Festivals of The Future and the 'Green Wave'...

Across Europe music festivals are evolving. A saturated market has been encouraging innovation, leaving festival fans spoilt for choice. But why exactly are more and more brits flocking to Europe each year for their summer festival experience? Are British live music devotees now placing more value on the whole festival experience and looking across the channel for new experiences, and is there more to it than simply looking for affordable summer holiday alternatives?

The modern-day festival ethos is certainly undergoing a cultural transcendence and at the forefront of this revolution is the ‘green wave’ – the influx of events implementing eco-friendly initiatives to become more sustainable. This move is catering to the environmentally aware, open-minded modern-day teenager, and therefore organisers who adopt creative new ways to implement environmentally conscious practices are seeing their festivals flourish.

With European festivals increasingly embodying this philosophy, we’ve explored the broader, multifaceted elements of culture, art, design, food, politics and more – to find out what makes these events an innovative and immersive experience, whilst identifying new trends and speculating about what form the festival of tomorrow may take….

The following Outsight Report has been prepared for our valued industry contacts... 

The Green Wave

Youth has always been the core demographic at any major music festival, but now Generation Y is arguably the most socially aware. Mindful of the challenges facing our planet, it’s no surprise that revellers seek an environment that reflect their values.

Many events are also taking the responsibility to inspire, educate and influence their audience to consider their lifestyle choices - so called ‘green wave’ takes many forms. For example, at We Love Green all the stages are run entirely on renewable energy and at the award winning Northside, cheery ‘trash butlers’ greet you at the gates. Following in the footsteps of its Scandinavian brother, Norway’s Øya Festival has also cultivated a sustainable identity, with 2018 set to feature a main stage running solely on solar power, delicious organic vegan food on offer and their customary practice of exchanging petty cash for recyclables sorted by visitors. Drawing crowds of up to 60,000 each year, festival stalwarts are undoubtedly seeing the appeal of an environmentally friendly excursion.

A significant contributor to festival carbon emissions is pollution linked with travelling to and from the site. In a bold move, The Netherland’s Down The Rabbit Hole Festival has banned all cars at the campsite, and similarly across the pond, Illinois’s Lollapalooza can be found offering discounts of up to 65% with selected partners for bike rentals. Jumping on the sustainable transportation bandwagon, we’re seeing a multitude of festival partnerships popping up with local transportation services allowing you to bus, train or sail your way to festivals on the cheap with an abundance of other likeminded music fans. 
Traditionally, UK festivals have tended to a show-up Thursday, head off Monday morning kind of affair. However, thanks to globalisation, jetting off abroad for festivals has become a highly popular and feasible alternative. One of the driving factors behind this shift has been festival agencies such as Festicket and Festlane. These sites have made a name for themselves by combining festival tickets, flights, accommodation and travel into package bundles at budget prices. For a long time now we’ve seen an increase of festivalgoers choosing to integrate a music festival into their summer holiday experience, Benicassim and Primavera Sound being two prime examples set in (or close to) Barcelona. The major benefit to the environment is clear – less separate flights, fewer air miles and ultimately reduced emissions. 


The Festivals of Tomorrow

Although the ‘green wave’ is clearly a very visible influencing factor on festival culture, the evolution of music festivals is shaping up to be far more extensive.

Historically, festivals have always been about liberation from the confines of everyday society. The music, environment, fashion – everything has always been centred on letting loose and celebrating. Yet now with many festivals sharing similar line-ups (for environmental and budgetary reasons), the traditional form of release has simply become the status quo. Many future thinking events are rapidly evolving and the boundaries between art, food, music, politics and culture are swiftly becoming blurred with pioneering event organisers looking to offer multi-dimensional experiences. In the past, festivals may have been synonymous with escapism. But in the coming years only one word comes to mind: immersion.

Forging this new path, below we have explored how some of the most innovative events are redefining the festival experience, not just in Europe, but also across the globe… 

Defined as “the pursuit of pleasure; sensual self-indulgence”, hedonism as a philosophy theorises that pleasure is the highest true goal of human life. Seeking to combine aural, visual and culinary displays to form never-to-be-forgotten transient hedonistic experiences, we have the likes of Haven Festival in Denmark. The collaboration between a music producer, artist and restaurateur, Haven provides a rare multi-sensory experience fusing experimentation with art, music, food and beer. The three co-founders work in unison to ensure that each of the senses is explicitly embroiled in the ambience and offering of the festival. Immersion is clearly the name of the game here in the UK also, with Bestival organiser Rob Da Bank describing this year’s circus theme to be “The Most Colourful Show On Earth”. Already renowned for an incredible festival village design, with stage set-ups in the past having incorporated a large tanker ship, harmonious woodland clearings and a Bollywood-inspired mega tent, Bestival 2017 saw performing art take over the site. With miraculous circus performers from across the globe and a world-renowned line up, Bestivalites were able to enjoy a fully immersive aural and visual experience. 
With the rise of social media and a degree of interconnectivity previously unseen, festivals are beginning to integrate themselves into our way of life and many festivals are developing into international brands. Bestival’s Rob Da Bank and his team travel to Bali, Indonesia to host Bestival’s first festival abroad. Taking place in the picturesque GWK Cultural Park, this expansion not only engaged an entirely new community across the globe, but enabled the festival to explore and utilise a completely new setting and dynamic. Of course this is not the first instance of sister festivals across various settings emerging. Serbia’s infamous EXIT festival this year held its first sister festival, Sea Star, on the Croatian coast. Amsterdam’s Dekmantel Festival has a sibling event in Sao Paulo planned for February 2018. The Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC) goes one step beyond; this neon attraction actually tours the world and has taken place in the UK, USA, Mexico, Japan and more. Unrestricted by the roots they set up, the future of the world’s festivals seems boundless. How long before Richard Branson is selling early bird tickets to festival on the moon?
With many festivals fundamentally epitomised by the musical experience they offer, many events are going above and beyond to offer truly unique and engaging activities for revellers’ downtime. Not only does this stand out for established fans, but it also means that a new demographic of festival stalwarts become enticed by new offerings. An example of this is the Weekend At The Edge Of The Lake Festival, which takes place in the Swiss Alps. Set in this blissful retreat, festivalgoers attend from across the globe in part to embrace the electrically charged line up, but also for the diverse range of water sports, arts and crafts and family-friendly experiences for everyone to enjoy. By no means your typical run of the mill event, the organisers have created a safe haven for all ages where relaxation is the priority. Similarly, taking place near the Wiltshire-Dorset border in England is the Larmer Tree Festival. Although known for its progressive line up of underground folk music, the festival is set amongst stunning gardens occupied by parrots and peacocks. Offering circus skills workshops, massage, yoga and meditation, alongside a number spiritual and arts classes, visitors are able to enjoy an experience before, after and during the music.
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Market saturation forces innovation. Maintaining fans, as well as attracting new international party people and brand partnerships is no easy task. Organisers need to be able to successfully convey their festival philosophy and their unique offering by projecting the right image. This is where a fully integrated PR campaign can prove key.

The UK live music and festival market is estimated at £2 billion  and on a global scale, festivals stand to reap the rewards if they can effectively communicate their message and attract the fans. With a selection of thousands of festivals worldwide, faithfully advocating every glimmering aspect of an event is paramount. The evolution of festivals is taking in a range of environmentally conscious and socially aware attitudes and is both attractive and inspiring audiences of all ages and interests with a fully immersive experience.

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