Bold Predictions for a Brave New World
For everyone in the festival industry, 2021 will be forever repressed in their memory, while 2022 could not arrive more quickly.
For musicians, 2022 is the opportunity to back out on the road (and begin to make up) what once represented up to 90% of their annual earnings.
For festivals and venues – the first businesses to close and last to reopen – it’s time to meet a tidal wave of pent-up demand, as two years of cancelled and postponed festivals and tours find their way to music cities across the planet.
For festival staff and service providers – many of whom had to leave the industry to find new work and learn new skill sets – 2022 is the opportunity to return with a renewed sense of purpose, gratitude, and readiness.
As a festival consultant, I’m constantly monitoring the creative economy and creating experiences with clients creating, growing and scaling new festivals, pushing local culture and prioritizing community.
2022 has the potential to be a breakthrough year as the music industry is expected to hit record revenues, but they will come back different than before. On that front, here are my “Top Three” 2022 festival trends and predictions ::
1. Boutique is Better
Smaller, niche, boutique festivals (under 10K attendees per day) were on-trend before the pandemic, and come roaring back as one of my top 2022 festival trends. A new crop of young creatives – who have had two years to marinate – will push the industry envelope into new and exciting spaces. The weird will get weirder, the bold will get bolder, and boutique festivals will become more popular. With the right vision, team, setting, and support, their festivals will flourish.
2. Hybrid Experiences
Digital technology will change the way music is viewed and consumed, and that’s a good thing. Successful festivals will partner with tech startups to allow intimate experiences to be amplified to worldwide audiences. For festival consultants like myself, I’m advising clients to think beyond streaming. Lean in heavily to emerging, immersive technology (AR/VR/etc) which will allow more fans to participate in your events. Grow your tribe, band your fans together over common interests, and support the musicians, venues, promoters and producers who have been shuttered and disrupted during the pandemic.
3. Living with Liability
You can’t fake authenticity, nor can you glaze past the exposures that festivals – or any live experience – presents in this brave new world. For festival producers, be prepared to prioritize investments in industry standard festival infrastructure (climate change), festival security and medical staff (health and wellness), and pay close attention to those force majeure clauses in your artist contracts (pandemic). For fans, have patience and understand that the industry just experienced its biggest upheaval and operational disruption in history, and the veteran teams that once led your favorite festival have been displaced. That will take years to rebuild, so expect your old festivals to look different than the new ones.
Other 2022 festival trends will include pandemic-induced changes to admission and entry policies, experiential marketing immersions to meet the evolving tastes of Gen Z and millennials, and an even greater need for engaging, value-additive festival sponsorships, brand partnerships, and brand activations.
Despite the turbulence, music is more popular than ever and will remain the ultimate tone setter, here-and now medium, and cultural barometer. As a festival consultant, I see the opportunity for all of us to support one of the hardest hit industries during the pandemic.
Successful festivals are vibrant, culture-packed hubs generating wealth across multiple city sectors, and we should all do our part to inspire, motivate, generate, and foster our music industry. It’s output is imperative to the health and well-being of our communities and society.
Let’s also lobby our leaders to prioritize public investments in music infrastructure, access, and changes to public policy. It’s imperative to quality of life, job creation, talent attraction and retention. Culture is one of the important ingredients to any successful, buzzed about municipality, and music is its backbone.
Together we can work to harness the creative energy in all of us, to get the music industry back on track and unlock the potential we all know is there…and waiting to be unleashed.