After two years of cancellations, the live event industry has had a considerable amount of time to reflect. One central piece of reflection has been the way in which a festival brand acknowledges and subsequently rewards their core community of fans. Whilst it is undeniable that live events would not occur without fans, many live event brands continue to unconsciously punish their fans.
Constant increases in the price of tickets, merchandise, food and beverages, are just some of the ways fans are currently being punished for their unwavering support. To offset fans’ frustration due to the increase of such costs, live event promoters should be employing methods that reward a fan’s ongoing support. In doing so, promoters will harness the true power of fandom.
Fandom Is Extremely Important
The concept of fandom has been an omnipresent force for over a century, but the true meaning and power of the term have only recently come to light. Most noticeably, in the way it has been championed throughout the music industry.
Fandom (Cambridge Dictionary)
“The state of being a fan of someone or something, especially a very enthusiastic one.”
In cultivating a group of loyal fans, artists have been utilising emerging technologies to drive their fans and create unique captive economies built on fandom. For example, 3LAU, Tory Lanez and Grimes have exploited the support and fervour of their fans to promote their own NFT projects. In doing so, artists have been able to capitalise on the desire of fans to be an active participant that craves access to exclusive content, by selling NFTs to create an additional revenue stream.
The importance of fandom is especially relevant to the live event industry, where there is an abundant supply of live events, but only a limited number of attendees. Consequently, it is ever more crucial for a promoter to cultivate their own fandom by adopting new ways to reward their core community of fans.
The Cost of Live Events Is Only Going UP
Inflation Has Hit The Live Event Industry HARD
Global unrest throughout the first quarter of 2022 has led many economists to believe that inflationary pressure will continue to ripple throughout the economy well into 2023. More specifically, this has a trickle-down effect on the live event industry, and will likely see promoters increase ticket prices to offset rising costs.
According to economist Alan Krueger, the increase in live event costs can be explained by examining ‘Baumol’s cost disease.’ The concept suggests that industries that experience relatively slower productivity growth are more likely to experience disproportionate inflationary increases. This is evident throughout the live event industry, whereby data collected from Pollstar outlines that the average cost of US-based live events has increased from $12 in 1981 to $64 in 2017. If ticket prices increased in line with inflation, the average cost would only be approximately half of what it is today.
COVID-19 Killed The Live Event Industry
The ongoing effects of COVID-19 provide valid justification for promoter’s requirement to increase ticket prices. For the past two years, promoters have been without a stable source of income. With little to no income, promoters were forced to lay off staff, drastically decrease salaries and diminish their company’s reserve funds. Consequently, many promoters have been left with little to no funds and with little to no personnel.
To re-establish the live event industry post-pandemic, promoters have been forced to seek government grants or private funding. However, both sources have inherent downsides. Government grants are limited by design, and the interest rates on private loans are generally unreasonable. The increased difficulty in sourcing funds for live events has left promoters with no option but to pass the costs onto fans in the form of ticket price increases.
Increase Rewards, Not Ticket Prices
Whilst the immediate effect of increasing ticket prices may be obvious, the underlying effect of decreasing fandom should be of a greater concern to promoters, as it damages their brand and inhibits their ability to curate and create great festival brands.
Hence, fandom within the realm of live events is much more than just a term used to categorise a collective of individuals. It is a term that defines those that advocate for, and identify with their favourite festivals. Those that illustrate true fandom are the attendees that seek a way to advertise their relationship with the live event; usually in the form of wearing merchandise or postings on social media.
It is indisputable that fans are the key to a successful and sustainable live event brand. However, by increasing costs without rewarding long-term and passionate fans, promoters risk losing their core community of fans.
The ultimate question to consider is:
‘Why would a fan continue to attend a specific live event, if another event offers a similar experience at a cheaper price?’
The answer to this question is FANDOM.
Acknowledge & Reward YOUR Fans!
Acknowledging the importance of fandom, several industries have adopted micro-strategies to target individual customer segments. By crafting tailored messaging and promotional material, there is a greater chance that the intended target audience will resonate with the material and engage. However, many players in the live events industry fail to recognise the value of fandom. Subsequently, those live event brands struggle to engage with their true fans as they are not marketing, promoting to, or rewarding their fans in a way that appeals to them.
Historically, when advertising a ‘consumer-facing’ product or experience; like a live event, a standardised message is constructed to reach ‘mass media.’ However, the vast majority of consumer-facing industries have determined that targeted messaging to a specific audience is far superior. The rationale behind the modification in advertising tactics is purely due to the concept of ‘fandom,’ where success is not derived from how many see a message, but rather on how the message is received by the audience.
By increasing the costs of live events, through increments in the price of tickets, merchandise, food, beverages and accommodation; promoters are punishing their core fans. Instead, promoters should be implementing ways to reward fans for their vested interests; as fans not only support events financially as an attendee, but also emotionally support them as an advocate. Additionally, promoters should be seeking to adopt innovative technologies to decrease costs and mitigate the effects of inflationary pressures.
Celebration of fandom does not necessarily have to come at a financial cost. Rather, fans are longing for some form of recognition for their ongoing support. Whether it be in the form of a complimentary upgrade, an invite to an afterparty, a message from an artist, or a personalised message from the promoter. These rewards will contribute to maintaining a core community of fans, and in doing so, the core fans of a live event will maintain their support despite increases in costs.