What has Electric Picnic to do to maintain its popularity?

While you could envisage the site taking another couple of thousand punters, the less-is-more approach probably makes sense in the long run.

 

By now you’re probably thoroughly sick and tired of the Electric Picnic. It seems as if every single angle has been covered, every possible line of enquiry pursued, every rabbit hole prodded and poked, every cliche in the book thrown at the wall in the hope that it sticks.

The three-day music festival is the go-to subject for those pre-packed raves and rants that fill up the silly season media vacuum before the All-Ireland hurling final lands and politicians return from their holidays. It’s as much a part of the Irish social calendar as the Rose of Tralee and the ploughing.

We’re probably due a break from it all for a few months, but there’s always time for one more tune and we’re about to play it. The Picnic has become a hugely successful and profitable event that is like nothing else in the country in terms of scale and diversity.

There are plenty of other music-related events that cater for different audiences, including Longitude, which has firmly taken up the Oxegen mantle that older readers will remember. But the Picnic remains unique because it’s still a party where all are welcome regardless of age or musical likes of dislikes. (Well, bar metal fans, but that’s another day’s work.)

Picnic experiences

When you think about it, there are probably 55,000 different Picnics and most of these experiences never catch sight of one another over the course of the weekend. What is it that entices one set of punters to buy a ticket for an event that doesn’t even cross the radar or to-do list of another group?

There are many Picnicers whose favourite abiding memory of the weekend won’t be one of the expensive acts, but something unplanned, unscheduled and random that happened on a small stage somewhere in those 600 acres.

At the same time, the hugely positive reaction to the likes of LCD Soundsystem, Bell X1 and Chemical Brothers shows that the festival knows just who this audience wants to see on those main stages. This is the new mainstream if you’re looking for a hook.

The hardest trick is maintaining this happy state of affairs and ensuring the event continues to pull its weight every year. Limiting the numbers is certainly one way to do this, with the Picnic’s promoter, Festival Republic’s Melvin Benn, saying at the weekend that the 55,000 capacity will remain the same for next year.

While you could envisage the site taking another couple of thousand punters (every year there are huge numbers who aren’t able to get tickets), the less-is-more approach probably makes sense in the long run.

More than the music

Just as important is that the mix of stuff you get for the price of admission continues to cross the tracks. The Electric Picnic has always made the point that it was not just a music festival, and that attitude has become much more pronounced in the past few years.

Instead of spending €500,000 on a band such as The Killers, as was the case in 2012, the new approach involves smaller stages, different creative crews and more diverse attractions. This was what original Picnic promoter John Reynolds first envisaged for the festival.

This is much harder to do and get right than simply ringing agents and booking bands. When it works, as it did at the Picnic last weekend, it produces something quite marvellous.

And if it’s still doing that when the 20th event comes around in 2023, well, that will be worth a few hundred more opinion pieces. 

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