Small festivals accelerator

Developing a sustainable business model for small and medium sized festivals in peripheral areas.

SMA! is a newly initiated project supported by the Creative Europe Programme and run by organisations and festivals in Italy, Spain, Macedonia, Estonia and Germany. Our aim is to develop a sustainable business model for small and medium sized festivals in peripheral areas. These sorts of festivals create an enormous amount of value for their local communities and the visitors they
attract from all over the world. Unfortunately though, these festivals face a long line of challenges for a number of reasons. This project aims at mapping challenges and good practices in order to create a sustainable business model.

Creating value and enhancing local identities

Music is one of the most important and popular cultural forms with a wide and diverse audience reach. Festivals facilitate the development of musical artists and professional talent. They employ more people than the film industry, generate billions of Euros in revenue, enhance the identity of local areas and attract thousands of tourists. In other words, festivals put people and places on the cultural map and money in the bank.

Unfortunately, a lot of festivals face a list of challenges, not least of which is the lack of institutional support such as adequate funding, rapidly changing market trends and an unequal distribution of power in the industry.

Build from love but not always supported

At the moment, we are in the early stage of the research phase, and our first interviews were, naturally, very much impacted by the current semi lockdown caused by the pandemic. The three festivals that we have interviewed so far state that they face challenges such as:

Reaching planned financial targets,
maintaining public-private relationships,
maintaining loyal audiences,
training staff,
looking for sponsors,
developing a digital strategy,
internationalising the artistic programming,
and developing a volunteering programme

Our research suggests that festivals are often born out of a love of music and passion for bringing
people together in peaceful and democratic ways. The purpose is not to make money, but of course
funding is necessary to set up concerts, provide electricity, clean up, hire staff etc. The people
behind the festivals are very generous and passionate but they often need support and a more
sustainable business and development of new skills.

Income differentiation is part of the solution

Markets and trends can change very fast, and for a festival to be sustainable, it is key to rely on multiple sources of income, and not just a few. For our participants, income sources include tickets, hospitality, merchandise, public support and private funders etc. we need to work more on a new value proposition.

As we are still in the research phase, we don’t yet know how the business model will be. But according to one participant, the key to festival management is to find one’s gold, the thing that makes a festival unique, whether it is location, hospitality, musical genre, reputation or other things, and then people will want to buy into it. As another participant put it ‘’sponsors must marry the festival’s values’’ in order to buy into the image of the festival and remain trustworthy.

Project leader: Glenn Gould Association, Italy

Project Partners: MeltingPro Learning (Italy), Turismo Vivencial (Spain), Raum3 Konzertveranstaltung GMBH (Germany), Password Production Doo Skopje (Macedonia), Music Estonia (Estonia)

project partners