside each other to make those involved better understand their counterpart’s needs and goals. This is why the Toolbox also features a glossary of festival and youth work language. It also takes readers through the project development process in eight stages, from ground rules to development and implementation to evaluation. Each page’s title is formulated as a question that readers have to answer at some point in their project’s development process. When they have dealt successfully with every question, it is likely that they will have developed a well-functioning project.

FUSION Alliances Finally, the project brought together stakeholders involved in youth work, festivals, education, and social innovation in the FUSION Alliances. The hope was that by connecting these different parties and explaining to them the potential of festivals as platforms for social innovation, new cooperation and projects would emerge. A total of 135 participants from 91 organisations took part across four alliances. FUSION Alliances was founded in Germany, Denmark, Spain, and Ireland. Each alliance met three times to systematically discuss the potential of festivals as platforms for social innovation. In each country – and also at a meeting in Türkiye – the findings were presented at public wrap-up events to an even bigger audience. The German Alliance used c/o pop Convention as a framework for their event; whilst the Danish version presented its results at Spot Festival. In total, more than 300 stakeholders were reached across the five events. To inspire others to form an alliance of their own, each national team created step-by-step action plans, describing how to bring together stakeholders from different fields. All resources are available for free in English, German, Spanish, Danish, and Turkish on the project website. Other partners in the project were consulting agency Momentum (IE), youth organisation Backslash (ES), Istanbul Economic Research Institute (TR), and Canice Consulting (UK). Scan the QR code to find out more.

It’s all about exchange | YOUROPE

Music Saves UA booth at Pohoda Festival

The Das Fest team handing over the donations to Music Saves UA representative Mariana Mokrynska. From left: Holger Jan Schmidt (YOUROPE), Martin Wacker (Das Fest, CEO), Mariana, Markus Wiersch (Das Fest, deputy CEO)

Music Saves UA tours through Europe


his summer, an unusual tour rolled through Europe: members of Music Saves UA, the humanitarian aid organisation from the Ukrainian music industry, travelled to 20 festivals. The teams collected donations in support of the country’s population and reminded people that the Russian attack on Ukraine is ongoing. In total, the tour raised €91,042 and reached thousands of people across the events. “We are delighted with the results of our summer festival tour this year. It is a significant step up compared to what we achieved in 2022,” said Vladyslav Yaremchuk of Atlas Festival and Music Saves UA, who helped organise the tour. Last year, there was little time to prepare collaborations, with the war starting in February and festivals being overwhelmed by organising their first post-pandemic events, he added. “However, that didn’t stop the likes of Pohoda, Sziget, Das Fest, and Rock For People from helping us. It’s amazing to work with them for two years in a row now.” A total of 12 of the 20 festivals Music Saves UA worked with this summer are YOUROPE members, Yaremchuk mentioned. Besides Pohoda (SK), Sziget (HU), Das Fest (DE), and Rock For People (CZ), these included ARTmania (RO), Colours Of Ostrava (CZ), Les Eurockéennes de Belfort (FR), Lowlands (NL), OpenAir St. Gallen (CH), Pinkpop (BE), Provinssi (FI), and Superbloom (DE). Other tour stops were at Eurofest (UK), Kesärauha (FI), Metronome (CZ), Mad Cool (ES), Different Sounds (PL), Jarocin (PL), 66 Hodín (SK) and Summer Sound (LV). The festivals helped by collecting deposit cups as donations; recycling cans or bottles; selling special charity merch; booking Ukrainian artists; asking for donations from

their guest list members, and more. “With some festivals, we had unique projects such as the Symphony of Free Ukraine with Pohoda or the charity auction sale of a custom guitar signed by Gojira-guitarist Joe Duplantier with Les Eurockéennes,” Yaremchuk said. The most money collected by a single festival was €19,456, raised by Superbloom mostly through asking their guest list members for donations. Das Fest also raised an unusually high amount (€12,505), through cup deposit donations and UA merch sales. Ten festivals arranged dedicated zones for the teams, where they could educate the audiences about the current situation in Ukraine, its culture, and the active role that music industry professionals have taken over in the fight. “YOUROPE’s contribution to our results this year cannot be overstated. They introduced us to many members, which made a big difference in how many festivals we could work with. Their 12 member festivals generated 74% of the total amount raised, which totals €67,189,” Yaremchuk added. Additionally, the association helped Music Saves UA members to participate in various music conferences to further raise awareness of their cause. Inside Ukraine, the situation in 2023 was less cheerful. Yaremchuk told YOUROPE of non-stop missile attacks in May; the destruction of the Kakhovka dam in June, displacing thousands and causing an ecological disaster; constant attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure, especially grain supplies; and on Ukrainian civilians, leading to countless deaths. “The war is far from over and remains just as brutal and deadly almost two years into it.” Music Saves UA is determined to keep helping civilians for as long as it takes, Yaremchuk emphasised. Yet, it’s difficult to remain visible in the constant stream of terrible news happening in the world, he found. “We are worried that finding a platform for our cause in 2024 might become even more difficult. If you want to help us save lives and join our cause – please get in touch. We would love to do something together and show how music can be used to do good in the world and save people’s lives.” Scan the QR code to find out more, email, or follow Music Saves UA on social media: @musicsavesua 45


Codruța Vulcu ARTmania Festival, Romania


ounded in 2006, ARTmania Festival is one of the pioneers of Romanian music festivals. A major rock event in Transylvania, it showcases quality music and cultural events, held in the picturesque city of Sibiu. How was this year’s festival season for you? In the post-pandemic landscape, any season during which we can organise music festivals and events brings hope and can be defined as good. But this year was also challenging, as the new international context brought new difficulties, from economic to logistical and behavioural ones. In the Romanian market, we saw live events make a slow recovery from the pandemic period, which harshly affected all cultural operators because we didn’t get much-needed support from authorities. For our main festival, ARTmania, we saw better sales this year compared with 2022. This year, we had 21,000 festivalgoers come to Sibiu to participate in a marathon of memorable concerts on the three stages by 16 bands from Romania and abroad, as well as take part in the alternative events offered by the festival in partnership with prestigious museums and cultural institutions. The 15th edition of ARTmania was made possible thanks to a team of 100 volunteers and the entire ARTmania community. I am also the director of large-scale events for Timișoara 2023 – European Capital of Culture, so I could see the public appetite for getting “back to normal”. What sustainability measures do you have in place? From the start, we saw our festival as an art platform, a meeting place between artists and fans, designed to have as little impact on the environment as possible. For example, we organise our festival in the centre of Sibiu city, in the heart of Transylvania, and we’ve partnered with the local authorities to be able to connect to the city’s electrical grid, thus dramatically reducing the generators powered with fossil fuel. We have significantly reduced the use of plastics in our bars and a reusable cups system is in discussion. We collaborate with local suppliers in order to reduce eventassociated travel. A key side effect of this is that we contribute to the economic development of the local community. We encourage festivalgoers to come using public transport or carpooling schemes, and we offer bike-hire.

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What challenges do you think the festival industry faces? And how are you aiming to address them? Immediately after the pandemic there was an increase in competition for acts. Production, accommodation, staff, and fuels costs have also increased due to the tighter competition and the economic effects of the global shutdown. This quick gain is not sustainable for any industry and triggered a chain of difficulties. We couldn’t increase ticket prices much because local purchasing power doesn’t allow it. In Romania, a big problem is also posed by the exchange rate difference. I hope booking agents and managers will start to look at economic realities in order to contribute to the survival of a feasible, healthy, and sustainable music ecosystem. Although ARTmania Festival was very successful, we’ve experienced a difficult year, with cost increases that could not be anticipated. But, the resilience of the festival, the fact that we have the community with us, and the experience gained in the last 18 years in the industry (we also went through the 2008 financial crisis) helped us overcome this situation. What trends do you think we will see play out in the next few years at festivals? The change in ticket sales patterns seen across many countries will impose different new promo and sales strategies. We also need new incentives for the public, given the fact that younger generations will become the main buyers for many events. Open-air events will have to increasingly create new strategies to counteract the effects of climate change. What role do festivals play in the cultural landscape? I believe that a festival is a safe space that plays the role of a sort of “ideal society” in which one can present cultural products and increase the audience’s experience by exposing them to new genres, bands, music, and ideas. It’s also somewhere one can raise questions, introduce issues, challenge the status quo, and try to push positive changes. A festival has a cultural, a social, and a therapeutical role in any society. As such, festivals are an essential component of the international music ecosystem and play a fundamental role in the cultural landscape.

To VIP or not to VIP… Festivalgoers at Pukkelpop © Jokko

…that is the question. Whether responding to audience demand or a steadfast insistence that everyone should have equal access, the decision to offer VIP tickets or not can be fraught with problems. Oumar Saleh talks to festivals on both sides of the debate.


ast-track entry, dedicated bars with fewer queues, glamping, meet-and-greets, posh toilets, or even arriving on-site by helicopter – the range of VIP ticket packages available at festivals has boomed in recent years. Affluent fans pay more for these privileges, bringing in more revenue at a time when festival budgets are under increasing strain. But is this elitist approach creating a two-, three-, or even seven-tier society at events? With an average of six different types of ticket on offer at European festivals this year, according to our European Festival Survey (see pages 18-24), there’s plenty of choice. Outside of whole-event and day passes, most of these different ticket types will incorporate some sort of VIP experience,

demonstrating just how commonplace this offer is. Helen Johns, director of ticketing at AEG Presents’ European Festivals division (promoter of the annual BST Hyde Park festival in London, among others) told ILMC earlier this year: “Obviously, the demand is there, but it’s also about making a profit for the company.” But it’s not all about the bottom line. She told the conference that VIP packages can help make general admission ticket prices cheaper. “With the inclusion of VIP packages, there’s a great chance to make the festival affordable for all. It’s all about trying to cater to all types of fans.” Getting your VIP strategy right, however, is crucial. There have been some horror stories of this strategy going very wrong, not least the infamous Woodstock ‘99, when organisers faced criticism for 47

To VIP or not to VIP…

Festivalgoers at Primavera Sound © Eric Pamies

allowing fans who bought general admission tickets to pay exorbitant prices (up to $400) for branded yellow shirts that supposedly allowed VIP access. More recently, the disastrous Fyre Festival – which is scheduled to relaunch next year – offered “super-VIP” packages priced well into six-figure territory (up to $250,000) that was roundly criticised for only appealing to prominent influencers and the wealthy. Meanwhile, other events have seen a backlash from festivalgoers when they sought to provide a lavish option. Earlier this year, Dutch festival Down The Rabbit Hole faced backlash from fans after announcing their “Rabbit Royale” package – which included faster travel to the festival site in the province of Gelderland, access to luxury toilets, and a panorama deck. Organiser Mojo Concerts dropped the VIP ticket plans after a number of attendees voiced their disapproval. “We work with heart and soul to ensure and improve the quality of Down The Rabbit Hole for all visitors wherever possible,” the company said in a statement. “Thus, there will be more toilets this year,

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we have renovated a number of stages and tents, and the campsites are better organised. At the same time, the festival sector faces great challenges. Costs for staff and materials as well as gages for artists are rising disproportionately, which puts pressure on the affordability of festivals. “By offering extras in addition to the regular festival ticket [means] that we generate additional income; we catch the price increases and keep the festival tickets as affordable as possible. For example, think of camping at Rabbit Resort [where we also fulfil] a need. From that thought Rabbit Royale was also born. “We’ll see next year if there are other extras that fit well with Down The Rabbit Hole and that make everyone happy.” And while some festivalgoers are feeling a financial pinch, others clearly aren’t, with demand for VIP tickets and lavish experiences increasingly popular. Barcelona’s Primavera Sound has already sold out of its early-bird VIP Full Festival Ticket package for the 2024 edition – which, for €450 and more, includes an exclusive entrance lane, all-area access to VIP areas of the festival, and a preferred entrance lane for specific performances taking place in spaces with limited capacity. Elsewhere, Croatia’s flagship EDM showcase Ultra Europe, which will celebrate its tenth anniversary next year, is offering premium fourperson packages – each providing bar services, dedicated hostesses, and an unobstructed view of the main stage, among other amenities – priced from €1,500 for one-day passes and from €3,750 for three-day tickets. And though it’s not an official festival offer, Glastonbury 2024 attendees have the opportunity to choose a unique accommodation option in the form of an idyllic 17th century house (located 30 minutes’ drive from the iconic festival’s Somerset site), as well as a welcome dinner, access to a “VIP inner circle” with bars and toilets, and daily return transport – all at the cost of £4,412 per person. With 41% of European festivals offering regular VIP passes according to the European Festival Report Survey, this is a trend that is here to stay. Romania’s multi-genre Electric Castle, which marked its ninth edition this year with headliners such as George Ezra, Iggy Pop, Pendulum, and Macklemore, is one of hundreds of outdoor extravaganzas that include such deluxe packages as part of their ticketing strategy. “Our biggest VIP package is the Black Ticket, which includes a five-star hotel, a personal driver, backstage access, unlimited food and drinks, and more,” says the festival’s head of communications, Tudor Costinas. “Despite the economic challenges of the pandemic making many people budget-conscious, we’ve observed a rising demand for our VIP packages. Notably, our Black Ticket, which is limited to just ten tickets, has sold out for the past two years.” Despite its VIP strategy’s success, Costinas

To VIP or not to VIP… admits that the real challenge for festival organisers is finding the right balance between general admissions and exclusive packages. And he says the additional offer doesn’t come without cost. “Removing VIP tickets would also mean removing the extra costs associated with constructing the necessary facilities, so it isn’t always a trade-off of sorts in which the general tickets’ revenue can support such measures.” Serbia’s EXIT is another noteworthy summer mainstay that has offered premium ticketing packages on a consistent basis. The two-time winner of the Best Major Festival Award at the European Festival Awards, offers a limited four-day VIP Gold package that affords attendees privileges such as private booths and access to exclusive lounge areas and onstage zones. “The concept of selling VIP packages at EXIT doesn’t show any negative trends,” says international marketing manager Ana Marković. “In fact, we’ve experienced an increase in demand for such services every year.” One of the biggest issues facing promoters in 2023 was the massive rise in the cost of staging these events. “Costs are a major problem at the moment,” FKP Scorpio co-CEO Stephan Thanscheidt told a panel at this year’s International Festival Forum in London. He acknowledged that sponsorship revenue wasn’t the same as it was before 2020. “We’ve had to advertise better camping and VIP experiences to entice more people into coming. Keeping ticket prices under control while maintaining profit margins at the same time is proving extremely difficult right now.” Brought about by the pandemic and increased inflation in recent years, another huge hit on festivals’ finances has been the fees paid to artists to perform on stage – which also includes their travel and hospitality services. Marković admits that more

than ever nowadays, VIP packages have helped to ensure that more fans can afford to attend such events. “In this current scenario, where all service prices and artist fees have drastically increased, it’s very likely that the revenue shortfall from not offering VIP tickets would need to be compensated by a rise in regular ticket prices,” she explains, estimating that their general admissions ticket costs would increase by around “15%–20%”. Offering higher priced VIP tickets to subsidise general admission prices is a common reason that festivals provide such options. However, there are festivals who are steadfast in their refusal to offer packages because they feel it goes against their event’s ethos. One such example is Les Eurockéennes de Belfort, one of France’s largest rock music festivals. Held every July on a nature reserve next to Lac de Malsaucy in the north-eastern region of the country, the 34-year-old festival has held off on selling VIP tickets despite the pressure of rising costs. “Building a budget for a festival is a lot more complicated than before because we know we can’t raise the prices indefinitely as inflation is crushing purchasing power,” says communications manager Hervé Castéran, who cited a study by promoter association PRODISS that revealed that France’s ticket prices were much lower on average (€79) than the UK (€118) and Spain (€125). While Castéran admits that VIP packages could generate additional revenue for Les Eurockéennes, he is adamant that it’s not the only method. “We really try to have the fairest prices every year,” he says. “We’re a non-profit organisation, so the avenues we usually take are through sponsoring, corporate partnerships, and cost optimisation. For us, general admission means equality throughout our audience.” Established in 1997, Boom Festival in Portugal shares a similar spirit. Normally held every other

EXIT Festival 49

To VIP or not to VIP…

Das Fest © Steffen Eirich

year (with the only exception being this year), Boom – billed as a “transformational” festival – is renowned for celebrating alternative cultures from all over the world. “We have a no-VIP policy,” says co-director Artur Mendes. “We don’t believe in that concept. To us, the VIPs are the people that buy our tickets to make the festival happen. In short, our VIPs are the general audience.” Mendes says Boom Festival operates on a ticket pricing scheme that prioritises a “socially inclusive environment” that caters for as many people as possible. “We have a regular price for those from countries with stronger economic situations, such as Portugal, then we have ‘social pricing,’ which is for attendees from countries where the GDP is weaker than most, also taking into account that they’re paying for travel as well,” he says. “As is our tradition, we also invite 500 people from a ‘guest country’ to join us at Boom for free. Despite being an independent service free from sponsorships, our strategy has proven to be very efficient over the years.” Another festival that offers specialised packages for festivalgoers with lower incomes is Spain’s Rototom Sunsplash. Widely recognised as one of Europe’s biggest reggae festivals, the Rototom Sunsplash – which has been held at Benicàssim in the north-eastern province of Castellón since 2010 – also adheres to a no-VIP approach in the name of inclusivity. “Those under 13 years of age and over 65 years old can attend for free; we offer discounts for

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those who live in Benicàssim and offer €10 tickets for one night only for the unemployed in Castellón,” says Katia “Sista Kappa” Brollo, one of the festival’s lead organisers. “We’re also planning to add discounts for teenagers for the next edition onwards.” Markus Pommerening, head of marketing at Das Fest promoter KME (Karlsruhe Marketing und Event GmbH), says: “We don’t sell VIP tickets. As a family festival that appeals to the entire urban community and should be accessible to everyone, we do not want to promote a two- or multi-class society by selling VIP tickets. Our ticket price of €17.20 a day for the main stage programme should be affordable for everyone. Over 70% of the festival programme, including four other stages, is free for everyone. “Exclusively for festival partners and sponsors, we have set up a business platform for exchanging ideas and networking with each other or with guests. This has been extremely well received and is a real added value in the acquisition of Das Fest partners. “The business platform as a network and exchange platform helps us to be of interest to partners and sponsors. Every support contributes to the success of Das Fest – be it economic, infrastructural, or idealistic.” And just because a festival has VIP options, it doesn’t mean they’re solely focused on the affluent festivalgoers. With income in Serbia lower than some of their neighbours, Marković is also aware of EXIT’s relationship with local markets and the need to offer cost-sensitive prices. “We’re not a typical commercial festival; we started out as a student movement, so we’re very much aware of how important it is to care for those who can’t pay full festival prices,” she says. “We offer tickets for young local people at half the regular prices, which is a policy we’ve maintained since EXIT was founded 23 years ago.” Though the Rototom Sunsplash and Boom Festival organisers are against the idea of offering premium packages because they feel it would divide opinion among their crowds, there is an understanding that promoters are finding ways to overcome the challenges of increased production costs with their VIP offers. “The running costs for promoters and artists’ fees are a lot bigger nowadays, and that adds a lot of pressure to various business models, hence the need for them to offer those premium packages,” says Mendes. However, with consumer demand for VIP tickets not dwindling anytime soon, it’s looking like a strategy that’s set to be the standard for a large portion of Europe’s festivals. “It’s important to remember that we have to think about the whole customer journey, not just when they’ve purchased a ticket,” AEG’s Johns told ILMC. “The VIP packages must be accessible from the beginning, especially if they’re bought by superfans willing to spend that extra money on exclusive merch or food and beverages in private facilities. But we also have to consider offering different types of packages to the general attendees, so accessibility for all types of fans is really important.”


Mikołaj Ziółkowski Alter Art, Poland


two-times winner of Best Major Festival at the European Festival Awards, Poland’s Open’er in Gdynia is one of Europe’s largest independent festivals. This year 110,000 people attended its 20th anniversary edition. How was this summer’s festival season for you? We were extremely happy with the programme this year and how contemporary and cool it was. Lineup is very important to us. Compared to some other festivals I hear about, we don’t have any problems attracting a Gen Z audience. Even after 20 years in existence, we still manage to attract a young audience. Of course, the costs of the festival in 2023 were very challenging – I think we are the sector of the live business that is most affected by this issue because we have to build events in fields from scratch. Staff costs, construction costs, oil costs, power costs have all gone up massively. And when you’re building on a greenfield site, staff and crew costs are a particularly large part of the budget. The price of headliners has also gone up, as have hotel costs. I’d say overall the cost of putting on Open’er has gone up 80-100% compared to last year. What sustainability measures do you have in place? For us, the two years after Covid were about rebuilding the industry, so focusing on environmental sustainability was a major challenge. However, now we’re in a position where we can continue making progress. We have many elements at the festival including reusable cups, no single-use plastics at food stalls, free drinking water for refillable bottles, ecofriendly toilets, free busses to the site, which cuts the number of cars arriving onsite, insisting that 80% of food stalls offer vegan and vegetarian options, and many more. Our festival is also a platform for educating our audiences about sustainability issues. I feel that some people are pushing for a revolution on sustainability, but the majority of people want to make changes at a more manageable pace. For us, making gradual change year by year is more effective than making huge sweeping adjustments. It’s about growing and changing with our audience. Our aim is to be climate neutral in ten years. We’re also very focused on representation and diversity and aim to have a 50/50 gender balance on our lineups within the same timeframe. We are one of the only privately owned major independent

festivals in Europe, and that independence is part of our DNA. We don’t do things because they’re trendy or it’s what everyone else says we should, and we don’t want to do anything that’s little more than greenwashing. It’s about doing something we believe in. What role do festivals play in Europe’s cultural landscape? Festivals are cultural and economic engines. We create jobs, bring in investment to regions, support businesses in many sectors, fund visual arts, musicians, theatre-makers and more. We also have the power to reach people in a way that arts institutions can’t, because festivals are unique. Traditional cultural organisations struggle to get through to younger people, to Gen Z, but we have a meaningful relationship with young people because we offer something very different. We offer alternative music, hip-hop, and other forms of music that aren’t often represented in these big organisations, and people respond to that.

“The costs of the festival in 2023 were very challenging – I think we are the sector of the live business that is most affected by this issue because we have to build events in fields from scratch” 51

It’s time to rethink show stop procedures for artist & audience safety

Roskilde Festival. This year, Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme paused the band’s performance and publicly addressed dissatisfaction with the safety staff’s handling of fans sitting on shoulders

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Health & Safety

Artists are increasingly stopping shows when they see audience members in distress. But this can cause its own challenges. How can we create clear procedures that keep everyone safe? Roskilde’s Morten Therkildsen and Paléo Festival’s Pascal Viot explore this important issue.


he tragic events at the Astro World Festival in 2021 cast a glaring spotlight on the changing role of artists in ensuring event safety. Artists are now more frequently choosing to voluntarily interrupt their performances when they notice audience members in distress. These interruptions, usually unplanned, have a deep impact on event safety. Based on interviews and discussions with experts and high-level professionals in event safety, Roskilde Festival’s director of safety, Morten Therkildsen, and Paléo Festival’s head of department for service, safety, and security, Dr Pascal Viot, explore recent incidents and the imperative for clear show stop procedures that respect both the creative flow of artists and the safety of their audience.

Artists taking the initiative In the early months of 2022, Billie Eilish made headlines by halting two of her concerts to help fans in the audience. She patiently waited for them to recover before resuming her performance. Later that year, Adele followed suit, four times suspending her July concert in Hyde Park, London, to help overheating fans. Likewise, Harry Styles repeatedly pressed pause during his latest tour, also for safety reasons. French rapper Gazo interrupted his show eight times during his performance last summer at Francofolies de la Rochelle (France), to help evacuate people in distress. The video footage on social media is explicit: the artist gives instructions to the security staff and invites the public not to pogo, in order to avoid aggravating the situation. Therefore, we are facing a new concern within show stop situations: artists taking the lead on crowd safety management, giving instructions to the security staff, even interfering when they consider the work is not being adequately done. That trend is obvious, as we observed through several cases during the last months. In May 2023, in Philadelphia, Taylor Swift intervened to help a fan who was struggling with a security guard. In August 2023, Adele paused a concert to stand up for a fan who was seemingly being hassled by a security agent. Queens of the Stone Age paused during a performance at the 2023 Roskilde Festival, with front man Josh Homme publicly expressing dissatisfaction with the safety staff’s handling of fans sitting on shoulders and boldly asserting, “Security! You work for me!” These incidents emphasise the significance

of harmonious collaboration between artist, tour staff, promoter, and local safety staff. Emphasis on cooperation is not new, but with artists increasingly initiating show interruptions, it’s vital to reassess the need for efficient show stop procedures that allow artists to halt a performance without compromising safety.

The YES Group & interoperability YOUROPE’s event safety unit, the YES Group, has been an advocate for event safety for over two decades. Its formation traces back to a tragic incident at Roskilde Festival in 2000. The district attorney investigating the accident highlighted a lack of clear procedures for responding to incidents as a significant contributing factor to the delay in stopping the music once the seriousness of the incident became evident. In response, the YES Group has focused on interoperability and the ability to promptly halt performances. Over the years, we have been able to share thoughts on that topic with a network of experts we can now activate to have a better understanding of the issues with show stop in 2023. We first sought insights from John Drury, professor of social psychology at Sussex University (UK), to better understand how artists influence safety. He explained: “There has been almost no research on how artists influence safety at show stops. Everything we know is through anecdotes (of which there are many) and through deriving from theory. The anecdotes tell us that the artist plays a significant role. He or she can signal that there is a serious incident. By ignoring an incident, an artist can communicate (rightly or wrongly) that the Lowlands Festival © Martin Hols 53

Health & Safety

Interruptions & thrown objects Another form of interruption occurs when audience members throw objects onto the stage. This practice, which has been around for ages, has evolved from throwing tomatoes to tossing various items like phones, lollipops, chicken nuggets, wheels of cheese, or even bags containing ashes. At least, that is what artists such as P!nk, Harry Styles, Drake, Bebe Rexha, and many others have experienced recently. While most of these objects bring a smile to the face, others interrupt the artist ‘in the zone.’ In recent months, there have been repeated cases of artists being injured by these projectiles. Kirsty Sedgman, a senior lecturer at the University of Bristol in the UK, described recently in The Guardian a shift in behaviour post-Covid-19. Fans, starved of live concerts and personal interaction due to months of virtual experiences, now yearn for authentic contact with their idols. Meanwhile, artists increasingly live within security bubbles, creating a physical and emotional distance from their audiences. Concerts represent a unique opportunity for fans to connect with their idols, but sometimes, emotions can get out of control. These events serve as intriguing case studies, shedding light on often overlooked aspects of event organisation. Anticipating and understanding the audiences’ needs and expectations are essential for successful shows. Ultimately, the top priority for artists, local safety staff, and event organisers is to welcome the audience under optimum conditions, ensuring safety and delivering a positive experience to everyone. Security staff must be seen as ‘in-group’ by audiences, and the artist can help create this atmosphere © Unsplash

incident is not serious. From theory we can derive the importance of the artist as someone the fans will listen to more than the staff sometimes. Indeed, the artist can portray themselves to fans as in the same group as (or in a different group from) staff, which can help (or hinder) staff’s attempt to maintain safety.” There is no longer any doubt that to create a safe environment, safety staff must be seen as “in-group” by the audience. Artists scolding the safety staff undermines their work. Nevertheless, artists have a vested interest in ensuring their fans’ safety and creating a positive experience. Cooperation between artists and safety staff is therefore of utmost importance. Mark Hamilton, Paul McCartney’s tour security director for more than 30 years, emphasises: “Artists interrupted when ‘in the zone’ of their performance, can be difficult to engage with and, if this is coupled with a lack of understanding with how their audience behaves, it can have catastrophic consequences.” Traditionally, show stoppages tended to be viewed negatively, but it is crucial for local safety staff to recognise that even visible interactions with the audience can interrupt the artist’s flow. When an artist is in the zone, it becomes the safety staff’s responsibility to support the act without disrupting it. However, staff also have duties to fulfil.

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When incidents lead to show stops Emma Parkinson, course director for the MSc in Crowded Places and Public Safety Management at Coventry University in the UK, and crowd safety manager at Glastonbury festival, said: “The artist can be either the best friend to production or can be one of its worse enemies, depending on their level of professionalism. An artist who chooses to stop a show independently of the advice of the production team around them can certainly bring concerns. They do not necessarily have a full vision across the audience. They do not necessarily understand what is happening around them in the wider audience space, although that is not to say they should be disempowered from making the decision. It is their audience and their livelihood. However, doing that from a position of responsibility means understanding the context of the show as well as simply the front of the stage.” While an artist should certainly act if they are in danger, responding to audience interactions might inadvertently reinforce undesirable behaviours. Thus, it is vital to update traditional show stop procedures and create a mechanism for artists to communicate their concerns to local safety staff. Colin Lish, P!nk’s venue security director, provides us with an example of efficient reverse cooperation:

Health & Safety told The Guardian last year: “Seeing artists getting involved in crowd safety is undoubtedly a positive trend. But if they believe the whole show is about them, that is when you have to challenge it.” The more you plan and collaborate, the more you can mitigate the risks, says Kemp. In conclusion, it is probably time to develop a new procedure that enables artists to communicate with local staff when they are dissatisfied with safety measures. However, if we still need to work with a clear, efficient, and quick way to stop the show in case of crowd incidents, it is not only up to the artist. The tour security team or the designated artist’s responsible party should play a key role as a mediator between artist and local safety staff. A procedure should be defined and implemented in common with the local promoter’s head of security. The artist must be briefed daily, reminding them that all safety staff have a critical role, and that if they wish to influence safety measures, they should turn to their tour security. In a post-Covid world, where both artists and audiences crave genuine experiences, fostering a safe and cooperative environment is paramount.

Shared responsibility & interoperability

“Anticipating and understanding the audience’s needs and expectations are essential for successful shows”

Determining the responsibilities for event safety is complex. “There is no simple answer to who is responsible for the safety at an event,” says Ben Challis, a former lawyer for YOUROPE, the European festival association. He explains that while there is a legal obligation on the promoter, contracts, customary practices, and moral responsibilities also influence responsibility. The question of who is liable may ultimately be decided in a court of law or a public inquiry. Parkinson emphasises: “Ultimate responsibility legally may be vested with one person or one part of the organisation, but the practical responsibility needs to lie with the person who understands audience safety. Who is appointed to look after audience safety and has the appropriate training, offers the appropriate expertise to deal with audience safety.” To sum up, safety is a collective endeavour, but it is essential that there is a high level of interoperability and respect for each other’s roles. Steve Allen, CEO of consultancy Crowd Safety, was one of the first to create a show stop procedure in the industry when he toured with Oasis back in the 1990s. He told us: “The artist´s role is to perform; the tour security is there to protect the artist and/or be a conduit of security information between the venue/promoter/festival for their own needs and accreditation, which may also encompass a communication channel for show stop.” Mind Over Matter Consultancy CEO, Professor Chris Kemp, who co-founded the YES Group and started the world’s first crowd management degree,

© Unsplash

the show stop procedure for P!nk’s Thrustfall 2023 Tour empowers the promoter to stop the artist’s performance in case of an emergency. The document is emailed to P!nk daily as a reminder of her role in a show stop. “As the promoter of the event, you have the authority in the case of an emergency to stop the artist’s performance,” says Lish. “The following show stop procedure implements the request to stop the show in a quick and recognised system known to the artist, band, and P!nk’s production.” Parkinson adds: “For me, the essence of a show stop procedure is that it is about establishing baselines for what you believe to be safe and appropriate for your audiences in terms of everything from density and dynamics behaviour. It’s about putting in place the monitoring that you need to ensure that you are not exceeding those baseline standards you’ve created and then it’s about looking at the different options that are available to you; be those pauses, be those resumptions of behaviour, or be those full stops of an event followed by an evacuation. It is a cyclical process of responding with the right tactics and then returning potentially to a position of monitoring. But all the time doing so to make sure that the audiences are kept as safe as they possibly can be.” 55

Health & Safety

Hitting the challenges of the post-Covid generation head on Chris Kemp, CEO of Mind Over Matter Consultancy, considers the creation of a high-level service delivery as an approach to creating a resilient safety and security culture.


uring last summer’s whirlwind of events, it seemed like everyone involved in festivals and other events was at a loss about how to deal with the escalating post-Covid challenges. But this summer was different. It was as if someone somewhere had shouted “breathe, take stock, and take control of the monster.” Gone was the feeling that events were on the backfoot and out of control. Rather than constantly responding negatively and reactively as challenge after challenge was thrown into the ring, a proactive approach materialised. This was highlighted by the creation of meticulous plans, interoperable groups of event stakeholders, and the provision of more appropriate crowd and artist profiling tools. Communication seemed to be much better than last year, and those managing events seemed less stressed and were taking time to focus on managing the audience as well as their team. This was the key to developing the effective festival or event. At festivals both in the UK and across Europe, the lesson that security and safety could not operate effectively and efficiently without a high level of service had clearly been learned. While observing the safety and security teams at an event in Denmark, it was clear that the operation inside the event was based on a heightened service element

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coupled with a high-level supervisory presence where teams of stewards were constantly motivated and coached by their managers ensuring that they were attentive to the audience’s needs, changing the atmosphere of the event. At two key UK festivals observed this year, the festival management team showed a similar delivery where their briefings and cascades were tight, honest, and motivational, and their health and safety contractor was at the heart of everything. Having a strong management presence working interoperably with the police and the security contractors really paid dividends, and it was clear that those attending were also impressed by the way in which any challenges were met. This was all about teamwork, and at every festival, indoor event, and sport event observed this summer, a sea change could be felt. Festival management teams and those involved with indoor activities realised that rather than just focusing on the small number of troublemakers and the rising number of those hellbent on having a good time whatever the cost to others, they should increase their welfare delivery at a time when those disenfranchised by Covid’s indiscriminate effect on mental health were struggling. Covid meant that some fans missed going to their first festival or event between the age of 13 and 18 and meant that it was not just a two-year gap but a series of two-year gaps over a much longer period. Upping their game in the welfare stakes as well and clamping down on anti-social behaviour through good planning meant that the required pincer movement happened, and both ends of this bizarre polarity were addressed. For me, the true champions for sensible approaches to service were the Germans. At one event I observed this summer, a German security team provided a co-ordinated approach with the venue to create an incredibly high-class service element, which almost negated the need for any security and safety teams. The service approach started on the plaza in front of the venue, where grey-shirted, smart, articulate stewards sporting a ‘Service & Security’

Health & Safety

logo greeted attendees, smiling and chatting to them. This was completely disarming. They carried a bag template and measured bags, either letting the spectator through or carefully showing them where they could leave their bag and pick it up again after the show. Just behind this line of staff, slightly hidden, were a different set of stewards who carefully dealt with any challenges away from the rest of the crowd. The service continued throughout the venue. On speaking to the venue, it was clear that they expected a certain level of service from their security providers. This is regularly reviewed, and if they feel that their expectations are not being met, they work alongside the provider to improve matters. A recent review ended with the provider bringing in two customer service trainers to train the staff to the standard expected. This was expensive, but in the long term, it pays off. Other countries across Europe are following suit, and new training regimes for both festival security providers and those working as volunteers have been provided to ensure that the customer is being cared for. This stemmed from a rise in ticket prices and the increase of spectators expecting value for money, plus some who felt either disenfranchised because of what they had to pay or others who felt that they were entitled to do what they wanted for the money a ticket costs. I have seen this at a range of events this summer. Having worked for the England Cricket Board at the first Women’s Ashes Cricket League competition between England and Australia, I was stunned by the change to the events from previous years. By spending equal amounts on the men’s and women’s games in the marketing of this tournament, it had suddenly caught the public’s imagination. The first sold-out women’s international game was followed by others. These events were heavily attended by women and children. The marketing of the game focused more on coffee, gin, and shirts than on the

previous beer-oriented games. Women talked to me about the fact that they had found a safe place to bring their children to watch a sporting event. Events like the Grand Prix showed little change, attracting much the same demographic. However, with the new ‘festival look’ to them, with four nights of top music events, the challenges with the audience were slightly different. This provided the most unusual crowd that I have ever had the pleasure to observe. Rather than all run to the front, they tended to look for grassy banks and areas to set up the chairs they had used to watch the racing. This meant at one time, there were strips of people sitting on the grass with concrete and gravel areas between, which were empty. It was fascinating. Silverstone (racetrack) had created a classy set of shows in a short span of years and have such a canvas to build on with a ready-made audience. So where does this leave us after another year of rising ticket prices and increasing numbers of shows, festivals, and events? It seems there is a new and improved starting point, where everyone seems to be aware that the customer is driving the industry. To appease attendees, one has to create a level of expected service that will make people choose your festival, show, or event again because they had an amazing experience. This is not to advocate a lesser level of security and safety, but what it does mean is that the level of service expected must be met and maintained. Once Covid receded, it left the industry and its interface with the public on a different footing; it was laid bare and found wanting in many ways. Now, with a rising certainty of more events and higher expectations, the industry has a chance to take back the moral high ground and take the audience with them.

Top left: Stewards greeted attendees Top right: The Grand Prix at Silverstone created a classy set of shows Bottom left: At the first Women’s Ashes Cricket League competition, women said they felt safe to bring their children Photos © Chris Kemp 57


Chris Macmeikan MBE Festival LAB, UK


t doesn’t have to be difficult to increase diversity among festival production teams, says Chris Macmeikan MBE (aka DJ Chris Tofu) of event management specialists Continental Drifts, who, along with others from the industry, set up a scheme to break down barriers into the business. Festival LAB ran across the summer and saw 12 young people from diverse backgrounds get experience at 18 festivals across the UK. They now not only have impressive CVs but a supportive network through which they can continue their journey in this field. Here, Macmeikan – who produces stages at events such as Glastonbury Shangri La, Wilderness, Boardmasters, and Camp Bestival – explains how he set up the scheme and urges festivals across Europe to do the same. How did Festival LAB start? While working on Hackney Carnival (in London), I was told of a statistic that 0.01% of event workers are Black, and it really disappointed me that our diversity levels were worse than the banking sector, when we’re supposed to be the cool guys. So, I worked with my long-time colleague Pax Nindi, the founder and chief executive of Global Carnivalz Ltd, to find out what were the barriers preventing people of colour from entering the industry. We then developed an eight-week course on the basics of event production. Among the issues we discovered were that few people could afford to get into debt by studying event management at university, so we made the course free to attend. Another barrier was that many people get their start by doing voluntary roles at festivals, so we ensured everyone who was on the course would get paid. We had 100 people apply for the ten positions and eventually picked 12 people to take part. We got some funding from the Arts Council through our brand Global Local, which aims to get diverse music into festivals and were very fortunate to receive funding from Glastonbury Festival’s EDI fund, meaning we could fund ten people to attend this year’s festival. What did the participants do? We organised 54 placements at 18 festivals, such as Glastonbury, Secret Garden Party, Camp Bestival, Wilderness, Love Saves The Day, and more. The participants ran the stages with us, which was great, but I’m hoping that in future editions of this scheme, they will have more varied production roles, involving participants being on-site weeks before

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opening, as well as through the event. Wherever they’ve been, they’ve been asked back for next year. What the people taking part discovered was that the events community is really friendly and welcoming, and that people are really keen to bring in new talent. What did you learn from this experience? It doesn’t just have to be us doing this – everyone can do it. It’s not rocket science. It costs about £7,000 to run a course for eight weeks, so it’s not hugely expensive. And I’d love to see more event organisers doing this. Our programme was aimed at the Black community, but this could work equally well with any group of people from under-represented communities. It’s a really quick way of creating significant societal change. We also discovered that the community we created by bringing people together is now self-organising. They share opportunities with each other, for example [production company] Ginger Owl had one person go to Saudi Arabia, and they’ve now shared their opportunities and contacts there. There’s a real love for each other. It’s given the participants loads of confidence and shown them the many-headed beast that is the events industry – and they’ve all chosen their own paths. In the beginning, none of them really knew what they wanted to do, but now one person does PA, one wants to do fashion events, another experiential. I think the key thing festival organisers can learn from this is that barriers preventing people from entering our world are simple to break down. As an industry, we are problem-solvers, so overcoming challenges is something we’re all used to. So, just get out there, find out what is stopping more diverse people from coming into the industry, and remove those hurdles.


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