An announcement was made last week that the CMA will investigate Live Nation’s acquisition of the Isle of Wight festival. Event News Today asks, is this the beginning of the end for independent festivals?
Summer is just around the corner and festival season is nearly upon us. And when it comes to selecting the right event to attend, for some music fans size really does matter.
News broke in March that live entertainment behemoth Live Nation has bought a controlling stake in the Isle of Wight festival. The acquisition marks the company’s sixth buyout in 2017 alone, and takes its tally of festivals around the world to over 85, including big names such as Reading & Leeds, Download, Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo.
Speaking of the acquisition, agent and promotor of the Isle of Wight festival, John Giddings explained, “After 15 hugely successful and glorious years, we have been looking at how we can elevate and take the Isle of Wight Festival to the next level. This partnership with Live Nation will give us the ability to access the company’s scale and talent pool, bringing more acts and a better experience to the UK.”
In other words, due to its size and global reach, Live Nation is more easily able to attract artists to exclusive UK festival appearances than had the Isle of Wight festival remained independent. But what it also marks is the death knell of major independent festivals – the Isle of Wight having been the last one standing.
It’s perhaps understandable that Giddings will welcome the opportunity that teaming up with Live Nation can offer. Not only does it provide a safety net of corporate dollars to help with ever increasing festival running costs, but it also offers access to the biggest artists on the live circuit. With so many big name festivals owned by so few, however, the festival experience is at risk of becoming stale.
It’s a state of affairs recognised by the Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA). Following the takeover announcement, the CMA has deemed the acquisition a “substantial lessening of competition”; a competition the Isle of Wight festival had played a strong hand in, with headline performances from The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Fleetwood Mac and Queen + Adam Lambert since its 2002 revival.
Of course, by attracting the biggest names in music to the festival is of great importance; without the artists, no one would buy tickets. But, for many, attending festivals is about more than just the music: it’s an experience. In fact, industry insiders believe that, in a currently over-saturated market, it will be the smaller, boutique festivals thinking outside the box and offering a unique event that will ultimately stand the test of time.
The CMA has requested that the Isle of Wight festival continues to operate separately while the investigation is ongoing. As yet, there has been no indication as to how long the investigation will last.
Live Nation has previously been under investigation by the CMA when it bought out festival and venue operators MAMA & Company in 2015. It has also come under fire in the past from artists and consumer rights groups for their merger with Ticketmaster, creating a near-monopoly in event ticketing.