John Probyn, the COO of Live Nation in the UK, has said that – aside from wobbly ticket sales, weather issues and a possible lack of new headline acts, all previously noted as challenges for the festivals sector – another challenge for the live industry is that punters are simply becoming more demanding, possibly as a result of the festival market expanding its consumer base so that the average age of a festival-goer is quite a bit higher than it was.
In an interview with The Guardian, ahead of him being presented with a lifetime achievement prize at tonight’s UK Festival Awards, Probyn admitted: “The public are much pickier than they used to be. Fans now expect spectacular shows, with good quality sound and great entertainment – they are looking for that wow factor. [And] we’ve had people getting in touch to complain that it rained at an outdoor event! One group of girls got in touch because they were unhappy about standing on grass because they were wearing high heels that sunk into the ground. But, you know, this is a customer-driven industry and the customer is always right”.
Asked about that other issue, the perceived lack of new headline acts coming through, especially on the rock side, resulting in the higher reaches of rock festival line-ups being dominated by veterans and reunions, Probyn added: “Are there big new bands out there? Probably not as many as there used to be. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be in the future – that’s just where the industry is at the moment. On the main stage at Download the average age is probably 102, but on the other stages they are kids”.
Probyn will pick up the lifetime achievement prize at tonight’s UK Festival Awards, which follow the UK Festival Conference that takes place today. Commenting on the award for the Live Nation COO, Festival Awards co-founder Steve Jenner told CMU: “John’s contributions to event production have raised the bar in safety, comfort and enjoyment for millions of live music fans across the festival spectrum, worldwide, extending far beyond his own events. For this reason alone this award is overdue”.
He added: “However, I feel passionately that credit is also very much due for John’s commitment to engaging directly with his audiences through digital channels as well as regular fan-forum meet-up events. This has been key to the stand-out success of events like Download Festival and has driven forward the evolution of the wider marketplace in no small strides”.
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