UK Fest Exclusives A Trend?

With Isle of Wight Festival and Lovebox both scoringexclusive headline shows from the likes of Arcade Fire and Frank Ocean, thequestion is whether festival exclusives are the way forward.

John Davisson
– Win Butler of Arcade Fire
Greek Theatre, Berkeley, Calif.

Isle of Wight Festival 2017 takes place June 8-11. ArcadeFire will headline on Saturday, while Rod Stewart leads the bill on Sunday.

Both will not play any other UK festivals this year. Thesame is true for Frank Ocean, whose only UK festival show will be at Lovebox Festival,July 14 in London’s Victoria Park.

The competition among festivals has drastically increasedover the past years, and it seems a saturation point has been reached, at leastin the major festival space. Big events rely on big names, and only so many ofthem are out touring any given year.

“When I started theIsle of Wight Festival 16 years ago, there were 400 festivals in the UK.There’s now over 1,500. So you have to be different from the rest,” JohnGiddings, promoter of the Isle of Wight Festival and founder of Solo Agency,told Pollstar. This approach doesn’t just serve the festival that gets theexclusive, but the artists as well, because they aren’t in people’s faces allthe time.

“The intelligentagents select the shows they want to do, do two or three in the summer, andmake the artist look good. The agent that books 20 shows [in the sametimeframe] is not doing the best for their artist. They’re overplaying themarket,” Giddings said.

– john Giddings
Pollstar interview

That’s why Giddings made sure that Phil Collins, after fivesold-out shows at the Royal Albert Hall, will first play concert series atCologne’s Lanxess Arena in Germany and Paris’ AccorHotels Arena in Francebefore returning to London for his only festival gig in the UK and Europe,British Summer Time in Hyde Park June 30.

AEG Event Director Jim King, who runs BST, says thatfestival exclusives “can add value to both the artist and the promoter and canhelp deliver cut through in a crowded PR and promotional campaign.”

But he emphasized that “they are not the sole answer to runa successful festival.”

“Competition alone doesn’t make a festival fail,” King said.“It’s usually an underlying lack of quality that makes the festival fall downin the face of the competition. Fans go elsewhere, usually, as they feel thatelsewhere is better.

“Conversely, an exclusive doesn’t create a long-termstrategy to success as you can’t guarantee you can get them every year. Youhave to be offering much more across all levels of the experience.”

King said he thinks that “creating a one-off or unique musicexperience is clearly an important part of this and so promoting an exclusiveone-off performance can add real value, but exclusive bookings cannot be usedas a promotional band aid. They should be there to help drive value but not bethe sole value for the fan.”

He cited California’s Desert Trip as an example, “where itwas a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for fans to see all these legends on thesame stage across the same weekend. Desert Trip wasn’t solely about anexclusive artist performance. It was way bigger than that and they delivered anincredible fan experience.”

King also pointed out that, as financially rewarding as itmay be for an artist to receive an exclusive fee, it will be “nowhere near asrewarding as taking the same show around the world to 50 markets. So if it’s aone-off it’s usually because the artist wants that.”

The professionals surrounding Lovebox Festival and FrankOcean declined to comment.

(See Also: John Giddings Pollstar Video Interview)