37. The ‘tragic’ clubbing age is now the average music festival age

Article by News.com.au /
July 24, 2017 /
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JUST two weeks ago, results of a survey of 5000 British adults put an exact figure on the age they considered it to be “tragic” to still be nightclubbing. 37.

So, what must they thinking that almost that exact age — 36 years and eight months, to be precise — is now the average age of attendees at the UK’s annual Glastonbury music festival?

And if Byron Bay’s Splendour in the Grass festival at the weekend tells us anything, it’s that things are not much different in Australia.

Even if you weren’t in attendance at Splendour at the weekend, you have probably heard all about the surprise reunion of Powderfinger.

The Brisbane band that formed in 1989 and arguably peaked with the release of Odyssey Number Five in 2000, reformed unannounced during the scheduled solo set of former lead singer Bernard Fanning to belt out a couple of their classics.

Their reception was nothing short of rapturous.

It’s easy to assume that the average festival-going age will remain somewhere in the mid-20s into perpetuity but this appearance tells us otherwise.

Those in that age bracket were still in primary school when Powderfinger’s two biggest albums, Odyssey Number Five and 2004’s Vulture Street, were released.

The audience’s excitable reaction supports what the statistics from music festivals abroad tell us — attendees are getting demonstrably older.

Back in 2015, The Economist reported the average age of headline acts at nine British festivals rose from 31 in 1996, to 43 in 2015.

They have apparently dragged their audiences along for the ride.

Last year, London’s The Telegraph reported that 33 is now the average age of attendees at UK music festivals while at Glastonbury specifically, it’s 36 years 8 months.

Splendour in the Grass organisers declined to respond to requests from news.com.au about the average age of its attendees.

While, as ever, there was no shortage of young, scantily clad attendees at the Byron Bay festival at the weekend, demonstrating music festivals remain as popular as always with that demographic, apparently, the people who fell into that age group a decade or so ago have no intention of quitting.

They continue to buy tickets and in no small number.

At California’s famed annual festival Coachella last year, older women, in particular, were so vast in number they were dubbed the Coachella Cougars.

At Splendour, the Powderfinger reunion surprise came, Bernard Fanning explained, to mark the 10th anniversary of their last Splendour appearance, in 2007.

It’s easy to surmise that many of this year’s crowd were also in attendance at that gig.

So, what is going on?

University of Melbourne social scientist and pop culture expert Dr Lauren Rosewarne said unlike in their parents generation, people aged in their 30s and 40s are not prioritising paying off “locked-in-until-you-die” mortgages.

She said there was a combinations of factors fuelling the age rise — men and women who remain single and continue to enjoy the activities they always have, and those who may either have separated and be returning to the activities of their youth, or, trying to recapture some of the freedom of their youth.

“Travel and attending concerts and those sort of things are more important than getting into a mortgage-til-you-die for this generation,” she said.

“There are multiple ways to read attendance.

“The idea of an age limit for concerts and live gigs no longer exists, that’s starting to break down and going to a live music event can be a way to relive your youth, get away from the kids for the weekend.

“Music has such a nostalgia to it, it can transport you back to great times in your life.”

But she said, ultimately, people are simply choosing not to give up the things they love doing because of their age.

Many attendees at Splendour took the kids along with them.

“Adults are spending money differently on entertainment and recreation than they did in our parents generation,” she said.

And with three-day event tickets going for $375, those established in their careers are much more likely to be able to purchase tickets.

“Priorities have changed, this idea of the ‘kidult’, older people being involved in youth culture, that’s changing, and adults are more likely to consume things like video games and other things that were traditionally targeted at younger audiences,” Dr Rosewarne said.