Cost Shifts

METHOD Events’ James Dutton presents a breakdown a typical large-scale festival budget and discusses how things have changed in the last four years.

FestivalOpen Air Business asked me to create a rough breakdown of a festival production budget for this article. It’s worth noting that these splits will vary dramatically with the scale and nature of event, but I have worked with an example based on a large-scale, metropolitan festival over three days with no camping. I have omitted the entertainment and marketing spends as these sit with our clients, and are outside of our scope as a production company.

The unsurprising news here is how these costs have increased. Based on average unit cost increases for like-for-like items, 2021 showed a 5% increase up on 2019 (2020 was a year off for most events), where as 2022, costs were 15% up on 2021.

The outdoor events industry has been up against a perfect storm of Brexit, Covid and now an international conflict. This has changed the supply chain landscape in a number of ways:

Festival stage• There’s been a huge churn in personnel, whether it’s a driver shortage sparked by border controls and stagnant wages, or the loss of experienced staff and freelancers to other professions during the pandemic. Not to mention lack of progression and personal development within our industry as careers were not advancing for two years
• Many businesses reliant on the industry have been forced to downscale, selling off assets and laying off staff in order to stay afloat during lockdowns, with many not surviving. Others, have diversified into neighbouring sectors such as construction and film and TV, which involve longer hire periods and are therefore more profitable under rising transport costs
• Cost-push on key resources such as fuel and raw materials for fabrication, exacerbated by inflationary pressures from the global pandemic and the war in Ukraine have led to significant operating cost increases throughout the supply chain.

When the industry began to spin back up, it quickly became apparent that there were more events than infrastructure and experienced personnel needed to deliver them. This has resulted in an extremely turbulent planning cycle for large-scale outdoor events in 2022, with the relationships and trust between suppliers and event operators more important than ever.

Festival stageWe shall see this trend continuing next year as the industry continues to grapple with these issues, but at METHOD we are not perturbed by the prospect. It is still immensely gratifying to bring people together for large-scale cultural events, especially against such a gloomy backdrop. Event operators that are alert to these challenges, and able to plan, budget and procure early in the cycle can continue to deliver successful events.

If the government is forthcoming with support for our industry, we’d like it to be focused on the long-term health and modernisation of outdoor events, rather than an unsustainable short-term fix for what are hopefully short-term issues.

Festival lightsIt would be great to see stronger incentives to promote the use of more sustainable options, such as closing the price gap between HVO (a biofuel) and white diesel. Battery technology gets talked about a lot and has its uses, but for the scale of our temporary power provisions on the most remote sites, we will need vastly more investment (both government and otherwise) into green hydrogen infrastructure to make it an alternative while continuing to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and combustion engines.

cost analysis

James DuttonAbout the Author

James Dutton is managing director of METHOD Events, an independent production company focusing on the delivery of festivals, large outdoor events and the conversion of brownfield outdoor sites to new cultural spaces. Method produced the government’s largest Event Research Programme event, Tramlines (50,000 cap), a groundbreaking series at a derelict industrial site in north London (The Drumsheds), and unique events for brands including Nando’s and GroceryAid.


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