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As many of Britain’s students descend on Leeds and Reading this bank holiday weekend, new research from Mintel finds Britain is officially a nation of revellers with over a quarter (26%) of UK adults attending a music festival in the last year alone*. Up from 22% in 2018, festival attendance is at its highest level in four years – despite the UK’s biggest festival, Glastonbury, taking its traditional ‘fallow year’ off in 2018.

Soaking up the festival spirit, half (49%) of Generation Z (consumers aged 16-19) attended a music festival in the last year. They are joined by 43% of Millennials (aged 20-39), and 19% of Generation X (40-54-year-olds).

Such is Britain’s love of live music that, according to Mintel research, a staggering 61% of festival-goers would prioritise going to a music festival over a holiday within the UK; and 57% would prioritise this over a European holiday.

The top reason for visiting a music festival or concert is to see a particular artist (45%); however, more and more people are motivated by the social aspect of a live event. This includes enjoying time with friends/family (41%), meeting new people (19%) and to take pictures/selfies (15%). Meanwhile, as many as seven in 10 (69%) event-goers say that the range of alternative activities (eg non-music) available at a music event is important, up from 64% in 2018. Health, adventure and immersive themes are continuing to be paired with music and this is becoming more vital, as 48% of those aged 19 and under attend music events for the entire experience.

Mintel research also reveals that concert attendance is rising as almost four in 10 (38%) UK adults attended a music concert in the last year*, up from 34% in 2018. Overall, Mintel estimates the value of the UK music festivals and concerts market to be worth just over £2.6 billion in 2019, up from £2.46 billion in 2018.

Lauren Ryan, UK Leisure Analyst at Mintel, said:

“The growth in music festivals and concert attendance is being driven by a weakened Pound, due to economic uncertainty surrounding Brexit. As a result, events in the UK are now perceived as better value for both British and overseas music fans who are searching for their summer festival fix. We expect festival attendance will continue to increase with the rise of ‘day festivals’ which appeal to wider audiences. Evolving consumer demand for unique experiences means focus on non-music elements, such as wellness activities, is becoming more important. In an increasingly crowded marketplace where organisers often share headline acts throughout the season, alternative and unique offerings drive attendance and can define a brand.”

Eco impact is a key concern for attendees

Not only do young people want more from festivals, they also expect operators to make it easier for them to behave sustainably: 67% of music event-goers, peaking at 71% of Millennials, try to limit their environmental impact when attending a music event – using initiatives such as recycling and travelling by public transport. This comes as half (48%) of UK adults make efforts to reduce their carbon footprint.

“Live music events have benefited greatly from romanticised perceptions still lingering from the birth of festival culture. However, rising popularity means the environmental impact of live music events has hit exponential levels. Companies and brands across the events sector now risk being left behind in the midst of social change regarding climate impact and waste levels.

“As line-ups become more homogenised and the number of events continues to rise, concerts and festivals must consider the long-term benefits of positive perceptions regarding environmental impact. Smaller, boutique festivals in particular have much to benefit, as this provides an opportunity to distinguish themselves from larger events. Environmentalism can lend to marketing events as an ‘authentic festival experience’ – which align more closely with the counterculture origin of music festivals.” Lauren adds.

Festivals put nation of queuers to the test

While a common sight at music festivals and concerts, a third of attendees (33%) would like time spent waiting to pay for food and drink to be reduced. Safety is also a high priority, as 32% of event-goers would like to see a reduction in crime (i.e. theft). On a less glamorous – albeit necessary – note, shorter queues for toilets is the most desired improvement at UK music concerts and festivals, with 52% of female attendees looking for operators to reduce waiting times, compared to 37% of men.

Finally, Mintel research reveals a spike in usage of contactless wristbands at music events as some 37% of music event-goers have used a wristband for purchasing at a music concert or festival in the last year, up from 27% in 2018. This upward trend suggests event organisers are responding to rapidly evolving consumer expectations, most notably their preference to be cash-free at music events (61%).

“Digital payments could revolutionise the events industry, particularly for remote events like festivals. As so many attendees want events to improve waiting times while purchasing food and drink, it is crucial that strategies are implemented in order to streamline the experience and maximise ancillary spending.” Lauren concludes.

* in the year to May 2019