Festival and event organisers may have to rely on crowd-funding campaigns and donations from philanthropists to keep running in the face of the public spending squeeze, one of Scotland’s leading industry experts has warned.
Paul Bush, VisitScotland’s director of events, said organisers would have to be increasingly innovative to remain sustainable as they grapple with dwindling resources, spiralling costs and security concerns.
He has predicted the next decade will be “very tough financially” for the events industry
He admitted they were likely to have to increasingly demonstrating the wider impacts of their event on society in order to secure funding.
The Edinburgh Mela, Wickerman, Brew at the Bog, Perthshire Amber and T in the Park are among the festivals to disappear from the landscape in Scotland in recent years, while the new Argyll Gathering was cancelled last summer just two weeks before it was due to be held in Helensburgh.
Mr Bush also suggested “profit-sharing” deals with public funders may become increasingly common in future.
He said: “Scotland has been very successful and probably very lucky in the last 10 years in terms of its events portfolio.
We’ve hosted some of the biggest and finest events in the world, including the Commonwealth Games, the Ryder Cup, the MTV Europe Music Awards.
“But we’re at a point now where the next 10 years will be very, very tough financially. We’ve already gone through a period of austerity. Whether that remains or not is hard to say, but the pressure on public finances will increase.
“Events will need to be innovative to remain sustainable.
“There will always be the traditional model of government grants towards stellar events that we still want to attract for economic or profile reasons.
“But I also think there are two or three models that we will need to think about carefully in future.
“Crowdfunding around community events will be quite interesting.
“Campaigns are often quite successful in raising and a lot of the events in our national programme are very community-focused.
“Then there are the music, arts or small sports events in far-flung corners of Scotland which might be attractive to benefactors or philanthropists.
“There could also be a model around a joint venture, where you have the government, the event organiser and a third party come together to deliver an event.
“The third model would be where they would be shared profit. The government could seed-fund an event to get an event off the ground, then move away, but would get a share of any profits, which would be ploughed back into the events industry.
“We want to ensure we are investing in an event for the right outcomes in future - a better bang for your buck, if you like.
“We’ve got to look at the 360 degree life cycle of an event and what it does for health, education, society, young people, old people and local communities.
“The industry has got to be more savvy in demonstrating the benefits of an event and making sure it has a real impact.”
Mr Bush has oversee the staging of some of the biggest events in the world in Scotland over the last decade, including the Ryder Cup, the Commonwealth Games and the MTV Europe Music Awards.
Others on the horizon include the multi-sport European Championships which are being staged in Scotland in 2018, the Solheim Cup golf tournament ini 2019 and the Euro 2020 football tournament, which will see Glasgow host a number of matches in 2020.
Mr Bush added: It’s an exciting time for the industry if it grasps the opportunities.
“It to ensure that it is offering the right package to its customers. Scotland has a lot of authenticity, but event organisers have to ensure that there are bespoke packages around events, including opportunities that are sold at a higher prize."