Access All Areas September 2019 - Page 33

SEPTEMBER | COVER FEATURE Are festival and music monopolies a threat, and what can or should be done? Words: Tom Hall After the recent demise of Port Eliot Festival, an independent festival with a rich history and valuable community ethos, Access learnt from its organisers (p28) that large pockets would’ve been needed to ensure its continued success. Organisers said, however, that the event could one day return, should the right investors get on board. So often, it’s the same major players that buy up festivals. Live Nation, AEG, and Superstruct are the common names – the latter recently snapping up Global’s summer events portfolio (including South West Four, Field Day, Boardmasters and ’80s festival Rewind) as Broadwick undertook a buyback of its events (Field Day, Festival No. 6 and Snowbombing, as well as Broadwick Venues), previously owned by Superstruct. Sometimes, however, the only viable route to continuing a festival is by selling – or as some might say “selling out” – to a large conglomerate. While the event may change its beloved format or alienate its passionate user base, a strong argument can be made that this new money will ensure the event – and the many businesses and workers that thrive from it – continue to. And besides, a given festival’s value to a consumer is subjective, and no one is forcing them to attend an event. If the new format is unpalatable, if prices are raised, or if the event’s quality drops, then the consumer will simply take their business elsewhere, right? Well, there’s more to a consumer’s apparent ‘revealed preference’ – shown when they choose to spend their hard- earnt money on festivals run by the big players, according to many including the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF). In a market where the big players control venues, ticketing, promoters and artists, have a voice 33