Smaller UK Music Festivals Forced to Cancel as Production Costs Soar

UK music festivals
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UK music festivals
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Photo Credit: James Genchi

Smaller UK music festivals are facing cancellation as production costs soar and ticket sales flatline.

Large music festivals like Glastonbury, Reading, and Leeds are sold out as music fans choose to attend huge festivals over smaller gatherings. Elsewhere, The Guardian reports that ticket sales are flatlining as promoters struggle to sell tickets in the face of rising costs. Simply put, people in the UK have less disposable income for concerts so they’d rather attend a huge concert – if they attend at all.

This Is Tomorrow in Newcastle, Brainchild in Bentley, East Sussex, and Summerfest in Ewood Park, Blackburn have been cancelled or postponed to a later date.

“We normally sell out but when we went on sale in December we knew something was wrong,” Marina Blake, Creative Director of the Brainchild Festival told The Guardian. The festival has been running for nine years (with the exception of 2020 due to COVID). “It was so much slower than normal and there just wasn’t demand. We’ve recently made the decision to cancel.”

Artist fees are higher as musicians attempt to make up for income lost due to the pandemic. Production costs are also up, as are labor costs. The organizers of Summerfest ended up making the same decision due to rising costs. “We had to take that decision because ticket sales were flatlining,” says a Summerfest spokesperson.

“It’s a 30,000 capacity site and tickets stopped selling at around 16,000 so it wasn’t financially viable to run. Three other festivals went that same week. It’s been a domino effect,” the spokesperson continues. “With the cost of living crisis, people are struggling to pay for tickets and production costs have gone through the roof. The price of diesel has rocketed and we have to transport everything to the site.”

Ticket costs average around £250 for a weekend festival, which puts off the younger crowds who attend music festivals. Some festivals are attempting to offer group pricing called ‘team tickets’ where festival attendees can get six tickets for the price of five. Another explanation may be increased demand for international events.

“We’re hearing of increased demand for events in Ibiza,” says Paul Reed, the CEO of the Association of Independent Festivals in the UK. “This is the first opportunity for international travel after COVID, and people are choosing that over the domestic experience.”

“When going to a British festival costs the same as flights and tickets to one in Ibiza, why wouldn’t you do that?” says another artist manager, who asked not to be named.