Roland Wagner got out of his caravan, put up a folding table and arranged a few chairs around it for his wife Karin, five-year-old daughter Lea, and three-year-old son Luis. They would soon be off on a canoe tour and planned to take in the concert by British pop singer Alex Clare later. But first, they just wanted to chill out.
Nearby, other festival goers struggled to peg out their tents in a much less scenic patch of grass, close to the temporary toilets.
The Wagner family’s section featured asphalt paths, showers and much better toilet facilities – separate for men and women. Ambient lounge music drifted over the pleasant scene.
Festival fans used to all be equal when they arrived at the venue. They all slept in tents, drank beer from cans and danced together for hours in the dust or mud in front of the stage. Now, some still come to festivals to do just that, but others want more comfort, and a different experience.
“Of course, it’s different, much quieter than these visits used to be”
The typical festival-goer is between 18 and 24 and usually not very affluent. But now there is a new generation of older people, who like the music, but don’t like all the dirt – and they also have money to pay for a bit of luxury. So organizers are responding with new concepts, targeting the generation above 30 – and even the whole family.
The Wagners, for instance, drove from the northern German city of Kiel to Lüneburger Heide, a popular woodland area in Lower Saxony. They came for a new kind of music festival, “A Summer’s Tale,” which could be a prototype for a new generation of Woodstocks.
Everything was a little different. There were a few big stars performing, like Patti Smith and Damien Rice. But it was more than a mere musical experience. All around were readings, workshops and lectures. Visitors were catered to by decent food trucks – and even a dedicated “festival restaurant.” In between concerts, for €40, the restaurant offered guests a three-course menu with mushroom tapenade on beetroot Carpaccio and crab soup.
“I used to go to festivals regularly with friends. But at some point, that was just over,” said Roland Wagner.
Now he was back at one for the first time in seven years – and for the first time with his family. They booked the comfort camping package.
“Of course, it’s different, much quieter than these visits used to be,” he said. “But we are having a good time.”
It cost the family €450 for the weekend. A total of 7,000 fans visited “A Summer’s Tale,” including 1,500 who booked the comfort camping package. Organizers were quite happy with the turnout for their initial venture.
Peter Tschmuck, a professor for cultural and business studies said people now attend festivals for the same reasons they go on holiday, to spend time with people they like and to relax. “You get to spend a whole weekend with friends, usually a long way from home. Festivals are a social event.”
Music is not necessarily the main focus – and that suits organizers just fine. Festivals are often more lucrative than individual tours for music organizers too.
“Margins are much better,” said Folkert Koopmans, chief executive of FKP Scorpio, one of the biggest festival organizers.
With stadium tours, revenues from parking fees, souvenir and food sales are shared with the arenas, catering companies and other parties involved.
At an open-air festival nearly everything goes to the organizer.
But affluent older fans often want to go inside, where it is warm, clean and dry. Festival organizers are trying to adapt.
“We would like to target people of 25 and older who are interested in culture,” said the festival organizer, Mr. Koopmans. “And we are, by definition, family-friendly.”
“A Summer’s Tale,” for instance, included a circus school, not to mention canoe trips and family yoga.
Video: A Summer’s Tale Festival 2015.
In September, the popular U.S. music festival Lollapalooza will come to Berlin for the first time. And it will feature an entire extra program called “Kidzapalooza,” for children of music fans, on the site of the old Tempelhof airport.
Some big events – like Rock am Ring, Hurricane or Wacken Open Air – won’t be quite so family-friendly. But there’s a new approach there too.
At the heavy-metal festival in the northern German village of Wacken, visitors will be able to rent their own portable WC for €150.
At the traditional Hurricane and Southside festivals, there are now whole resort areas with tents or residential containers. Visitors can pay up to €649 for their own bed in the units, which include Wi-Fi and lighting.
“Last year they were all sold out. This year we have doubled the capacity,” said organizer Mr. Koopmans.
At the annual Rock am Ring festival in Nuremberg, a normal ticket costs €160. But 800 fans paid up to €530 so they could sleep in residential containers with electricity. The so-called “Experience Camp” featured a breakfast buffet and VIP access.
“Sure, there are people for whom sleeping in the mud is part and parcel of the festival,” said Mr. Koopmans. “But that’s not everyone’s thing.”
Like the Wagners, for example. On the second day of “A Summer’s Tale,” they wanted to see the Augustines, a Brooklyn indie rock band, then go for a bike ride and possibly check out the festival restaurant again.
And then they could retire to their soft beds in the caravan, fully rested for the next day – when another full program awaited.