The Festival economy

The Value of Festivals Statistically

The Business and Arts South Africa (BASA) Artstrack 7 report indicates that 92% of the adult population are interested in music, 72% passionate about it and 51% attend on average 2.7 festivals per year.

Music festivals offer festival goers (festino’s), a unique and life enhancing experience at an affordable price. And this creates jobs, generates tax revenues and benefits hotels, travel, media and tourist businesses. Many festivals are making huge contributions to their local economies.
The Cape Town International Jazz Festival, now in its 18th year, has an attendance of 34 000 and impacts R685 million on the national GDP. Joy of Jazz, now in its 20th year, attracts 22 000 people and impacts R600 million on Gauteng’s GDP. The National Arts Festival (NAF) has a R400 million impact on the Eastern Cape, whilst smaller festivals such as Buyel’ EKhaya in Buffalo City impacts R25.8 million.
TREES (Tourism Research in Economic Environs and Society), a research unit at North West University estimates that there are 600 cultural festivals in South Africa. These festivals make up 10 – 15% of the creative economy. The creative economy includes all cultural and creative Industries (CCIs) and contributes R90.5 billion (2,9%) to SA’s gross domestic product (GDP). The sector creates 562 000 jobs; equal to mining.
Festivals contribute R9 – R12 billion to the national GDP, and the contribution is growing at 10% per annum. Such impressive statistics prompted the DAC to fund the South African Cultural Observatory (SACO) in 2015. SACO is a national research centre for the economic and social value of the arts, culture and heritage sectors in South Africa. SACO is currently testing a valuation framework for publically funded events, like music festivals.
Touring circuits, which provide economies of scale, have made a contribution to the growth of festivals. MTN Bushfire in Swaziland, has become the centre of the Southern African Music Festival Circuit, combining festival experiences with tour packages, linking the cultural hubs of Johannesburg, Durban, Maputo, Reunion, Swaziland and Harare throughout Africa Month; May. Bushfire is a major contributor to the Swazi economy, with an induced impact of R6 for every rand spent at the festival, amounting to R120 million annually.
The City of Durban has also enjoyed increased revenue and exposure for the city through music festivals. Distinct KZN music styles such as ischatimiya, maskanda and ngoma add to the attraction of the Durban brand. The Durban International Jazz Experience, Fact Durban Rocks, Essence festival and Woza Durban all attract on average 15 000 people to the event, whilst impacting about R30 million on the economy. Festivals are a great opportunity for sponsors to engage with a niche and loyal audience. Brands can stay in touch with their audience throughout the year using clever social / digital media campaigns as tickets and accommodation are booked and excitement for the event builds. On-site activation opportunities are immense.
Festival sponsorship is worth some R350 million annually in South Africa and is growing. Standard Bank enjoys massive brand equity through its long term and growing sponsorship of jazz, with events in Ghana, Malawi, Mauritius and Zambia. Superbalist fashion label has picked up title sponsorship of Rocking the Daisies and Jeep is title sponsor of Morejazz Maputo. The annual Samsung Rage festival on the North Coast of KZN has grown in its 12 years to an attendance of 20 000 and a R150 million impact. Rage is a pioneer in the youth market and at the forefront of some of the changes in media and technology that are spearheading the global growth in the festival sector. Event organiser, Greg Walsh of G & G promotions says, “The complexity of events is accelerating at a rapid rate. Technology solutions on-site include live to social media, NFC [near field communication], RFID, [radio frequency identification] and cashless offerings,
as well as the latest technical innovations in lighting, sound and special effects. It all creates growth.”
The growth in festivals over the last 20 years has rendered the night-clubbing scene as almost extinct, with live music venues in danger of going the same way. Platforms for live music have expanded into other entertainment and lifestyle spaces, such as night markets, pop-up shops and shows, home gigs, whilst the revival of social clubs and cultural centres is creating valuable spaces for bringing audiences and entertainers together.
BASA award winner, Concerts SA, administers Norwegian funds to a selection of small live music venues around the country. Their latest study on live music venues, ‘It starts with a Heartbeat,’ illustrates that live music performance spaces play a significant role in developing and nurturing young emerging talent and artistic innovation. Live music venues contribute to career and scene development that feeds the programming of big festivals. This is true in Swaziland where the Bushfire festival grew out of the House of Fire venue and in Newtown where the Africa Day festival grew out of the Bassline. Music and cultural festivals continue to grow, presenting world class live music to larger, more youthful and diverse festival audiences, whilst making a greater contribution to social cohesion and harmony.

Changes in the way people enjoy music have created a network of venues and a creative economy that contributes almost 3% of GDP. Mega-music and cultural festivals are a growing global phenomenon and an important economic driver for many towns.

Struan Douglas

Struan Douglas is a writer and musician based in South Africa.