HomeUncategorizedThe Four Niche Festival Strategies Taking Over Live Music

The Four Niche Festival Strategies Taking Over Live Music

Wren Graves writes about trends in the entertainment industry and publishes a pop-culture crossword puzzle every Tuesday and Thursday in the Consequence Newsletter. Subscribe here to never miss an issue, and if you’d like, you can also check out this week’s easy mini-crossword, “Exit the Matrix,” and the more challenging Thursday puzzle, “Enter the Matrix.”

The large general-interest festivals have looked a little boring this year, but overall, live events are getting wilder. Small-time capitalists keep challenging the Live Nation-AEG duopoly, which has resulted in one Fyre Fest (so far), one Diet Fyre Fest (slightly more competent planning, a lot more poop), and a variety of lineups and experiences ranging from meh to iconic.

While the world’s largest events face anemic sales or even cancelations (here’s hoping splendour returns to Australia’s grass soon), smaller and mid-sized festivals have become petri dishes of experimentation — at least by the dull standards of corporate-sponsored music. Even Live Nation and AEG are varying their strategies.

A lot of the best festivals have one thing in common: They’re not trying to please everyone. They hone in on a certain kind of experience, they do it well, and the people who like that sort of thing are happy.

This is not groundbreaking, even if until recently it had been less common irl. But the internet bends towards niches. Our social media algorithms are as individual as snowflakes, and that expectation for personalization is spilling into every part of life. Today few people are content with a cookie cutter festival experience — especially not at modern festival prices.

The whole point of specialization is that each niche is a little different. But four dominant strategies have emerged over the last several years. Even if they’re not what you or I would look for, they’ve  clearly found an audience and would seem to have room for growth. Let’s call these strategies genre themes, lifestyles, selfies, and destinations, and let’s look at the advantages each of them has over the larger gen-fests:

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