Festival Fever Fading

Data shows mud and money steering young Aussies away from festivals and toward stadium acts

Stadium music concert

In a seismic ‘Swift’ shift of Australia’s music scene, new figures have revealed soaring costs, logistics and the threat of rain are leading young adults to swap the once-hallowed festival grounds for big overseas acts like P!NK and Taylor Swift.

The insights are derived from our exclusive survey and travel booking data. The survey of an independent panel of 1000 18 to 35-year-old Australians revealed the once revered festivals are fast losing their lustre, with a whopping 89 per cent citing multiple reasons deterring them such events.

Almost a third (31%) of respondents now prefer a headline act, such as Taylor Swift and P!NK, in a city stadium to festivals that are increasingly costly and can fast become a mud-bath.

Two thirds (66%) cited ticket prices as a major deterrent. More than one third (35%) are put off by the sheer logistical challenges of getting to festival locations as well as the general ‘festival atmosphere’. Multiple-day festivals across the nation are typically held in regional locations for space considerations, with some held as far out as the Simpson Desert in Queensland, which Adam speculates is now a tick in the wrong column for cash-strapped youth.

One third of 18-35s (33%) additionally want to avoid exposure to bad weather, with festivals generally having limited available shelter. Over half (58%) of female respondents cited safety concerns.

It comes just weeks after Byron Bay’s iconic Splendour in the Grass announced the 2024 event had been cancelled, with poor ticket sales a key reason. A three-day Splendour pass cost $399 plus fees. The Byron Bay event also made international headlines for all the wrong reasons two years ago when heavy rain turned the grounds into a hazardous mud pit .

Filming music concert on a smartphone

In conjunction with the survey, we analysed Flight Centre bookings to the Taylor Swift Eras Tour concerts in February. It discovered an 88 per cent increase in fare sales to Sydney around the concert dates (23-26 February) compared with the week prior.

Flight bookings to Melbourne around Swift’s concert dates there (16-18 February) increased by 89 per cent on the week prior. In comparison, Splendour in the Grass and BluesFest witnessed far lower flight booking volumes to their events. Flight bookings to Byron Bay’s Splendour in the Grass last year (specifically from 21-23 July) were 49 per cent higher than the week prior. We also compared flight volumes from to Byron Bay’s BluesFest this year (specifically 28 March to 1 April), and saw a mere 1.6 per cent increase in bookings on the week prior.

Our General Manager Adam Moon believes the combined survey and flight data paints a compelling picture of a major music culture shift across the country, with rising costs, the elements and logistics fuelling the trend.

Adam says: “Price, convenience and comfort are clearly steering fans towards headline acts in city stadiums, but our figures show that ‘FOMO’ is another factor. Major international artists only come to Australia every few years and the last time Taylor Swift toured Australia was in 2018. Festivals, however, are typically held every year.”

Swift’s Eras Tour was the first in history to gross over $1 billion USD, Pollstar figures showed.

Adam says: “This is proving to be a costly shift for festivals, with a recent report showing only half of the nation’s festivals are now profitable. But the statistics don’t necessarily signal the last dying breaths of the multi-day music event, but rather a chance for festival organisers to evolve.

“Providing more shelter, reducing ticket costs, ensuring safety and an inclusive atmosphere could breathe life back into this beloved Australian pastime.

“Perhaps now is the time to rekindle the flame of our homegrown talent and revisit the power of grassroots music. We’re a big believer of supporting artists of all stripes at Stage and Screen and we’re passionate about nurturing the very soul of Australian music.”

The shift away from festivals in their current form extends beyond Australia’s shores. The United States’s iconic Burning Man festival – where tickets cost between USD$575-2750 – witnessed a colossal popularity dip last year, with punters putting the shift down to cost-of-living strain and burnout.

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