The Spectacular Millennial Millennials and Music Festival Consumption

Since the early 2000s music festivals throughout the UK have developed into institutionalised seasonal spectacles; woven into the UK’s social and cultural fabric. This domineering era of the music festival has grown exponentially through a consistent evolution parallel with human progress, attributed especially towards the advent of the digital age and subsequent applications and uses. With innovative techniques created to maximise new marketing landscapes within a more globalised community the music festival industry has become a complicated, saturated and competitive market far removed from what was once a typically music driven event format. In principle, music festivals still work on the same historic fundamentals of location, infrastructure, programming, marketing, ticket selling and execution of the event. However, the expectations, wants and needs from the millennial consumer compared to the baby boomers has forced festival planners to increase, en masse, the experiential assets to fulfil modern consumerism demands.

Here are two short videos explaining both Baby Boomers & Millennials.

Baby Boomers and Music Festival Consumption

George Michael, Rick Parfitt (Status Quo), Greg Lake (Emerson Lake & Palmer), Leonard Cohen, Pete Burns (Dead or Alive), Prince, Maurice White (Earth Wind & Fire) Glenn Frey (The Eagles) & David Bowie were all victims of one of the most bizarre strings of passing in 2016. The interesting theme with all these artists were that they were born within the Baby Boom era. This generation of artiste, were purveyors in new social and cultural shifts, sub-cultural rises and trend setting escapades, creatively fuelled by post-war fallout, political questioning, deindustrialisation and economic disparity, to create a revolutionary movement; popular music.

“The children of this age — who would forever be dubbed the baby-boom generation — were beginning to question the morality and politics of post-war, and some of their musical tastes began to reflect this unrest.” (Gilmore, 1990) Cooke (1959)

During the 60s, 70s and 80s, a time when new musical genres and associated subcultural movements manifested at an exponential rate, emotional relationship with the artist resulted in a general ideal that it was all about the music. This can be explained through analysis of music festivals during the late 60s, leading up towards the late 80s.

Below is one of the most iconic rock performances of the 1970s at the infamous California Jam. Deep Purple mk3 featured the vocal awesomeness of David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes.

Millennials and Music Festival Consumption

Millennial consumption of music festivals has increased dramatically since the early 2000’s. The new concept of the music festival has acted almost reproductively, amoebic like, dividing at an exponential rate into genre specific, hybridised and globally recognised spectacles. There are varied catalysts for the affluent rise in music festival scene, often attributed to the onset of the new indie music scene that began in the early 2000s, the acceptance of festivals as being affordable, enjoyable weekends, and from an event management perspective, the ability to cash in. It seems that, “the 21st century has experienced a ‘boom’ in music festivals in Britain with a 71 per cent increase in the number of outdoor rock and pop music festivals held between 2003 and 2007 and an increase of 185% in music festival income in Scotland over a five year period (Anderton, 2008; EKOS, 2014; Webster, 2014; Webster and McKay, 2014) In 2015, over the generally accepted but relatively unwritten or unstated period that marks the festival season, ‘April to September, there were 230 recognised live music festivals in the UK’ (Jones, 2015) The music festival scene has unreservedly rewritten the summer narrative for millennials as out of the “13.8 million people who make up Generation Y in the UK,” (Lyons, 2016) 7.8 million of them attended a music festival in 2015/16. (See UK Festival Awards & Conference 2015 / 2016 Market Report. For demographic statistics. Number worked out by dividing the millennial population by attendee’s percentage in the millennial bracket).

So why and for what reason are millennials so engrossed with the festival experience? We know that the music business on the whole is on the decline as “the big sales numbers that have sustained the recorded music business for years are way down, and it is hard to see how they could ever return to where they were even a decade ago.” (Sisario and Russell, 2016) The high levels of visitation to festivals are also inconsistent with new music appeal, as there are relatively few breaking bands that are headline worthy, which is why so many festivals are looking towards heritage acts to underpin the programmed music and entertainment. Just look at the headline acts for most of the medium and large festivals in the UK to see an overabundance of heritage and novelty acts throughout their bills.

Headliners | One could consider these as being Heritage Acts

The reason, therefore, must be relative to the festivities, the experience, and societal dictation. Music, the once main focus of a music festival, has become secondary within certain events such as Boomtown, CarFest & Big Feastival, events known for their theatrics and hybridisation, whilst for others, music has hit an equilibrium with experiential assets, with corporate monopolising conglomerates turning once ‘high-risk, weather-dependent propositions into sustainable and profitable ventures with the means to provide thousands of people with food, facilities and security over several days.’ (Ahmed and Murphy, 2016) The answer as to why millennial music festival consumption is so epic, is that festivals have now become comfortable, a home from home, with all the niceties and creature comforts that one could ask for. They have also become big business, creating large capital gains through sponsorship, and festivals have become much easier to market due to the advent in social media and web based technologies.


The following videos provides the reader with a good perspective of the experiential and aesthetically pleasing additions that festival now accommodate in order to ensure new custom and retention.

Instrumental Conditioning and Music Festival Marketing

Unlike Baby Boomers, renowned for brand loyalty, capital, and possessions, ‘millennials are turning away from materialism and traditional measures of success, and are instead focusing their disposable incomes on experiences’. (Walker, 2016) The range of experiences provided by the abundance of music festivals subsequently allows for prospective ticket buyers to weigh up options by considering those events that can offer the consumers a specific and tailored experience package.

The UK Festival Awards & Conference 2015/16 Market Report, explains the following items as being the most important assets when choosing a music festival:

Line - Up = 4.1%

Repeat Experience from the Same Event = 3.9%

Friends and Like Minded People = 3.5%

Quality of Production & organisation = 3.5%

There are also the following considerations that add towards a more enticing festival including: Choice of Food and Drink, Safety, Well Organised, Cash Points and Card Payment, Good Sound and Lighting, Ticket Price, Walking Distances, Showers and Clean Tokens, Price of Amenities. (UK Festival Awards & Conference 2015/16 Market Report, 2016)

So, one may ask the question, how is the above relative to instrumental conditioning? ‘Social Media, one of the festival industry key marketing platforms, is becoming increasingly important for consumer decisions.’ (Bronner and De Hoog, 2015: 51) The rate of relatively instant accessibility from a variety of user interfaces, (smartphones, tablets, laptops and desk top PCs) rating systems, and customer comments, allows the prospective attendee to peruse a large number of events known to the individual. The stereotyped method of choice for millennials includes the items mentioned above. The application of individual desires crossed with peer reviews and ratings, heightened by the marketing strategies outlining the festival niceties makes for a more comfortable decision making process.

The issue of the Instrumental Conditioning Model and Music Festival Consumption

The instrumental conditioning model offers a somewhat bleak overview of the reasons that millennials buy festival tickets. Yes, it is a relevant model, and for the ‘core group of "superfans" that are the bedrock of the UK's festival scene, attending four or more events a year’ (Savage, 2016) who have tried and liked, or tried and disliked, reinforced or punished for their consumer choices, it is an apt application. However, for those that have researched the festival via online sources, though they are choosing based on their individual wants and needs, they are reviewing and assuming based on others assessments. It is an admirable choice to research as trying various events for those not necessarily as enthusiastic as the hardcore music fan would be an expensive escapade.

There is also consideration of social learning, societal dictation and peer pressure. Large proportions of festival attendees acknowledge that they are societally obligated to attend festival due to the current festival trend. ‘They learn the depicted behaviour (attending festival) regardless of whether or not they are given extra incentives to do so (Bandura, and Grusec and Menlove, 1966: 499 & Bandura, 1971 :7) There is also the pied piper hypothesis in that within any social group ‘some members are likely to command greater attention and then dictate the actions and behaviours of others.’ (Bandura, 1971 :7) ‘This claim would be appropriate with a level of accuracy to the 74% of attendees that attended festival in groups of four or more in 2015/16.’ (UK Festival Award Market Report, 2016: 6)

There is also the case of classical conditioning found throughout the festival industry attributed to sponsors, celebrity endorsements and institutionalised festivals such as Reading, Leeds, Glastonbury and the Isle of Wight. Sponsorship in events is a condition of the corporate landscape that many of our much-loved festival now exist in. “Sponsor-event fit, perceived sincerity of the sponsor, perceived ubiquity of the sponsor, and attitude toward the sponsor are key factors in generating a favourable response from sponsorship. Sponsor-event fit also has interaction effects with perceived status of the event and personal interest in the event.” (Speed and Thompson, 2000: 227) A positive association with a sponsor can influence consumption just as effectively as choice can for others. Event branding is also another consideration that can impact consumption. Reading and Leeds are synonymous with their red and yellow branding continuity whilst the name Glastonbury automatically provokes a thought of the music festival. For marketeers and event managers to truly understand the millennial consumer, it takes careful consideration to recognise all elements of consumer behaviour models to provide a festival package fit for all.


Baby Boomers were the pioneers of the popular music genre and sub-genres. The creativity, the amount of new music available and the buying music consumption created a youth culture concerned with music. Festival’s had limited facilities, but the culturally defining performances by acts like The Who at the Isle of Wight Festival 1970, Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock, 1969 and Deep Purple at the California Jam, 1974, rendered everything apart from the music obsolete. Millennials, however, are much more savvy, experience led, yearning for a complete and comfortable festival package. Event managers have recognised this, applying a home from home experience complete with artisanal food vendors, branded and sponsored stalls, ample toilet facilities, camping, glamping, yurts, Winnebago’s, clean drinking water, after event entertainment, amongst other aesthetically and experiential pleasing niceties. These additions have taken away in part the music culture of the event, but has nonetheless increased visitation on masse to the point that in 2015, music festivals generated “£1.1bn towards the UK economy” (UK Music, 2015)


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Created By
Tom Kitchen


Created with images by Pexels - "audience concert crowd" • Unsplash - "audience crowd people" • Gialla Farfalla - "Esperanzah! World Music Festival 2013-15" • miamism - "Ultra Music Festival 2013" • CRL_CB - "festival"

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