Untenably High Supply Chain Costs: UK’s AIF Publishes Festival Forecast

Burak Cingi/Redferns
Stella Donnelly at AIF member fest End Of The Road 2019 in Salisbury, England. (Picture by Burak Cingi/Redferns).

The Association of Independent Festivals (AIF), the UK’s national non-profit trade association representing the interests of 105 music festivals in the country, has published its first-ever Festival Forecast.

Based on a survey of AIF members, carried out in April 2023, the Festival Forecast “provides economic forecasts for its membership, as well as detailing issues facing the sector and potential solutions,” according to a press release.

See: UK’s AIF Reaches 100 Members

The main figures: AIF member festivals are on course to make a collective gross revenue of £195 million ($242 million) this year, with a gross expenditure of £177 million ($220 million).

£36 million ($45 million) will be spent on music talent, the survey finds, and festivals will welcome a total audience of 3.3 million on site this year.

The AIF Festival Forecast 2023 is available on AIF’s website for download.

Analysis taken from the Festival Forecast states, that “AIF Members’ economic contribution to the music sector and supply chain is equivalent to almost 50% of all Grassroots Music Venues combined.” These calculations are based on figures from Music Venue Trust’s Annual Report 2022.

Other findings: The rise in supply chain costs affecting the costs for energy, production, staging, security, etc. has become “untenable, with increases over 30% since 2019, and in some areas as high as 80%.”

One way of mitigating these price increases was to raise ticket prices, which are up some 12% since 2019, as the report states, but it’s not enough to cover the huge increases across the board. What is more, the surveyed festivals were unable to budget or cover for inflation at the time tickets went on sale.

It’s always been tough to break even on festivals, but given the increased costs of producing festivals, the risk of promoting independently, putting all of one’s own capital on the line, has become “very high,” according to the AIF.

Other findings from AIF’s first Festival Forecast show that member festivals “will stage 11,853 performances collectively, with 74% of members featuring female headliners on their bill, and 15% having a 50/50 male/female headline split.”

The report also identifies a number of key issues facing AIF members this year, and presents solutions that will be spearheaded by the association, including the “continued lobbying for a VAT reduction from 20% to 5% for festivals,” which would be a huge relief in the face of rising supply chain costs.

AIF also mentions “public facing campaigns for government support for young audiences affected by the cost of living crisis and COVID closures.”

AIF CEO John Rostron commented, “As the number of festivals joining AIF grows, we wanted to better understand the collective impact and the collective issues that our festivals share. The AIF Festival Forecast is an important snapshot of where we are as an association of events at this time. It will inform our work over the coming months, and support policy makers and the wider sector in better understanding the vital role AIF festivals play in the music ecosystem.”

By AIF’s own admission, the AIF Festival Forecast “will become a regular fixture in the music industry calendar.” The 2023 edition can be found here.

Subscribe to Pollstar HERE