Virtual’s Festival Snapshot

Virtual Festivals’ annual conference and awards will also see the publication of this year’s “U.K. Festival Report,” which describes itself as “the most valuable and accurate three-dimensional snap-shot of the U.K. festival marketplace ever.”

It will be handed out free to all the conference delegates at London O2’s Vue Cinema Nov. 19. The festival awards, now in their fifth year, will be at the accompanying Indigo2 in the evening.

The festival report is compiled from the U.K. Festival Census, Virtual’s annual demographic study of 5,000 festivalgoers in the U.K. The report is also taken from comprehensive market analysis of both publicly available information – such as event capacities and ticket prices – and exclusive restricted information supplied on an anonymous basis by key organisations operating in the industry.

The subjects covered include the current and future economic value of the U.K. festival marketplace, changes to the demographic profile of the general and niche audiences, fast-changing preferences and the opinions and expectations of fans.

The conference is now in its second year and has moved to the Indigo2 after last year’s debut – run in cahoots with the ILMC journal IQ – packed out the Gibson Guitar Showroom in Rathbone Place, London.

This year three other U.K.-based trade papers – Audience, Music Week and Total Production – have joined with IQ in supporting the event.

It hopes to bring as many as 1,000 delegates together, a group made up of what it calls “the largest and most senior group of U.K. and European music festival industry professionals ever assembled under one roof.”

The first of the festival subjects under discussion will be how sound limits are affecting artists, sound companies and audiences, and whether the crowd’s experience is being “diluted.” Panelists will include Total Production editor-in-chief Mark Cunningham, James Cobb from the Professional Services Association (PSA) and Live Nation U.K. chief ops officer John Probyn.

Next up, Audience and Live UK news editor James Drury chairs a panel on fighting organised festival crime, including tent theft, forged tickets and fake merchandise.

Those joining him include Mark Hamilton, head of G4S security, Colin Rodger from Scotland’s T In The Park Festival, Bestival chief and Radio 1 presenter Rob Da Bank, concert and festival promoter Stuart Galbraith (Kilimanjaro Live) and Reg Walker from security experts Iridium Consultancy.

The first of the two afternoon sessions has Chris Barrett from Music Week talking about how a festival can keep its brand contemporary and survive an economic downturn.

Other panelists will include festival representatives James Barton (Creamfields), Ben Challis (Glastonbury/AGF), Rob Challice (SSW and Coda Agency), Katrina Larkin (Big Chill) and Ben Turner from the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF).

The AIF may well have a stronger presence at this year’s gathering, as SW4, Get Loaded In The Park, Nozstock, Endorse It In Dorset, Standon Calling and Glastonbudget have joined the organisation and increased its membership to 24.

On the Nov. 18 eve of the Virtual conference and awards bash, the 1-year-old organisation will host a networking drink at new rock club Miss Q’s on Earls Court Rd, London. It’s open to all those involved in the festival industry, including suppliers, agents and promoters, to meet the AIF team and its member festivals.

The fourth and final conference panel is put together by IQ and the Music Managers’ Forum (MMF) and will focus on how festivals will prepare for the next 10 years.

Those staring into crystal balls will include Virtual Festivals chief Steve Jenner, Probyn, Yourope chairman Christof Huber, Gary McLarnan (Sparklestreet) and Malcolm McKenzie from Supervision Management.

Virtual’s new European Festival Awards will be at Eurosonic-Noorderslag in Groningen, Holland, Jan. 13.