After two stormy years, large gatherings are finally back. But at what cost?
His goat jumps make the front stage vibrate as the compact audience roars. Orelsan is back. This year he is the king of the festivals, the king of the outdoor stages, the one whose name is in capital letters on most of the programming. For the directors of these events, a safe bet. And since the health crisis, they have become rare. In Carcassonne, Pascal Dupont, arms crossed in front of the stage of the Jean-Deschamps theatre, could see it. “Before, the international ones filled up the fastest,” explains the director of the city festival. From now on, it’s the French who have the advantage. And even there, Sexion d’Assaut or Louane struggle to sell. »
Also read: Carcassonne Festival: rock returns to the ramparts
There are two reasons for this: the public is hesitant towards foreign artists who would not cross the border if the government decides to tighten the screws, and a concern that is particularly visible in the medieval city, where the festival is usually populated by 17% foreigners , English no longer lands. “Brexit… sighs Pascal Dupont. We welcome John Legend this year, we would have received 1,500 Englishmen three years ago, they are no longer there! So it is not full. “Same observation at Mas des Escaravatiers in Var, where Ben Mazué sold out in two weeks, Vianney in nine days, as the Brits from Morcheeba, finished in no time in 2017, struggle to rally the crowds.
And the French are not as easy as before to have in their programming. “They are tougher in business. There is a terrible jealousy because they do not understand that they are paid less than in other countries,” reveals Pascal Dupont. It is true that it costs 400,000 euros to receive Simple Minds, while 80,000 euros for Benjamin Biolay is enough… But faced with the cancellations of the concerts, the artists have all increased their prices: from 15 to 30% compared to 2021. An envelope. it represents 35% to 40% of the total festival budget. And when negotiations were previously possible, today producers prefer to go to the highest bidder.“Our conditions are less human than before,” observes Pascal Dupont.
For Johnny Depp and Jeff Beck, only 95% of tickets have passed
Another big problem: singers look bigger and bigger. Their shows have become Dantesque, combining pyrotechnics, flames, dancers… And the budget explodes again. 40,000 euros for a single artist becomes 100,000 euros with an American-style scenography. More what to add to the technique. Hosting Stromæ this year means reinforcing the usual structures to support the extra tons of lighting for its incredible staging and providing twice as many staff. “Theatrical tours have increased,” explains Christophe Sabot, president of Olympia Production (Garorock, Les Déferlantes, Inversion, etc.).
As we work with two-thirds of the festival travel kit, it has also developed for us. The public is a winner, but ticket prices must rise. And there again it gets stuck. For the festivals, everyone applies to stay within a reasonable price rent and the spectators are ready to accept an increase of a maximum of 3 euros per day from one year to the next, which is not enough to balance the scale. “As independent, says Sébastien Costamagna (Le Mas des Escaravatiers), we adapt the price of the ticket to that of the stamp. Today, for certain artists, it will be necessary to go up to 200 euros per inhabitant to be included in our expenses. What I never will do. “
For Johnny Depp and Jeff Beck, Monte-Carlo Summer offered 500 seats at 250 euros and still lost money, only 95% of tickets were sold out. “It’s a choice, adds Sébastien Costamagna. Angèle is less present this year because many have done the math and preferred not to spend so much to get it. »
If the artist cannot play and he has a medical certificate, he will not receive his money and the public will be reimbursed
Especially because the stars of the scene have not been the only rising pole since the beginning of the health crisis. Festivals have had to deal with rising commodity prices, but above all with a lack of equipment and staff. “We all use the same service providers and hundreds of events are held at the same time this summer. It’s harder to get a stage or a truck than a headliner! notes Béatrice Desgranges, co-founder of Marsatac, in Marseille. Share of technology in the total budget: 40%. As an indication, 2000 people work at Garorock. Security companies have also inflated their prices. And to avoid fights, stabbings and sexual assaults, impossible to do without; the image and survival of the festivals depends on it. Most have boosted their device: additional cameras, “stewards” in the public and supporting mobile applications Of course, the insurance has discovered the vein.
No one covers the risks associated with Covid, but the teams had to keep their fingers in the wallet. “They have never been so expensive,” states Christophe Sabot. “On the other hand, if the artist can’t play and he has a medical certificate, it goes into the ‘unavailability’ box. At that point he doesn’t receive his money and the public is refunded,” adds Sébastien Costamagna. Typical example: Liam Gallagher’s two French cancellations . To foresee the risks, some have left the usual sales networks – Fnac, Ticketnet, Weezevent and others… – to create their own. Double advantage: Avoid fees (1.80 euros per ticket for Fnac, 1.95 for Leclerc …), but first of all manage refunds themselves. “The average customer who buys his seat at Fnac thinks that his money is in our pocket, whereas we touch him after the festival and that we have not control over the reservations, explains the director of the festival in Var. If you have your ticket office, you pay directly and you can refund directly. »
It’s harder to get a stage or a truck than a headliner!
Ah! The nostalgia is great for the time when the organizers only worried about the weather! And even there caution is required… After the storm that rocked Eurockéennes this summer (fourteen injured and two days cancelled), the Déferlantes organization spent four hours with a bailiff, the police and the fire department before finally getting permission from the insurance to play . “There was a bit of wind. Ten years ago we would have played without asking questions. Today no one would take the risk anymore”, admits the president of Olympia Production.
Fortunately, the recovery is also good. Starting with private patrons and local authorities who largely help finance these events and who have not deserted. As for the National Music Center, it has given those that opened – and achieved disastrous numbers – in 2021 a chance to get back on their feet. “Masks, no masks, tests, no tests, the rules were constantly changing and we were insulted, recalls Sébastien Costamagna. I had the worst fill rate in my history with 58%. »
While some, faced with the proliferation of festivals, are still struggling – Musilac in Aix-les-Bains, which barely broke out with 90,000 spectators – others, such as Solidays, Rock en Seine, Le Mas des Escaravatiers or Marsatac, broke attendance records . The increased costs do not allow them to make much profit (if any for Marsatac, for example), but everyone agrees that the public was happy to return. “At the start of the school year, we will make it a point to rethink our finances, announces Christophe Sabot. Society is changing, so are we. One thing is certain: There will be a before and an after Covid. »