The Eurosonic Noorderslag (ESNS) conference programme kicked off this morning with an IQ panel exploring the shared challenges of festival organisers from around Europe and some of the ways in which they resolve those issues.
The Common Ground: Boutique and Major Festivals session, moderated by IQ editor Gordon Masson, saw guests Beke Trojan (MS Dockville), Codruta Vulcu (ARTmania), Eric van Eerdenburg (Lowlands) and Virág Csiszár (Sziget) tackle a variety of subjects including supply chain issues, ticket prices, timing of announcements, staffing, gender balance on line-ups, and artist booking.
“The problems we had in 22 and 23, I think are over,” said Van Eerdenburg about supply chain matters. “But the answer has been that we have to invest and pay much more for the stuff that’s coming in. And that translates to ticket prices that are rising faster than inflation, which is already high – that’s what is the most worrying issue for me.”
Noting that the price of a three-day ticket for ARTmania is just €90, Vulcu admitted that she and her team are contemplating taking the event to just two days because of other pressures on the audience. “The cost of hotels for the audience was maybe €100 per night, so for three nights practically, accommodation was ridiculous, which in the long term could kill the festival because it’s not sustainable.”
Trojan noted, “Our aim is to book a festival with a good mix of international national artists. But we are definitely struggling getting the international names because it’s January, and they’re only starting to make decisions now, which is very late for us, because rigorous planning and ticket sales really should be a lot earlier.
“We have a very young audience that buy the tickets very last minute, so we need to sell day tickets”
“Obviously we would want to sell three-day tickets, but we have a very young audience that buy the tickets very last minute, so we need to sell day tickets. But even with that, we can’t really announce like the day line-up yet, because we’re still struggling with international names. It’s a big problem, but I don’t really have a solution.”
Csiszár revealed that with Sziget’s massive audience involving more than 50% international visitors, local Hungarian acts are not really an option for the bill, even though some of them can sell out stadiums. “International people don’t really get it, so we can’t book them as headliners, but it’s the international stadium acts that we have to look at as our headliners, which is also difficult when there are so many stadium tours happening,” she said. “Stadium tours are definitely competitors for us during the summer.”
Both Csiszár and Van Eerdenburg said that they were using VIP offers such as glamping and sky boxes to help balance the books, rather than pushing general admission tickets too high in price, while with all the panellists working to improve gender balance on line-ups, the conversation moved to the timing of announcements and the various strategies employed by each festival.
The session concluded with panellists answering a question from an audience member regarding their expectations for the next generation of industry staff. Van Eerdenburg stated that when his colleagues work long hours at festivals, he compensates them with weeks off after the event. He added that when it comes to recruitment, “I always pick the [people] who are also working in a club, or running a stage, or volunteering at a festival, because they have the motivation to not only do it theory, but also in practice.”
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