The Great Escape Suffers From Expansion Problems

Submitted by Peter Astedt

The Great Escape is one of the bigger showcase festivals in the world. Before it was independent but is now owned by Live Nation. The Great Escape is not the first big one out after COVID. The world’s largest Showcase festival SXSW happened already in March. Reports from that were that it was just one-third of its usual capacity. Mainly because people still were stuck in the COVID restrictions around the world. Since almost two months have passed since then, The Great Escape was back in full capacity. Still, some things from COVID were visible.

What happened in The Great Escape was that the normal audience, the audience that does not belong to the music industry was very keen on visiting the festival. Maybe the first bigger festival in Brighton. Many of the gig places were overcrowded with the audience, so full we even got reports on industry pros paying for a stage couldn’t get into their own show since it was full. Before there was a special line for badge holders for these shows. That line wasn’t there this year. This of course made a problem for pros wanting to see an artist and, in many cases, just had to move on and see another artist, and sometimes not get in at any place. 

Now we can discuss if a major part of the industry pros really wanted to see any artists? The question is whether they ever saw any panels either or if they just straight to for what The Great Escape is famous for, parties! Just on this, The Great Escape I was invited to over 70 parties in the four days I was there. Of course, many overlapped and the battle to have you as a visitor to the party is fierce. The problem with this is that now you need so much more to have a successful The Great Escape than just holding a party. Free drinks and you can meet your staff and artists aren’t good enough. The development is like the excessive years on MIDEM. This year you had to get your party close to the beach, have something extra, food, drinks, and a good guest list. This was a must to fill up your event with important people. Yes, important people, the problem with big things like this is that the quality of the pro badge holders varies quite a lot. Quite many of the visitors are noobs that are just there thinking that they are cool just to be at a big event. They really don’t care so much to get business, just being there and having a free beer with people from their own country goes a long way. 

This problem is that you need to visit several parties in one hour. Go fast through the room find who is important to say hello and then go fast to the next party to repeat the process all over again. It just turns out to become several hours of speed meetings. The quality of the business is also after that. Sure, you will find some good contacts but to get one good you have to meet a room full of riff-raff. 

Last year also the day end party always ended in the Queen Hotel. This year the Queen was a disaster and just was a big queue line and people gave up and split out in the night making the big “see all” was gone. If you got in at the Queen you also noticed that the bar closed at 1 o’clock so there was not really any big hang on The Great Escape.

Another problem is also the London People. Sure, the big industry from London comes down for the Great Escape. But they don’t stay. Many just come down on Friday in the morning and at 6 o’clock they go back for the weekend. This leaves the Saturday to becoming a slow day.

The Great Escape can be a good festival for you. But that is only if you have a big network that you can update with an elevator pitch and a handshake. If you only go to The Great Escape once a year and think that is enough, you will probably just spend a lot of money drinking beer with your closest friends and showcase your artists to local people from Brighton. 

The Great Escape is too much hoi polloi to make a good business ground. The real business is not here. Didn’t we learn this lesson from MIDEM? If you like to go to loud parties screaming with people to just say hello you are in the right place. My guess is that the export offices will look this over as well. I spotted several very empty export tryouts that were not close to the beach even with all these people that were around.