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Is it Time for Music Festivals to go Biennial.

Andy Robertson

It has been a tough year for music festival organisers who have been faced with rising costs and lower than expected ticket sales. This has culminated in a significant number of festival cancellations in 2024. Is it time for organisers to consider a change to a more manageable biennial timetable.

Well established music festivals have generally been annual events that regular festival-goers eagerly anticipate every year. With the impact of rising costs and higher ticket prices festival-goers have been less willing to commit to a purchase leaving organisers with little choice but to cancel before heavy losses are incurred. Aside from the financial and sustainability challenges the festival sector has become increasingly competitive so what are the advantages and disadvantages of moving an annual festival to a biennial one. 

Why Change? 
There are good reasons why a biennial format makes sense for music festival organisers the key reason being financial constraints. A longer period between events gives organisers time to better manage costs by negotiating with suppliers without the pressure of time. A longer production and logistics cycle should result in more robust planning negating potential costly errors. More planning time allows for improvements in meeting sustainability objectives which can often be overlooked when timescales are tight. A longer planning period also enables artistic curators to secure the best talent well in advance, usually with reduced fees. 

The Impact of Biennial Festivals. 
Despite the clear financial and logistical benefits of moving to a biennial format there can be some significant downsides to such a decision. If festival-goers are used to attending an annual event moving it to biennial can mean a loss in momentum and a loyal audience may become disengaged and move their ticket purchasing to other festivals. This loss of brand loyalty may drive customers to competing festivals that stay annual and can have a potential impact on ticket sales revenue. A biennial event can present cash flow challenges as revenue earned in the event year must enable the organisers to survive the following year with zero revenue. 

Other Considerations. 
Moving to a biennial festival can have a negative impact on staff and volunteers as most will not be required in the year with no event. Re-employing organising staff at a later date can be difficult and volunteers often prefer working at events that take place annually. Vendors and sponsors used to an annual event may reconsider working with organisers who move events to biennial because of the reduced exposure and revenue. 

The current market situation for many music festival organisers faced with cancellation and refunding tickets sold can lead to enormous uncertainty. When cancelling a festival there are often no announcements about future plans and festival-goers are left wondering if the festival will take place next year or not. This may make the decision to go biennial easier with greater planning, flexibility and the certainty that festival-goers know the festival is now biennial. There are a significant number of pros and cons to consider when making the decision to go biennial but in some cases it may mean the festival survives into the future rather than ceasing all operations permanently. 

For festival organisers planning their events using a software management platform like Festival Pro gives them all the functionality they need manage every aspect of their event logistics. The guys who are responsible for this software have been in the front line of event management for many years and the features are built from that experience and are performance artists themselves. The Festival Pro platform is easy to use and has comprehensive features with specific modules for managing artists, contractors, venues/stages, vendors, volunteers, sponsors, guestlists, ticketing, cashless payments and contactless ordering.

Image by Wendy Wei via Pexels

Andy Robertson
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