Hardcore Festies:

The Driving Force Behind Today’s Growth in 
Music Festivals

It’s not just about the music. It’s the feeling I get when I’m there, the feeling of being alive — and I’ve been chasing it 
ever since.

— Krista, 33

Krista is what you might call a hardcore festival fan. She’s been going to multiple music festivals every year for the past several years and doesn’t see herself slowing down anytime soon.

Krista’s not alone in her enthusiasm. Thirty two million people go to at least one U.S. music festival every year.1 But even with such massive attendance, there’s a degree of uncertainty in the industry.

With festivals like TomorrowWorld and Wakarusa canceling this year, Bonnaroo’s ticket sales hitting an all-time low, and numerous other players going out of business or selling to corporations, it’s natural to question whether the market is plateauing — or even if we’re in a bubble that will soon burst.

Eventbrite has been ingrained in this industry for the past decade, processing tens of millions of tickets to music festivals and concerts. In an effort to provide new insight into the state of the music festival industry and the fans who drive it, we worked with independent research company MusicWatch, Inc. to survey over 1,000 18—49 year-olds in North America who attended at least one music festival in the past 12 months.

We uncovered a range of insights around how much people are spending and why they’re attending (more on that below). We also learned that despite industry speculation, demand for music festivals is still strong: nearly 40% of festival attendees said they went to more music festivals this year compared to last year (41% attended the same amount), and over half plan to attend even more festivals next year.

But the most important thing we learned? One type of festival attendee is driving more growth for music festivals than all the rest.

One out of every five festival attendees spends more on music festival tickets in a year than the other four attendees combined.

So... who is this standout attendee?

Hardcore Festies and the 80/20 Rule

As a festival organizer, you already know that some fans drive more revenue than others. Whether they’re your VIP buyers or your repeat attendees, these hardcore festival fans may be the 20% of your customers who drive the lion’s share of your business. But how can you identify and target this audience, so you can focus your efforts and sell more tickets?

We looked at several factors that impact how valuable a festival-goer might be: their average ticket spend, how many festivals they attend per year, how influential they are in getting friends to go, how often they go back to the same festivals, and many more.

When we analyzed the data, we found that festival-goers clustered into three distinct groups:

  • 1. Hardcore festies: 20% of all festival-goers; attend an average of five to six festivals each year
  • 2. Moderate festies: 50% of all festival-goers; attend two to three festivals each year
  • 3. Casual festies: 30% of all festival-goers; attend one festival each year

Hardcore festies spend 78% more on a typical festival ticket than casual festies.

Hardcore festies are not only attending more events overall, they’re also more valuable to each festival: they're spending $91 (or 78%) more on a typical festival ticket compared to casual festies, and often attend their favorite festivals many times.

In fact, hardcore festies outrank casual festies in VIP purchasing, social influence, and virtually every other aspect of spending, attendance, and engagement.

How Hardcore Festies Compare to Casual Festies

While festival producers want to reach every potential attendee, doubling down on the valuable 20% can power your business’ growth.

So exactly who is this superfan?

Meet the Hardcore Festie

The typical hardcore festie is 32 years old and skews male. They don’t just have outsized enthusiasm for festivals — they also appear to be big spenders on music overall.

Hardcore festies are 76% more likely than casual festies to have purchased a digital download, 36% more likely to have bought a CD or vinyl record, and 76% more likely to have listened to music on satellite radio in the past year.

Dissecting the Hardcore Festie

Hardcore festies know what they like. More than half say they would rather attend smaller, niche festivals catering to their specific interests than mainstream festivals (vs. 43% of casual festies). They are also twice as likely as casual festies to believe festivals today are too corporate.

Hardcore festies are 2x more likely than casual festies to think festivals today are too corporate.

Something keeps hardcore festies coming back for more — perhaps the feeling of community that 77% of this group say they get from attending music festivals (vs. 61% of casual festies).

That sense of community might also be why hardcore festies have serious brand loyalty for certain festivals, attending their favorite events an average of three times.

Hardcore festies go to their favorite music festival an average of three times.

The festivals that have captured the hearts and wallets of the most hardcore festies?

The Top Five U.S. Music Festivals Hardcore Festies Attend

But before you can win their loyalty, you have to win them over for year one. Now let’s dive into why hardcore festies choose one festival over another.

Getting the Hardcore Festie to Your Festival

Hardcore festies discover their next festival through many different sources — so how do you know which channels to focus on?

This group is much more likely than casual festies to learn about festivals through ticketing providers, artists, event listing sites, streaming or video apps, and online or print publications.

How Hardcore Festies Learn about Music Festivals

Once they learn about a festival, what convinces a hardcore festie to convert to a ticket purchase? It helps to know exactly what motivates this group to hit “Buy” — which as it turns out is primarily the artists:

The #1 Reason Hardcore Festies Decide to Go to a Music Festival

For festivals looking to reach out-of-towners, it’s good to know that many hardcore festies are willing to travel: over half (51%) have traveled outside of their state or province to attend a festival (vs. 34% of casual festies).

This group also seems to be willing to throw down on an upgraded experience — 32% say they typically purchase VIP festival tickets (vs. nine percent of casual festies).

Amongst hardcore festies who purchased VIP in the past, about half are willing to pay 2x or more the cost of a general admission ticket for exclusive perks, including access to artist lounges, viewing areas close to the stage, and free drinks.

Forty percent who have purchased VIP in the past are willing to pay at least double the price of GA for access to VIP restrooms and faster, private entry.

When asked about the most they ever spent on a festival ticket, hardcore festies averaged $419 per ticket — a full 56% higher than the typical North American festival-goer.

Now that we know what draws the hardcore festie to a festival, let’s dive deeper into their on-site preferences.

Hardcore Festies are More Tech-Friendly and Engaged Onsite

As a festival producer, some of the most financially important decisions you make about your event are around technology. So how important are investments in RFID wristbands, cashless payments, and live streaming to hardcore festies?

While all of the segments preferred to use wristbands for festival entry, hardcore festies were much more interested in using similar technology for payments.

Compared to casual festies, hardcore festies are 50% more likely to consider using a wristband to pay for concessions and merch.

In general, hardcore festies are more active on social while at a festival, being 59% more likely to use Snapchat and twice as likely to use Instagram than casual festies. Across all groups, Facebook is the most popular social app used at a festival, followed by Instagram and Snapchat.

When they can’t attend a music festival, hardcore festies are more likely than casual festies to participate virtually. 71% say they would be interested in viewing a festival’s live stream (vs. 46% of casual festies).

Two-thirds say they have watched a festival’s live stream in the past year (vs. a quarter of casual festies). These statistics suggest that investing in live streaming technology can pay off in the form of hardcore festie engagement and loyalty.

Hardcore Festies are Driving Growth for Music Festivals

What does all of this mean? Put simply, hardcore festies are disproportionately driving growth for music festivals. How? By spending, attending, and engaging more than other festival-goers.

Our survey reveals that consumer demand for music festivals is healthy — and even growing. But there are also more festivals than ever before, making it harder for festival producers to turn a profit; that’s why the hardcore festie is so critical to the success of your business.

Compared to other festival-goers, hardcore festies accounted for double the amount of growth in attendance in the past year. And while hardcore festies only make up one-fifth of festival attendees, they account for over half of the total annual spend on festival tickets.

For hardcore festies like Krista, it’s not just about chasing the next thrill – music festivals make them feel more alive.

Ready to put these insights into action? Start planning for your next festival now with our guide to building a music festival marketing plan designed to attract hardcore festies.

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About this study

These findings are from a survey conducted by MusicWatch, Inc. from June 17-28, 2016 on behalf of Eventbrite. A sample of 1,044 adults age 18-49 from the Quest Mindshare North America panel were surveyed online in English.

1 Nielsen’s Audience Insights Report on Music Festivals

Photo credits: Full width photo of Lightning in a Bottle, Nam-Chi Van, Instagram/@namchivan. Thumbnail of Lightning in a Bottle, Daniel Zetterstrom.

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