Date: April , 2005
Europe's monster annual music festival season shows no sign of waning as old festivals are revived, annual festivals are expanded and new festivals are added this year. “I've just come back from an event in Norway where festivals were on the agenda and promoters are reporting the festival business is good throughout Europe,” said Melvin Benn, managing director of Mean Fiddler Music Group (MFMG), one of the leading promoters of festivals in the United Kingdom and Europe.
The sector continues to be wildly successful because of the value offered the patron, he said. “Most European festivals are providing a hundred or so acts in four or five stages across a three- to four-day period. So the actual offering is very substantial,” said Benn. Stuart Galbraith, vice president of Clear Channel Entertainment (CCE), which dominates the festival promotion industry in the United Kingdom and Europe, agreed. “[Customers] perceive high value for money. We're not just talking of the number of bands available but on top of that, the 'chill-out' areas, the markets, the late night entertainment acts and the cinema. If there's a band that you don't want to see, there's always something to keep you busy.”
Prices in the United Kingdom will be on average about $15 (U.S.) higher this year than last, but Galbraith said that “we are getting to the point where we don't want prices to go up that much more. We don't want to get into the problems that festivals in the U.S. got with increased ticket pricing.” There are several indicators that the market is stronger than ever. MFMG's Glastonbury (U.K.), the largest greenfield music and performing arts festival in Europe, expects to sell all 120,000 $237 tickets in less than 24 hours.
Download Festival, which CCE launched at Donnington Park in 2003, has spawned an accompanying event in Scotland and has become a three-day event this year. And the Isle of Wight Festival returned to the U.K. festival circuit in 2002 after an absence of 32 years, drawing 35,000. The greatest indicator of the healthy market, however, is the addition of the 100,000-capacity O2 Music Wireless 2005 festival, which Clear Channel is launching this summer with partners Royal Parks and The Prince's Trust. “Even though the U.K. market is almost full, we felt there was scope for an urban-based festival,” said Galbraith.
O2 will be held in London's central Hyde Park. Tickets are $237. Of all the major European markets that apply the same format to their biggest festivals, Germany is a leader. Marek Lieberberg promotes two of the most popular festivals in Germany – Rock im Park (drawing 60,000) and Rock am Ring, the latter celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. According to Jed Licki, festival director for Rock am Ring, the success of both venues, which attract the same acts, is owed to the contrasting experiences both festivals offer with Rock am Ring set in a traditionally remote area as a selling point and Rock im Park in a car-race track “which is appealing to many as it works well whether it's raining or not.” Prices will remain stable this year.
Another important player in the German market is FKP Scorpio, founded and headed in the post as general manager by Folkert Koopmans. According to a company spokesman, Koopmans has “developed really successful festivals like the Hurricane [drawing 50,000 at $117], M'Era Luna or Southside.” Sponsorships by local beverage and food companies and, increasingly, by mobile telecommunications companies, are rife in Europe. For instance, mobile phone 02 is sponsoring the new Hyde Park festival in London while SwissCom is associated with Open Air/St. Gallen in Switzerland. FKP Scorpio in Germany can use the same sponsors – beer brand Becks and local mobile giant T-Mobile – across its Hurricane, Southside and M'Era Luna festivals.
Carling beer is embedded in MFMG's Reading and Leeds festivals that run jointly in the United Kingdom and draw a total of 105,000; Tennent's beer is associated with Scotland's T in the Park; and Nokia is behind the revived Isle of Wight festival. Virgin Mobile is the headline sponsor of the V Festival and Virgin mobile customers are able to buy the $208 tickets three days before the official on-sale date. Virgin Radio broadcasts the festival live.
Interviewed for this story: Melvin Benn, 00 44 8961 5490; Stuart Galbraith, 00 44 0207 009 3200; Jed Licki, 00 49 069 956 2020; Sandra Nordin, head of promotions, Hultsfred Festival, 00 46 70697 3959; Bernd Zerbin, press manager, FKP Scorpio, 00 49 40 853 88 972