Why Are EDM Festivals Expensive? Here Are 5 Main Reasons
The growth of electronic dance music would be impossible without the internet. Anyone with a fairly good connection is now able to listen and discover new artists and curate their own playlist and mixes to anyone online. This musical revolution helped make music, specifically dance music and electronic music easily accessible to anyone. With time, the concerts and the live concepts of these artists and DJs developed to become more mainstream.
With the growth of the EDM culture, festivals became more expensive to produce and transitioned into the mainstream, which increased the demand. Does this make EDM festivals more expensive? The simple answer is: yes. This increase led to the increase of supply and lead to the festivals charging a lot more for a ticket because people are willing to pay more for it. The demand also increased the need for a bigger “wow factor”, a bigger production, tighter security and all the additional logistics to accommodate, feed and entertain a larger audience.
Good examples to consider are the ticket prices for EDC Las Vegas, one of the most famous festivals in the world. Prices have risen by more than 300 US Dollars per ticket, and the production company Insomniac still manages to sell out. EDC Las Vegas 2018 brought a crowd of more than 400,000 people! In addition to that, the ticket prices for EDC Las Vegas 2019 were just released not a long time ago. “Early Owl” pricing (that’s probably the cheapest option), which will be available until midnight on September 28 2018, will begin at $319 for General Admission, $499 for GA+, and $779 for VIP. Fans who miss out on Early Owl pricing will have the opportunity to purchase what is called the “Wise Owl” tier beginning Saturday, September the 29th. The Wise Owl pricing begins at $339 for General Admission and $519 for GA+, while affordable layaway options for all ticket types will also be offered (thanks Insomniac, as these seem like quite an investment for the young adults out there).
On another hand, many artists charge more money nowadays per gig. This is because the income of artists relies more on festivals than it used to, because not enough people actually buy the music and the streaming platforms are not profitable enough for an artists to rely solely on. Platforms like YouTube, Spotify & the like have hurt the music industry in the past years when it comes to artist’s income. So producers rely more on live shows and festivals to make money. Which resulted in famous DJs Like Calvin Harris to charge up to 550 thousand US Dollars per gig!
EDM Festivals Are Long
Electronic Dance Music Festivals like Coachella, EDC, Tomorrowland and Ultra Music Festival are long. They span for 3 consecutive days throughout the weekend, and in recent years those were divided into two weekends. Which means the festival will be active non-stop for 6 days.
Most festivals are between 1to 3 days long. Doors typically open around 10:30am and can last well into the morning depending on their location and noise restrictions. As most of the people out there know, some festivals allow camping on location, so the attendees never leave the venue.
Being an experience that spans over several days, EDM Festivals will have to accommodate and provide the necessary food, shelter, drink and logistics for a large number of people. Which brings us to our next point
Production is Bigger Than Ever
Since 2012, four of the top five music festivals in America by attendance went from independent operators to being acquired by Live Nation, a huge production company. And Live Nation is only one of the several companies rushing to buy up their own stock of festivals.
The market is growing fast and competition is growing with it. Half of the festival holders who usually bring in more than 10,000+ attendees or host more than six events a year expressed concern around that subject. A quarter of these companies (25%) say it’s becoming more difficult to attract top talent. And more than a third (36%) think getting sponsors has become a challenge in a world with so many different festivals for brands to choose from.
In order to create a bigger impact on the attendees, promoters and creators of EDM festivals are looking for unique ways and gimmicks to add to their festival experience. The bigger stages and the bigger setup mean more production, additional cost of lights, sounds and fireworks. This means additional labor hours and personnel, technicians and teams on the ground setting everything up.
The bigger the festival, the more people it needs to accommodate. Which also means more food stands, vendors, and tents. A bigger storage area, bigger and better facilities like toilets and water supplies. All of these add to the overall cost of the production which needs to calculate them into the ticket price for maximum profit.
Another aspect of EDM festivals is the fact that they need to be unique. With this massive increase of EDM experiences around the world per year, each festival needs to have a unique element that differentiates it from the rest of the competition. From it’s theme to the branding, all this storyline and conceptual work needs to be created and produced which is an additional point to add to the production. A simple example to note here are the tickets of Tomorrowland Festival 2018. The seahorse necklace (which is custom made), the display box (which includes a unique die cut shape and material), and the leaflets that come with it all add to the overall production of the festival. But this unique box is more appealing and interesting to the buyer than a simple printed festival ticket. The box makes the festival theme more appealing, and the buildup to the experience more exciting. People will share the box on their social media platforms which brings an added benefit to the festival by giving them free advertising.
Like any other business, Coachella fought hard to stay alive in its first years, and was cancelled in 2000 due to financial problems. Yet it kept of pushing further and remains one of the premier music festivals in North America. In 2012 and 2013 the festival generated over $47 million in revenue. Electronic and dance music acts were the major attractions, with over 50 electronic musicians playing to the energetic crowd. In 2013 the festival generated roughly $500,000, or what can be calculated to be $2.33 per pass sold, for the city of Indio, California. The economic impact of Coachella on the surrounding local economy is an estimated $254 million in 2013 and was logically projected to grow for 2014.
The bottom line: it costs promoters a lot more money when they do everything the proper way. From hiring the appropriate amount of security staff, to having a certain number of medical personnel on site for emergency cases, plus all the legal work from police and fire departments to city permits. Promoters will also have to work on getting insurance for the festival and it’s technical equipment, the renting costs of the sound and light equipment and much more. All of these elements are taken into consideration when calculating the final festival cost.
Artists are Expensive To Book
The growth of Electronic Dance Music into the cultural mainstream allowed the 10 highest paid DJs to command a combined 115 million US Dollars in 2012 according to Forbes. The highest paid DJ on the Forbes list at the time, Tiesto who brought in a whopping $22 million that year, attributes much of electronic music’s growth to social media. EDM is the music of a generation who’ve been focused on the rapidly approaching future, who are connected 24/7 across blogs, forums and social media. This exposure often leads to paid gigs, which have the potential to quickly catapult obscure producers into international super-stardom. This rising popularity for both the genre and artists, led to a spectacular growth of the festivals from simple club nights to a sensory overload of every kind. Ultra Music Festival, Electric Daisy Carnival and Coachella have become mega-brands. Their economic capabilities are very real; just one weekend can generate hundreds of millions of dollars for local economies and promoters.
With this extraordinary growth, EDM artists are more expensive to book and here’s why:
Learning how to DJ is easy and fast these days with so many tutorials freely available to everyone online. The key that makes the whole difference is production. Today’s dance music artists inevitably have to produce music in order to become well known and create some sort of following. DJ-ing alone is not enough. With more time and work put into learning production techniques and music theory, DJs are now trying to benefit from that investment of time, effort and money. Then comes the experience aspect and the team that works with the famous producer. Each gig the DJ plays will have unique branding, visual elements and gimmicks (Steve Aoki’s cake for example) that make the experience of that DJ unique. Adding these elements to the logistics needed to book the DJ and fly him and his team over to the festival venue, and you get a more expensive booking fee. Of course festivals can opt for a lesser-known underground artist but that might affect the fans available as those will be more niche, and their numbers quite less than the other well-know, famous and quite expensive counterparts.
The Growth of Electronic Music
As Internet speeds increased, MP3 players increased around school yards and file sharing networks sprung up like weeds. Dance music slowly began to reestablish itself in the American culture. The establishment of digital radio stations like DI.FM and Napster in addition to the growth of social networks like MySpace, help further advance dance music and artists to instantly share and distribute their creations. Along with the growing interest in electronic music was an interest in DJs who hosted internet radio shows. Legends like Armin Van Buuren, Tiesto, and John Digweed all hosted their own radio shows on traditional radio. But once they started distributing their shows online, they instantly grew into a unique franchise. Take for example Armin Van Buuren’s A State of Trance. The internet, DI.FM and social media helped grow it into the next level of music sharing and Podcasting (an unknown concept at the time). On March 30th 2013 the weekly radio show celebrated its 600th episode to a sold out crowd of 13,500 fans at Madison Square Garden. This month, Armin announced the opening of ticket sales for his February 2019 event for ASOT 800!
If we look closely at the growth of A State of Trance for example, the show started as a small DJ mix type show and is now adapted to be a full festival experience with several stages, playing different types of Trance music from Progressive to Psy Trance.
Growing From Dance Music Culture To Festival Experiences
As you can see, while the EDM market is getting more competitive, the demand is still rising. Per capita spend on live music events including festivals grew from $29 per person in 2008 to $48 in 2014. The music festival industry may be changing, but with so many hooked fans, there’s no shortage of opportunities for organizers to make their mark. Festivals now accommodate artists, who go there to showcase their creations directly to their target audience. You might come in contact with an artistic display, which might look weird but never out of place. EDM festivals are also the place to have fun experiences, which is why some festivals added special fun rides and attractions, which add a lot of fun and a unique much-needed twist.
Festival companies are now also trying to provide the best food experiences to the attending masses. They’re looking for unique fast food ideas from all over the world to bring them to their festival venues. Lately, most festivals host vendors selling food from Mexico, Japan, The Mediterranean, The USA and the Middle East. With people coming from all corners of the world, it sure sounds like a great idea. Tomorrowland, for example, took things further and became the first EDM festival to offer a full sit-down restaurant to concertgoers. Inside the main stage there is a 2-star Michelin rated restaurant that boasts some of the world’s finest chefs serving a tasting menu that is over $1,000 a plate. It seats 12, has hosted royalty, and proceeds from this extravagant meals are donated to charity.
Attend For Your Own Good
A recent study in the United Kingdom by the music venue O2 and Goldsmith’s University associate lecturer Patrick Fagan, noted that attending concerts and shows can boost your life expectancy by around 9 years. The study shows that just 20 minutes of live entertainment increased the feelings of wellbeing by 21 percent. This was two times as affective as yoga and three times the benefitial effects from walking a dog. In details, it boosts the self-worth feelings by 25 percent, closeness to others by 25 percent and mental stimulation increased by 75 percent.
So the next time you’re debating whether or not to spend money on festival tickets, do it for your health and go to that music festival!