Friday 23 March 2018

Appeal of festival giants divides but minnows conquer on costs

Sarah McCabe

Sarah McCabe

OXEGEN attendees will likely be donning a River Island shirt and munching on Skittles at this summer's event, while Electric Picnic-goers will be sipping on a tall frappuchino.

The brand preferences of the two festivals' audiences are as different as their music choices, according to new research by digital agency Eightytwenty, whose analysis of the online preferences of social media users will be revelatory for sponsors.

Forever 21, alongside Tayto, River Island and Skittles, are the most popular brand names among those who "like" Oxegen on Facebook. Electric Picnic visitors, who tend to be older, are much more driven by their vices – Guinness and Starbucks make their top three. The one brand preference that the two share in common says leagues about young Ireland – Bacardi.

Both music festivals are clearly still the Goliaths of Ireland's music festival scene – Electric Picnic enjoys 118,000 "likes" while Oxegen has 247,000, even though their actual capacity is about a quarter of those numbers.

But there are plenty of Davids ready to take on the challenge.

There has been a steady growth in the number of smaller, cheaper festivals on offer in the past few years as ticket prices in excess of €200 steer punters away from larger events. Mini-festivals Forbidden Fruit, Longitude, Body and Soul and Castlepalooza have seen ticket sales soar this year.

And though both of the country's biggest music festivals are going ahead, it came as little surprise when concert promoters MCD announced a hiatus of Oxegen last year. In 2011 a camping ticket to the event cost €245, beyond the reach of many of its stalwart younger customers.

Electric Picnic has experienced similar financial woes. Electric Republic, the registered company behind the festival, lost €4,245 in 2011 and €344,654 in 2010, and had an outstanding loan worth over €4m to its parent company on its book. It was founded in 2004 by music promoter John Reynolds, who now co-owns it along with majority shareholder Festival Republic Dublin. FRD, itself owned by Dermot Desmonds' Gaiety Investments, bought a 71pc stake in the festival for €4.2m in 2009.

Mr Reynolds has previously claimed he has been pushed out of the decision-making process and that choices regarding the festival's acts have damaged its reputation.

Regardless of disagreements about acts, it was clearly obvious to all involved that prices had to come down from the lofty heights they reached during the boom if Irish festivals were to survive.

Ticket fees have been slashed across the board this year. Weekend camping prices at Oxegen have been cut to €150, while Electric Picnic costs a maximum of €230, depending on when the ticket is booked. Deadlines for cheaper rates have now passed.

Irish Independent

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