Economic impact of the Reading Festival
This essay will look at the economic impact of the Reading Festival using the social, technological, economic, environmental and political (STEEP), which is an advantageous organising concept that can be deployed within a variety of businesses. It is wide-ranging as it considers all factors that are the most important to gain an insight into developments in the external environment. It depends on the goal or field of interest. STEEP is an acronym for social, technological, economic, environmental and political impacts (Forsight cards ca. 2014). The group decided to research about the economic aspect of The Reading festival to look at how the economic situation impacts this festival, and also how the festival impacts the economic environment surrounding it.
The Reading Festival is the world’s oldest famous music festival still in existence. It started as a jazz event in a marquee in Richmond and has seen 54 years of mud, mayhem, music – and bottle throwing. The Reading Festival actually began life as ‘The National Jazz Festival’ in 1961, changing its name to ‘The National Blues & Jazz Festival’ in 1962. The festival is known today for showcasing a large variety of rock bands, but it wasn’t to start adding heavier sounds until later in its life. ‘Reading’ is a global music brand with fans from all over the world recognising it as one of the premier international music festivals. The festival has played and continues to play, a massive role in marketing Reading to the world.
“Reading Festival puts Reading on the map. It’s brilliant for the town and creates such an amazing atmosphere, I wouldn’t get rid of it for the world.” – (Rod Campbell of Carters, 2013)
This upcoming year the festival will be held at Reading 46th time through its different evolutions. Reading is home to the globally famous three-day music festival that takes place every year over the August bank holiday weekend. It is renowned worldwide for featuring the biggest and best acts of the contemporary music scene. The Festival has become an essential part of life in the town. The Reading Festival features 90,000 visitors from all over the world, mostly from the United Kingdom. It is consequently boosting the town’s economy with millions every year. Festivals are now at the heart of the British music industry and are an essential part of the worlds of classical, folk and jazz (Frith 2007). Festivals are big business! One recent report by UK Music puts the total direct and indirect spend generated by ‘music tourism’ for festivals in the UK in 2014 at more than £1.7 billion, sustaining over 13,500 full-time jobs (based on 232 music festivals, UK Music 2015) You can analyse the impact of the festival on the local environment by looking at the income stream.
“Festivals and the live music industry contribute significantly to the British economy, and this survey also demonstrates that the local Reading community benefits enormously, which is what I had hoped to see.” – (Melvin Benn, managing director of Festival Republic 2015)
“As festival organisers we know how to create unforgettable experiences and how to inspire people. We know how to get things done in challenging circumstances, and we are accomplished at communicating with audiences. The earth is literally on the verge of ecological collapse, and it is well within our reach to turn our industry into an exemplar of environmental responsibility. If we can create space in our busy lives, and pull together as an industry, we can make a vital and significant contribution to a future we want our children to inherit. Festival organisers, working with their many and diverse partners, from concessions to the supply chain, contractors, charities and brands, can provide leadership for what is perhaps the most important conversation of our time. The show must go on…” – Chris Johnson, chair, powerful thinking Festivals have played a significant role in urban ‘cultural regeneration’ (Waitt 2008), particularly in postindustrial cities in which traditional manufacturing industries have declined and in which culture is used as a means of attracting service sector professionals (Voase 2009). However, a focus on festivals as ‘quick fix solutions’ for economic generation can mean that city authorities may disregard the significant social value of festivals (Quinn 2005). Festivals are marketplaces (McKay 2015b) and are increasingly used as a means of advertising via branding and sponsorship (cf Oakes 2003, 2010; Anderton 2008, 2011, 2015), although their effectiveness is questioned in some studies (Rowley and Williams 2008). The total direct and indirect spend generated by ‘music tourism’ for all medium to large-scale music festivals in the UK in 2014 was estimated at over £1.7 billion, sustaining 13,543 full time jobs (UK Music 2015).
Over 350 UK folk festivals generated spending of over £77 million each year (Morris Hargreaves McIntyre 2004); the spend by the Association of Independent Festivals member festival-goers between 2010 and 2014 was estimated to be approximately £1.01 billion (Webster 2014); and during 2006-2007, an estimated £41.8m was spent by arts festivals in the UK (SAM 2008). Economic impact assessments use different methodologies, hence the variation in numbers.
Festivals exist within a mixed economy (Andersson and Getz 2008; Payne 2012) and may themselves be charities or with charitable status (e.g. Cheltenham Festivals), or have internal structures which use different economic models (cf Posta et al 2014) and which allow the festival to fundraise, for educational projects or for campaigning and advocacy groups. Festivals also generate funds for external charitable or not-for-profit organisations, either directly or indirectly via awareness campaigns, trading and fundraising opportunities (Baker Associates 2007), although research into this aspect of festival impact is currently somewhat scarce. It is worth noting that the first Isle of Wight festival in 1968 was organised to raise funds for a local swimming pool (Hinton 1995).
All music festivals temporarily increase the population of a locale thereby putting pressure on essential facilities such as accommodation, transport, infrastructure, and even policing (McKay 2005). In addition, festivals have environmental impacts such as increased noise (Oakes and Warnaby 2011) or anti-social behaviour (Lynn Jones Research 2006), including increased crime levels, excessive drinking, and litter, or injustice/inconvenience such as traffic congestion/parking, and overcrowding (Mason and Beaumont-Kerridge 2004; Deery and Jago 2010; Hojman and Hiscock 2010).
“Reading Festival’s impact is wider than the very significant direct contribution it makes in terms of local employment and visitor spend in town centre businesses, in total over £31 million” – Reading UK CIC Communications Manager, Alex Brannen