I always enjoy finding an excuse to drive over to Nashville, and IEBA gave me a good one by hosting “Beyond the Basics Educational Workshop: A Look at the Festival Business”. Pam Matthews, the Executive Director of IEBA and ex-Artist Manager, did an excellent job facilitating the discussion between panelists and the audience. The first session panelists were festival producers and promoters, discussing the challenges and joys of producing festivals. The second session was made up of a distinguished group of agents representing a number of major agencies in Nashville. Gil Cunningham, a friend I have known for many years, wrapped up the event with an excellent discussion on the legal and financial aspects of the festival business.
The takeaway for me was that this “live events” industry is a very dynamic environment with lots of moving parts, each one needing the other. Coordinating, communicating, and delivering on clearly understood expectations are all important pieces of the equation. The “Free Market” is alive and well in this industry! The ebb and flow of supply and demand of talent and festivals is fascinating. In fact, there is clearly some internal “code” that buyers use when defining talent: Headliner, B-level, C-level and “Baby band” to denote placement of time slot and artist fees (Note: I don’t think I have ever seen a bands webpage actually stating “we are C-level band out of Wichita…”, but I get the point). With a greater number of festivals and a limited supply of headliners, prices for those headliners keep going up. Will there be a bubble at some point that bursts? Or will we see Artist XYZ get $50 Million to headline and the festival have 500 sponsors to cover the cost? 🙂
I also thought it was very interesting WHY festivals seems to be gaining in popularity. As with most answers these last 10 years or so, it has to do with the internet. Because of the proliferation of music via subscription services and online radio, fans are familiar with many more artists and find great value paying $120 to see dozens of their favorite artists. I wonder if our arena friends may start thinking of changing the three-artist packaged tours with some pre-show B and C-level bands in parking lot to warm up the crowd and give them more value. I have seen this done….but I wonder if it will become a trend.