Did the recession affect the make-up of festival attendees?

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Pie chart with distances traveled to get to ACL 2011
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A couple weeks ago I wrote an article exploring how far music festival attendees travel to get to the events. I concluded that ticket buyers mostly come from the state where the festival is held, and tend to come from locales 150 or fewer miles away.

I ended the article wondering if the recession had an effect on the make-up of the attendees. Could it scare away longer-distance music lovers who might travel to the event otherwise? This article attempts to answer that question. Unfortunately, what I found gives few solid conclusions.

The Research

Pie chart with distances traveled to get to Stagecoach 2009
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Pie chart with distances traveled to get to Stagecoach 2011
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I again looked at data from the Austin City Limits Festival. Coachella and Lollapalooza required substitutes due to insufficient data, so I chose the Stagecoach Festival and the currently running Summerfest, which are both in similar locations (Indio, CA, and Milwaukee, WI) to the originals. The older data comes from 2009.

What I found is that ticket buyers still come from within the home state of the festivals by an overwhelming majority – 74% for ACL, 90% for Stagecoach, and 65% for Summerfest. That's compared to 73%, 93%, and 69% for the respective 2011 events.

Where it gets a little more interesting is the distances traveled. While a vast majority of Stagecoach and Summerfest ticket buyers traveled 150 miles or less in 2009, the Austin City Limits Festival had more people coming from further away. The biggest difference there was the 15% who come from more than 1,000 miles away. The 2011 data for all three of the festivals is not much different than the information from two years ago, suggesting that perhaps the recession is not the reason we attendees coming from relatively close by.

Conclusions

Pie chart with distances traveled to get to Summerfest 2009
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Pie chart with distances traveled to get to Summerfest 2009
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The data just isn't consistent enough to make a determination one way or another as to why we don't see people traveling further for festivals; all I can do is speculate. Some festivals may simply have a more regional appeal or they just may not be an attractive enough brand to bring in attendees from much further than 150 miles away.

I suspect that festivals like ACL have a good brand. It's one of the biggest festivals during its time of year, and has a branding that people from further away may better recognize, compared to Stagecoach and Summerfest.

If you remember the charts for Lollapalooza and Coachella, they presented a similar breakup as ACL's 2011 chart (though to a slightly lesser extent). Coachella and Lollapalooza are also pretty well known. So the real answer to what attracts ticket buyers from further distances may be popularity, not economic conditions. However, more study is needed.

 

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