Are festivals replacing nightclubs?

Nightclubs in Britain are closing at an alarming rate. In the nineties and the naughties it was a booming industry. So much so that when measuring inflation, nightclub spending was one of the measurement tools. Lately however the punters prefer to do something else. Drinking coffee. It is the new ‘going out’ apparently. At least, that’s what is being measured now in the Consumer Price Index.

The Telegraph recently asked the big question: why are Britain’s nightclubs in such desperate situation? The thing is that it is not just Britain’s nightclubs. All over Europa, once successful nightclubs are closing. I was at a conference recently where a panel debated whether festivals were eating in on the nightclub market. In other words that visitors prefer to go to festivals rather than to good-old-weekly-nightclubs.

People want an experience

My friends and I always went to the same nightclub. Every Saturday, same crowd, same thing. I loved it. That was 20+ years ago. That nightclub now operates on half its capacity. Some say it is even less than that. The place is still there but the punters no longer want the same thing. They want something more exciting.

  Aaaah coffee time!

Aaaah coffee time!

And that’s in line with the outcome of one report. In Britain and Holland clubs are closing down. In Italy business is still relatively strong though. So is it a question of demand and supply? Some argue that there are simply too many nightclubs. And when the customer has choice it comes down to survival of the fittest.

Others argue that high alcohol prices and the smoking ban are to blame. Last year I read that people don’t go out anymore to meet others but instead find their date online. A club manager in Australia said that people prefer to chat each other up on Tinder rather than make a face-to-face effort in a nightclub. If true, that’s somehow a bit sad. On the other hand, flirting whilst watching Netflix, and scoring a date is probably a win-win situation.

Festivals vs Nightclubs

But are festivals the new nightclubs? Do people prefer to go to festivals several times a year instead of going out every week? Festival tickets are not cheap either nor are the drinks or the food. But people have the feeling they get more for their money. You can see dozens of acts, hang out with your friends, and meet new people. It is an experience!

In 2015 when I interviewed visitors at American festivals, I asked them how many festivals they were going to that summer. The average age of a festivalgoer in 2014 was 33, according to festival Insights. My research at Bonnaroo and Lightning in a Bottle showed that the crowd was (slightly) younger. Especially the younger festivalgoers indicated they would visit only one festival. Less than 30% of the 25-year-olds said they would visit 3 festivals.  

What do you have to offer?

Going out is not cheap but people are apparently making more conscious decisions about how they spend their money. According to an article in Forbes a ticket to Coachella was $375 last year. That came down to $1.74 per artist performing there. Bonnaroo set you back $324, which meant a cost of $2.17 per artist performing. If you look at it like that the costs of attending a music festival are not too bad. And apparently that’s how a lot of people look at it.

Like with nightclubs, festivals are not always successful either. For example, each year 800 festivals take place in Holland. Almost 100 festivals will not be organized the following year. It is a buoyant market but not everyone is successful. Only the better festivals will survive. I guess the same goes for nightclubs.

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