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Study: The State of Live Music Fandom (guest post)


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More than a year after music stages went dark, the live music business is poised for a comeback this summer and fall.

With some of the largest festivals and tours announcing their line-ups and dates, and tickets selling out faster than your Chrome browser can refresh, all signs point to a healthy (albeit slow) recovery.

But, are music fans ready for a full return to in-person events with massive crowds, and can event organisers deliver on their heightened expectations?

Last month, MarketCast fielded a study with 1,000 live music fans in the U.S. between the ages of 18-49 years old, as well as analysed millions of social media posts about this summer’s festivals.

We’ve pulled together five key learnings from our study (below). If you are interested in learning more, we are providing full access to the report for free through our partnership with Music Ally. Download it here.

1. Music Fans “Can’t Wait” to Attend In-Person Live Music Events

Pandemic isolation has fans craving a shared experience again. According to the MarketCast State of Live Music Fandom study, close to 70 percent of live music fans report they “can’t wait to attend live music again.”

In fact, roughly half of fans say they are more interested in attending live music events in 2021 than they were before the pandemic. And, more than 50 percent of fans are willing to travel more than 150 miles to attend a music event.

Additionally, according to our social media analysis, there have been more than 400K posts about festivals announcing artist line-ups in just the last 30 days.

2. Fans Want to Experience Festivals as they Were Before the Pandemic

While the pandemic impacted how other forms of media is distributed and experienced, live music fans crave the same festival experience they’ve enjoyed before 2020.

According to our study, far and away the most important driver of festival attendance in 2021 is having a festival experience “like it was before the pandemic.” This even beat out having an appealing artist line-up, which was a distant second.

3. Opinions About Designated Areas for Vaccinated Fans is Split Down Political Lines

While COVID safety ranked lower on the priority list for those likely to attend a festival in 2021, fans are open to a wide range of health protocols – from mask wearing and COVID testing to having designated areas for vaccinated fans.

In fact, more than 50% of fans feel positive about the concept of having designated viewing areas for vaccinated fans as long as it does not restrict their access to the full festival experience.

However, Republican leaning fans are twice as likely as their Democratic counterparts to pushback on areas designated for those vaccinated.

4. Hip-Hop and R&B are the Top Genres for Likely Event Attendees

Music fans are expecting an eclectic mix of artists and genres at this year’s events. Of likely festival attendees in 2021, 40 percent report their favourite genres are Hip Hop, Rap and R&B, with Rock and Alternative fans running second at 32 percent.

On social media, 8 of the top 10 most buzzed about music festivals are featuring Hip Hop headliners, including Rolling Loud and Pitchfork Fest.

In fact, Rolling Loud, the largest Hip Hop music festival in the world, enjoyed a 41 percent share of voice on social media of the top 10 most discussed music festivals in 2021.

5. Music Fans are Interested in Purchasing Festival Streaming Passes

One significant change for the music industry during the pandemic is the embrace of virtual, live music events by artists and audiences.

Upstart streaming services, like Stageit, Couchtour.tv, Nugs.net and LiveXLive, tried to fill live music’s void, staging virtual shows from studios, living rooms and parking lots.

As America’s music stages return, more than 80% of fans say they are now interested in purchasing virtual streaming passes for their favourite festivals – offering additional opportunities for organisers and streamers to drive revenue as well as sponsors to connect with fans.

As music fans ourselves, we are thrilled to see fans craving the return of in-person festivals and concerts. This fan enthusiasm is important to artists and everyone else involved in organising, staging, promoting and sponsoring these amazing events. If vaccine programs continue to succeed and national and local safety guidelines are lifted, we anticipate a very positive summer and fall for everyone in the business of live music.

If you are interested in seeing our full State of Live Music Fandom report, which includes more in-depth fan opinions and key drivers of fan interest, you can download it here (for free).

Graham McKenna is the CMO of MarketCast, a market research and data science company focused on building fandom for the world’s top media and entertainment businesses. Before joining MarketCast he led marketing for Nielsen Media and Gracenote.

Photo by Blakesberg Photography.

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