Independent Music Festivals Contribute £1 Billion to UK Economy

Ian Gavan/Getty Images
Festival goers enjoy the atmosphere prior to the 2013 Glastonbury Festival at Worthy Farm on June 26, 2013 in Glastonbury, England.

From Glastonbury to Isle of Wight to Download, the United Kingdom boasts one of the busiest, most vibrant festival markets in the world, with the past decade seeing a groundswell in the number of independent festivals trading.

Many of the smaller independent events attract audiences of no more than several thousand, but over the past five years they have collectively contributed over £1 billion ($1.5 billion) to the U.K. economy, according to new figures released by the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF). 

The report states that in 2014, over 635,000 people attended AIF’s 50 member festivals, which range from the 50,000-capacity Bestival, staged on the Isle of Wight, to the 5,000-capacity math-rock festival ArcTanGent, held in Bristol. As a result, £296 million ($445 million) was injected into the British economy. From 2010 to 2014, over £80 million ($120 million) of this came from audience spending, while U.K. festival ticket prices have risen on average by 6.3 percent year-over-year since 2008.

Comparable figures for the entire U.K. festival market are not available, although a comprehensive September 2014 report from umbrella trade organization UK Music found that music generated £3.8 billion ($5.7 billion) for the U.K. economy in 2013, with the live industry contributing £789 million ($1.2 billion).

The AIF’s definition of an independent festival is one that is owned or run by a company with a maximum turnover that does not exceed £755 million ($1.4 billion), which it equates to a 5 percent share of the £15.1 billion ($22.7 billion) global live music industry. 

“Our extensive research clearly shows that the independent music festival sector is thriving and enjoying an extended period of fantastic growth,” said AIF general manager Paul Reed in a statement.

AIF and Bestival founder Rob da Bank was equally effusive, stating: “Wow -- who’d have thought our little organization, which started off with five festivals meeting in a broom cupboard, has grown to be an economic powerhouse generating over a billion quid in 4 years for the economy… fantastic stuff.”