The year 2021 brought live events back

Tampere Region Festivals analyses annually the visitor development of the festivals and events, as well as the personnel and financial indicators. A total of 32 events from 11 municipalities participated in a survey addressed to festivals organised in 2021.

The second year of the Covid-19 pandemic gradually opened up the events sector

In 2021, 24 of all the festivals in the Tampere Region were held live and four were held online. Four events were cancelled due to the Covid-related restrictions: the music and culture event Art Festivo, the hip-hop festival Blockfest, the puppet theatre festival MUKAMAS and the stand-up comedy festival Tomatoes! Tomatoes! However, the number of completely cancelled events was lower than in the first year of the pandemic (2020), when as many as 19 events had to be cancelled.
Of the live events, eight were carried out without any restrictions and 16 with special arrangements. Due to the physical distancing requirement, many events had to limit the number of participants, and some events were organised in a hybrid format, i.e., partly on site and partly via streaming. Tampere Kuplii, the Tampere Vocal Music Festival, the Tampere Guitar Festival and the Tampere Film Festival were organised exclusively online.

Festival income far from normal

The intermittently eased restrictions on live events were reflected in both the number of festival visitors and the festivals’ economy. In 2021, live and online events together attracted a total of 540,074 visits, compared to 183,445 visits in 2020.
Of the total number of visits to festivals, the online events had 176,056 views. The Tampere Film Festival and the Tampere Guitar Festival online programmes attracted the biggest at-home audiences. Among the summer live events, the Mänttä Art Festival, the Finlayson Art Area, the Tampere Theatre Festival and the Tampere Chamber Music Festival in hybrid format attracted the highest number of visitors.

The total ticket sales revenue of all events in 2021 amount to €1,279,447. Compared to the disastrous year 2020, there was an increase of 49.46%, but also in terms of revenue, the state of the economy in the events industry is still far from the latest normal year (2019), when the total ticket sales revenue of the Tampere Region festivals was €7,625,604.

Streaming is here to stay

According to a survey addressed to event organisers, different hybrid formats are becoming an established feature of future events, with up to 73% of events considering partial streaming likely to continue in the future. Especially the encouraging feedback from the audience and the improved accessibility of events through streaming motivate event organisers to increase online programming.

However, compared to the first year of Covid-19, there is a noticeable change in the audience base of online events: while in 2020 more than 30% of the streaming viewers were new to the event, in 2021 only 8% of the viewers were first-time viewers. On the other hand, visitor satisfaction in online events does not compare to the on-site experience, either. In 2021, online events had a recommendation index of 53, while that of live events was as high as 81.

Event organisers to the limit of coping

Despite the positive changes, 2021 was an extremely difficult year for festival organisers. Some events were only able to accept 25–30% of the usual number of visitors, which resulted in a significant loss of revenue. Several events were shortened, dates were rearranged throughout the year, and major changes to event organisation and spatial planning had to be made at short notice. Due to entry restrictions, the participation of international performers and visitors had to be cancelled, and in many cases the programmes had to be redone as well. The increased requirements in terms of hygiene and security measures demanded additional resources, and the use of Covid passports during the events at the end of the year also increased staffing needs.

The comments from event organisers clearly show the fatigue and frustration associated with the uncertainty caused by the pandemic and the unexpected changes in the event industry. However, the public’s confidence and satisfaction with professionally organised events remains strong, with almost 85% of 2021 event-goers willing to recommend live events organised during the pandemic.

The organisers’ experiences from 2021:

“It was a difficult, arduous and unrewarding year in many ways. With the ever-present uncertainty, it was exhausting to postpone, reschedule, cancel and agree various matters and inform the clients and members, etc. Attendances were really low, because our target group clearly wasn’t willing to come to public events.”

“The restrictions on attendances and licensing hours were only lifted about a week before the event, making it difficult to sell tickets, as the remaining festival passes could only be put up for sale at that time. The schedules of all the gigs also changed as the restrictions on licensing changed several times.”

“The year 2021 was extremely difficult. It was a disaster from a financial point of view and unrewarding for the organisers. Fortunately, the visitors didn’t experience the same feelings, but quite the opposite. All visitors felt that it was a great, ambitious and courageous decision to organise the event, even if the programme had to be trimmed down. All the required arrangements for public health security were also made, and we received positive feedback on them.”

Kuva: Laura Lempola, Lost in Music 2021