Jennie explains the business of festivals with The Economist

When The Economist was looking for an expert to explain the spiralling costs of summer festivals, they knew just who to ask – De Montfort University Leicester (DMU)’s Jennie Jordan.

Jennie, Associate Professor in the Creative Industries at Leicester Castle Business School, is an expert in festival management and has researched festivals around the world as well as their impact on UK arts and culture.

The Economist’s film which was published this week looks at how the costs of attending and staging festivals has risen. In 1969, the year of the Woodstock Festival, tickets were £5.

In 2019, they are £248 – 50 times more. If it had kept pace with inflation, the costs would be five times more.

“Running a festival takes a huge amount of work,” says Jennie. “It’s like setting up a small town.”

The film looks at how the rise of streaming has ‘flipped the economies of festivals on their head’ – from bands making their money from albums and promoting them on tour, to making the majority of money on tour.


Jennie said one of the biggest changes has been companies running a number of different festivals, allowing them to spread the risks and also, recruit more top names to play.

“It allows them to get the top artists, because they can offer them more than one date,” she explained. “There are only a few names in most genres big enough to cut through the competition and they usually want to play the biggest festivals. Sponsors, too, are looking for festivals with well-established and powerful brands they can associate themselves with. So as well as a strong line up, festivals have to be unique. 

“The best festivals have brand narratives that include origin stories, distinctive site décor, and a sense of joining a like-minded community. This is a marketing task which cannot be achieved over night.

“And the competition is not just the UK. Small and medium sized festivals (below 20,000) are finding it more and more difficult to book acts as competition increases in Europe. Audiences, too, are happy to travel to festivals like Primavera Sound in Barcelona or Ultra Europe in Croatia and call it their summer holiday.

“All in all, festival promotion is a risky task which is not for the faint-hearted, or the amateur. But when you get it right, the sun shines and your greenfield is full of people having a fabulous time, it is the best job in the world.”

Jennie is programme leader on the Cultural Events Management MSc which is designed for people managing and developing cultural and commercial events. It explores how the number of cultural festivals and events have increased hugely over the past 20 years from large-scale community events to established place-making events such as the Edinburgh Festival. 

She has also co-authored Principles of Festival Management, the key text for students of the Arts and Festivals Management BSc (Hons) undergraduate course, the longest-running degree course of its kind in the UK. Jennie also teaches a module on the Business of the Performing Arts on the MSc Business Management in the Creative Industries and MSc Creative Enterprise.




Posted on: Wednesday 07 August 2019

  Search news archive