UK festivals will barely break even in 2023 – AIF report

Photo by Aranxa Esteve on Unsplash

UK festivals face tight margins in 2023 due to soaring costs, according to data collected in the Association of Independent Festivals’ (AIF) first-ever Festival Forecast report.

Based on a survey of AIF members, carried out in April 2023, the report shows that AIF festivals are on course to make a collective gross revenue of £195m this year, with a gross expenditure of £177m.

AIF said in the report that supply chain costs have become “untenable” with increases over 30% since 2019, and in some areas as high as 80%. Ticket price increases of around 12% since 2019 have been unable to cover the huge cost increases and impact of inflation.

Assessing the data, AIF – which represents over 53% of all festivals in the UK that are 5,000+ capacity – said risk is considered “very high” for organisers, with festivals increasingly costly to produce, and expected returns reduced significantly if they break even at all.

The AIF report further states that events will attract a total audience of 3.3 million in 2023, and AIF members will spend £36m on music talent. AIF members’ economic contribution to the music sector and supply chain is equivalent to almost 50% of all grassroots music venues combined.

The membership 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 member festivals in 2023, along with concrete solutions that will be spearheaded by AIF. This includes continued lobbying for a VAT reduction from 20% to 5% for festivals in the face of rising supply chain costs; and public facing campaigns for Government support for young audiences affected by the cost of living crisis and Covid closures.

AIF chief executive John Rostron said: “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.”

AIF said the Festival Forecast will become a regular fixture in the music industry calendar to provide an economic forecast for its membership, as well as detailing issues facing the sector and potential solutions.

AIF is a not-for-profit festival trade association representing the interests of 105 UK music festivals, ranging from 500 to 80,000 capacity. AIF member festivals include the likes of GreenBelt, El Dorado, Deershed and Valley Fest.