No Business Like Festival Business

Ethel Merman

Photo by spike55151 — Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved

Sure, it is hard to celebrate in the middle of a worldwide recession that’s moving toward a darker depression. So, how about a little festive news to feel a stimulus?

Cue Ethel Merman — with one change: apparently, now one can sing there’s no business like festival business.

Two stories posted this week in KadmusArts’ Culture News (“Our Festivals: Good Business” and “Fest Biz Bounce”) address the strong economic health of festivals.

In the Christian Science Monitor, Matthew Shaer reports on why festivals are a good business model in this climate.

Shaer’s story tracks the continued growth of festivals both in terms of audiences and in terms of profits. Even in tough times, travelers seek out destination experiences. Casual travel may be cut back, but audiences will travel if the payoff is one destination with multiple experiences. As he notes in his follow-up podcast, there is “a bargain idea at play here.”

A festival fits the model. Festivals offer a one ticket purchase for multiple acts. Good festivals offer a good range of performances. Moreover, there is more to the festival event than just the performances; there is a community of celebrants.

Shaer quotes Chuck Morris of the Mile High Music and Arts Festival: “I do feel pretty confident that the future of festivals is nothing but up.” (Last year, his festival sold close to 100,00 tickets and grossed more than $7 million.)

Billboard’s Mitchell Peters also forecasts a strong festival season. Every year has a few festivals that close, or move locations. However, the industry keeps growing — all over the world. Where there are audiences, there are advertisers. As important to the festival business, big name brands continue to their support of festival events.

Even as the music business rocks and rolls through the adjustment from selling LPs to iTunes, festivals thrive. Ashley Capps of co-founder of Bonnaroo, sums it up, “…in the end, there’s no substitute for that live experience.”

We know from’s users that festival goers are people of all ages who are compelled to travel, want to spend money on live entertainment, hold true as fans to our standbys, and participate in the latest cultural trends.

Ethel, we always knew you were right. Now, though, it’s not just a show, it’s a festival.

- Bill Reichblum

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