2018 – The rise of the European Music Festival?

From one year to the next, the attraction of a popular holiday hotspot can often peak and quickly fade away as the next best tourist destination takes its place. When at one time I used to think quite confidently that I had a relatively good idea of the popular places that young people often frequented each summer, both getting older and with the passing of time you suddenly realise that things can soon change and the thought of going to certain locations can be just ‘so last season’. Yet when it comes to music festivals, differently to the speed in which hyped holiday destinations can come and go, the select major festivals in the United Kingdom have gone largely unchanged for the last decade or more. Between generations young and old, whilst one’s idea of where holidaymakers would and should travel too for their summer holidays can differ tremendously, you would largely expect even the least likely of festival goer to be able to name at least two or three festivals which have become so enshrined in the country’s festival scene.

From Glastonbury to Reading and Leeds, Parklife to Wildlife and V to T in the Park, in comparison to our European competitors and ultimately festivals which go toe to toe with many of those currently the United Kingdom in securing acts for their event and fighting to pencil them in their diaries before anybody else can, the United Kingdom is awash with an unrivalled diversity when it comes to major music festivals every summer. With such a wide array of festivals up and down the country catering for all ages, cultures and different genres of music, as where the likes of Portugal and Spain are fairly limited to two or three showpiece festivals each year, you can almost bank on seeing an act that you may even recognise just by name at the smallest of festivals. A treat for festivalgoers and despite the initial difficulty in approaching acts, booking musicians and fellow entertainers and ultimately curating a festival to do such investment justice, if everything goes to go plan then one successful year can quickly become two, five or ten and with it a sustainable, profitable and popular festival is born.

Yet despite both the variety of music on offer and of the numerous festivals dotted in each corner of the country, it may well exceed its European competitors with regards to size, scale and superiority but what it gains in these areas it most certainly lacks in the vital factors which can have a big impact of one’s enjoyment of a music festival and in many cases, make or break a weekend.

Just like tents, festivals come in all shapes and sizes from grassroots level to the dizzy heights of a Glastonbury or Reading and Leeds. Yet given that ticket demands are often so ridiculous that weekend entry passes can sell out within a matter of minutes, in recent years there has been a significant growth of the medium size festival. Characterised by a handful of household names scattered across two or three days in more senior slots on a festival’s line-up with the rest of the billing regularly made up my local or unsigned artists, you’re now never too far away from a medium sized festival. Perhaps not living up to the well-established and much more expensive festivals we all know and love, they do however most definitely do the job when it comes to getting together with mates, watching a few well-known artists and often quite popular artists and being a much more convenient way of having a good old knees up at a music festival. And whilst tickets might not always come cheaply, such festivals can often be priced at half of the bigger ones and for this reason have developed an appeal of their own.

Unlike festivals in much warmer climates across Europe however, the potential to fall fowl to adverse weather conditions may well exist across festivals no matter their size up and down the United Kingdom but perhaps not always the case, you would think that the smaller the festival and cheaper the ticket price, the less prepared a festival could be in the event of consistent heavy rain or thundery conditions. Needing not to look any further at this year’s Y Not Festival which was cancelled before its final day due to treacherous conditions for its festivalgoers and organisers as well as being plagued throughout the weekend with set-time alterations and acts being cancelled left, right and centre including Friday and Sunday’s headliners and sub-headliners, festival planning looks increasingly like a game of chance and risk. Although there is nothing whatsoever to suggest that Y Not was not planned in a just and proper manner given the risk of adverse weather conditions, it serves a potent reminder that given the uncertain nature of the Great British Summer, who knows what to expect one weekend in June or July when you’re sat booking tickets six to nine months prior?

For this reason, not only with the guarantee of much warmer weather and cheaper living costs whilst away but also a growing trend of incredibly and often uniquely selected line-up’s that are unrivalled by any of its UK competitors, could 2018 be the year where we see an even greater move towards the foreign festival? With Glastonbury taking a momentary break next year, in comparison to the festival’s last fallow year back in 2012 one cannot deny the growth of the European music festival most particularly amongst British festivalgoers. From the likes of Benicassim and Rock Werchter whose reputation is and has been well established for some time, festivals catered for a British audience seem to be popping up more and more across Europe and just like we have seen in the UK, festivals that are both small, medium or large in their size and scale.

Of course the overriding advantage of attending a festival in your home country centres is that you avoid uncertainty surrounding the major issues of transport, travel and accommodations cost and plans. But with the correct preparation and even the slightest of research nowadays with numerous official festival pages now offering English versions of their pages in order to cater for such a potential and incredibly lucrative English market, where at one time the sheer thought of heading overseas for a music festival was unthinkable, at least from my perspective it appears to be becoming a much more attractive option each year. And with no Glastonbury or T in the Park for 2018, knowing that at least in terms of line-up strength and of the inevitable good weather and often much cheaper food, drink and festival ticket, it will certainly be interesting to monitor ticket sales for some of Europe’s major festivals next year.

Not only do they appear to be increasingly catering for a much wider European market than merely restricting their line-up’s to artists that sing in the individual language of the host country but with the growth of much younger, English speaking attendees and the genuine appreciation that it often costs the same or even less to travel thousands of miles more than an equivalent festival back home, expect European festivals to prosper in 2018. With the guarantee of both good music and good weather, where once festivals and summer holidays were seen as two completely different experiences, don’t be one bit surprised to see such an amalgamation grow even stronger from next year onwards.

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