Learning from the highs and lows of the 2012 live events season

With the UK’s summer festival season now but a fading memory, industry expert and sales director of Azule Finance Gavin Scott offers us a unique insight into just how the sector fared in what was one of the most heavily blighted live events seasons in recent memory…

Yet another live events season has been and gone, and it seems like only yesterday that I was watching some of our nation’s most inspirational people carry the Olympic torch through the dozens of towns across the UK. If you were to ask anyone to sum up Summer 2012 in all of its action-packed glory, it would be rather unsurprising if they stamped it as one of the most memorable and exciting periods in history for British events. But whilst events like London 2012 and the Diamond Jubilee have seen most of us jump at the chance to get involved in the festivities and quite literally paint our towns red, white and blue, the rest of the live events industry didn’t experience quite the same level of record highs.

Amid a summer that saw the Team GB smashing records in all manner of sports arenas, the UK’s bustling summer live events calendar was impacted by typically British summer weather. Festival organisers will always plan for rain, but it had a particularly big impact this year. Was the wider live events slump simply down to bad weather? Or, is it something more substantial than that? Does the industry need a healthy nudge to refresh itself, as the festival marketplace becomes increasingly competitive and consumers turn away from high-priced tickets due to economic conditions?

The good, the bad and the rest

The summer months typically see the UK’s live events industry go into overdrive to meet the demands of touring artists as they hit the festival circuit, and all are more determined than the next to give audiences an unforgettable experience. Of course, this was to be an even greater ambition for production teams over the course of this summer, with huge milestones like the London 2012 and the Diamond Jubilee putting the UK on the world stage.

The Olympics was viewed as a huge success from beginning to end. It brought a welcome mini-boom of the feel-good factor that dusted away the gloomy cobwebs, and created a surge in nationwide positivity and pride. At Azule, we provided financing to a number of hire companies and production teams who needed to stock up ahead of these events, purchasing sound equipment for the Olympic torch relay, plasma screens for corporate hospitality and Radio Communications equipment for use in the main venues at the Olympics. But, with hugely successful events on a national scale, other headline events haven’t been as successful when compared to previous years.

A number of major gigs were cancelled due to bad weather, including tour dates for Kylie Minogue and the Creamfields festival. Overall festival revenue was affected by the fact that 2012 was a ‘rest year’ for Glastonbury, a festival that many in the industry, including hire companies and production companies, are heavily involved in over the summer months. Also, popular festivals such as T in the Park and Hop Farm experienced lower ticket sales this year, which was reportedly due to festival goers’ unwillingness to pay the increased price for tickets.

Summing it up

There is no doubt that bad weather put a dampener on the live events season in 2012, with some hire companies having to fork out for kit to be cleaned after wash-out gigs. But decreased revenue for this year’s live events season can’t be put down to bad weather alone. Of course this had an impact, but there is only so much rain that will stop events from taking place.

Festival organisers and their performing artists should certainly take heed when setting ticket prices and consider the sensitivity of our current economy. But lowering ticket prices too much will affect budgets and could ultimately result in poor quality shows for what have historically been some of the best gigs in the world.

What should become more notable for industry stakeholders is the competitive environment that the high season is increasingly creating. With the ‘download effect’ having a major impact on record sales, many artists are taking to the stage as much as they can to make-up for decreased album sales revenue. This is causing the same artists to reappear across the festival circuit, which means less distinction between one event and another. The UK has just undeniably proved that it is capable of putting on some of the best and most memorable live shows the world has ever seen, and so this is an excellent opportunity for our events industry, smaller gigs to large-scale festivals, to continue building on that valuable reputation.

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