Why do audiences attend festivals? – Emma Webster

As part of my research at the EFG London Jazz Festival, I have been speaking to audience members about what they get out of festivals and why they attend. The following is a brief overview of just some of the themes that have arisen so far:-

  • Seeing ‘the greats’ such as Keith Jarrett or Sonny Rollins
  • Discovering new artists, both as a fan and also as a booker of live music- festivals can be an opportunity to keep up with what’s musically current
  • Learning new instrumental techniques
  • Being inspired by other musicians to play better
  • Finding new venues
  • Making new friends / acquaintances with people who share one’s interests
  • An excuse for meeting up with old friends and family
  • An excuse for a holiday / break from work
  • Escapism
  • Helping to sort the wheat from the chaff in terms of what to go and see – for one attendee, festivals are a mark of quality, particularly in a city such as London with such a high volume of cultural activity

As I speak to more people, I will update this list (which is certainly not definitive). In the meantime, perhaps you would like to add in your own reasons for attending festivals in your own words.

I should add that motivation for festival attendance is a topic already well served in the academic literature – see my report for the Association of Independent Festival for a brief summary (Webster 2014, pp. 20-1).


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