Music Festivals Are Dying in the UK—100+ Festivals Projected to Shut Down in 2024 Alone

why are music festivals dying in the UK
  • Save

why are music festivals dying in the UK
  • Save
Photo Credit: Robin McSkelly

Music festivals are dying in the UK with about one in six festivals a casualty of the pandemic. But venues are shuttering at an alarming rate—with 40 lost in 2024 alone.

Live music festivals are struggling to stay afloat amid rising costs, fewer tickets sold, and a unique problem caused by the pandemic. Festivals who returned in 2022 had most of their tickets locked in at 2019 prices and budgets to honor the past canceled festival tickets.

The major impact of the pandemic on the events sector caused rising prices, with production costs escalating beyond sustainability. Artist’s touring costs and the new paperwork associated with the Brexit deal left the UK live events industry in a place where the cost to run a live music festival increased by over 30%.

“Festivals thought the right thing to do was deliver the events on the ticket that had been sold,” says advocacy group the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF). “So many festivals—even though they were completely sold out—took place and made a loss.”

The pandemic became a small domino that tipped the balance for the live event industry in the UK. In 2023, 36 music festivals were cancelled before they were to take place. While festivals increased ticket price to mitigate the impact of rising costs, with inflation, the war in Ukraine, and an energy crisis—the increase was not enough. Production companies were faced with another loss and many opted to cancel their festivals entirely rather than operate at a loss again.

Archiving the list of festivals lost since the pandemic reveals the extent of the death of live music in the UK. NASS Festival announced it would not return in 2024, losing a 30,000 gateway festival for young people. Other festivals that threw in the towel include Leopollooza, Long Division, Nozstock The Hidden Valley, Bluedot, Barn On the Farm, and many more.

So what’s the solution? AIF is asking the UK government to lower value-added tax (VAT) on music festival ticket sales from 20% to 5% for a temporary period of three years. The AIF believes this single change will help live music festivals rebuild and recover what’s been lost. The UK Government took the action to lower VAT during COVID to support the live entertainment sector—supporting its recovery.