BY: BROCK MARTIN, Sales Development Rep

The last few years have seen a dramatic shift away from going bigger, brighter, and louder at all costs, to scaling down, retaining intimacy, and prioritizing environment.

More and more we’re seeing woodsy production flanked by beautiful art projects, people wandering around with yoga mats, and festival goers seeking to learning things rather than forgetting things at festivals. This trend is being reflected in the vast proliferation of “boutique” events around the world, but you can really sense their influence in the way that larger festivals are responding to their innovations.

The next generation of big festivals will likely borrow heavily from the smaller ones, so it’s worth studying up on how these changes are manifesting themselves at successful events around the world.

Production

While lineups have stayed largely stagnant in many areas of the scene, the production standards have been continuously growing and evolving, transforming the look, feel and vibe of festivals. EDM’s meteoric rise imposed levels of terrifying grandiosity on the audience. These days people are yearning to see something more organic and human.

The Do LaB’s iconic stage at Coachella—not to mention their flagship festival Lightning in a Bottle—has been one of the major production projects that has pushed organizers to change their approach. Look at Boom in Portugal, Lost Paradise in Australia, Wonderfruit in Thailand for examples of festivals really revolutionizing intimate stage designs.  

Food and Drink

The big festivals and raves are still schlepping corn dogs and Bud Light, often doing exclusive deals with single beer and liquor companies. But if you get to the boutique festivals you will find considerably more diversity in the product that’s being pushed on site, and this is pushing other big festivals to respond.

Bringing in smaller, independent alcohol companies not only endears you more to the customers and the community, but it allows you to bring down the level of general drunkenness at your event. And who doesn’t love having a fabulous meal and a glass of wine at a music festival as the sun goes down?

Art

Art has started to encroach into the mainstream festival in recent years, and that’s most likely traceable back to the undeniable influence of Burning Man, as Lost Paradise’s Simon Beckingham told us back in January.

“I think we have Burning Man to thank for the incredible focus on art and costuming that has come to influence festival culture in the last few years,” said Beckingham. “We have certainly noticed that people need more than a lineup and a crate of beer, and knowing how to spend your money wisely and being realistic about your ROI, particularly in year one, is crucial.”

People have started to expect to see a festival sight dressed with oddities. Sure it won’t sell tickets year one, but creating an otherworldly festival site will contribute heavily to audience perception of the event.

Diversity of Programming

Yoga has become the most controversial addition to the modern festival. Some people find it indicative of festivals becoming “soft” and losing their slop-around-in-the-mud charm. Others see it as an example of events broadening their appeal, growing up and becoming more attuned to the fact that some people like comfort (guess where we stand on that…).

BY bringing in wellness workshops, cooking classes, dance, comedy, cabaret, and of course yoga, festivals are greatly broadening their appeal and opening themselves up to bringing in new audiences. Over time we believe that you’ll see more festivals bill themselves as “arts” festivals rather than strictly “music” festivals.