Live Music and Festivals: The New Luxury Events?


Oliver Williams | May 23, 2018

Luxury brands are increasingly leveraging music festivals to turn young and affluent attendees into customers, with some going as far as to run their own events and concerts.

Luxury brands would have once distanced themselves as far as possible from the mud and grime of a music festival. Today, however, they cannot get enough of the summer festival season with some even running their own concerts and events. What has caused this change in tune? And how can luxury brands best position themselves alongside music and festivals?

Why Festivals Matter

Luxury consumers can be found in abundance at racecourses, regattas and other seasonal sporting events. Every year brands compete for sponsorship rights in the hope that some of their attendees will turn into customers.

Younger generations spend their time differently, however. While some of their forebears would not be seen dead at a music festival, a growing number of affluent millennials and Gen Z attend several festivals and concerts every year.  

Most of the 14 million people in the UK (OnePoll) and 32 million in the US (Billboard) who have attended a festival in the past two years fall into these age brackets and luxury brands can no longer ignore them: Bain & Co predicts that by 2025 millennials will count for 40 percent of the global luxury market and Gen Z five percent; figures that will only build beyond 2020.   

Festival Fashion and Instagram Installations

Coachella traditionally kicks off the annual festival season and, in the build-up to April’s big event, luxury fashion houses ready seasonal festival fashion lines. Their target audience is less about the quarter of a million attendees at Coachella than the quarter of a billion reached through social media.

Through social media, the music festival becomes a little more than a backdrop to the involuntary catwalk that is beamed across the world to millions. Influencers and celebrities are clad in the latest lines for the occasion and countless others coaxed into branded installations designed for maximum Instagram-ability.  

This year saw Swarovski send Chiara Ferragni to Coachella in a new jewellery line, Gigi Hadid announced a new Moschino collaboration with H&M; and Revolve styled over 450 influencers for the festival.

Image credit: H&M.; Image: Jeremy Scott and Gigi Hadid in the first looks from the HMoschino collection. 

Music Matters

For most festival goers, however, music is more important than fashion. Unexpected hits between live music and luxury include Burberry Acoustic, a series of performances and recordings of young British artists pioneered by former CEO Christopher Bailey. As well as accompanying catwalks, Burberry Acoustic acts as another social media channel, attracting nearly 3 million views on YouTube.

Luxury department stores have also used music to get more young consumers through their doors, picking up on research that millennials prefer experiences over goods. Macy’s hosts ‘mini-concerts’ in New York, Selfridges has ‘Music Matters’ in London and Galeries Lafayette hosts ‘Music Machines’ in Paris. These live performances are often run in-line with other festival-esque experiences such as yoga classes, cookery courses and other pop-ups.

Beyond the Music

One major change to festivals over the past decade has been a focus on other attractions to appeal to a wider audience. Whereas food and drink were merely prerequisites to performances, their roles are now often reversed.

This provides another avenue for luxury brands to gain exposure at festivals. Mulberry have hosted picnics at Wilderness Festival in the UK, an event that spends and promotes as much on its food as music. The same event hosts a Veuve Clicquot bar while other champagne houses are touring the country this year: Laurent Perrier is at Cornwall’s Great Estate Festival and Bollinger at Hay Festival.

Branded Festivals

Few luxury brands have managed to marry the commune-spirit with the commercial by running their own festival. Krug Champagne pioneered the luxury festival with their 2016 ‘Krug Island’ and 2017 ‘Into the Wild’ one-day festivals in the English countryside which paired little known artists with big name chefs and, of course, Krug Champagne. With no plans for a 2018 event, however, Krug seems to have abandoned the concept.  

It is not only luxury brands who have struggled to get their own festivals off the ground. Drinks brand Innocent have dropped their ‘Un-plugged’ festival series, Apple their Apple Music Festival and Virgin their V Festival among countless others. Organisers have cited low ticket sales and high start-up costs among the reasons for ceasing these events. 

Image credit: Krug. Image: Into the Wild festival. 

Getting the Balance Right

The dichotomy of a festival organiser is to balance commercial forces against the bohemian utopia that runs deep in every festival. When one outweighs the other – as it often does at a branded festival – it puts people off. 

But the same forces apply to existing festivals. Attendees of Coachella recently felt it had become overly commercial and started the #Nochella movement boycotting the event. Though tickets prices and the personal views of its billionaire backer were blamed, major retail outlets on the festival grounds did it for some. 

These successes and failures show the careful balance that luxury brands need to strike when it comes to music and festivals. Like traditional sponsorship, however, the best results will come when a brand is paired with an event of similar values.  

Cover image credit: Swarovski. Image: Chiara Ferragni. 

Arts | Generation Z