Is the events industry blind to the wants and needs of millennials? Stand Out’s Lauren Barnett asks the question

OMG, I can’t even. We’re done with breaking the internet. Millennials are ready to clap back; industry needs to stay woke and make sure events and festivals are lit af. Don’t have a clue what I’m talking about? Is this not your usual vernacular? No, it’s not mine either. As a “millennial”, I know what these words and phrases mean, but I don’t speak like this. Nor do I spend all of my money on coffee and avocados, but there you go.

A millennial is defined as someone who was born between 1981-1996 – being born in ’95 I just make the cut. My generation get a lot of stick in the press for being “snowflakes” who are offended by everything and require “trigger warnings” and “safe spaces”.

Whilst I’m used to hearing these stereotypes and criticisms on a regular basis, at the Association of Independent Festival’s Festival Congress in Sheffield, I was shocked to hear industry professionals complain about millennials for another reason… we don’t drink or do drugs.

Now of course I’m not suggesting, nor was the organiser chairing the panel, that no millennials enjoy an alcoholic beverage (or 10) and I am not suggesting that drugs aren’t a problem – we all know they are. But there was some clout in what was being said, and it is supported by Health Survey for England figures which suggest that one in three 16-24-year olds are completely teetotal and rates of harmful drinking have steadily declined.

When I heard this, my first thought was that surely this was a good thing. How could millennials be moaned at for not relying on substance abuse to have a good time? Then the penny dropped. If millennials are going to festivals and events and aren’t drinking, they aren’t spending money. This issue is affecting organisers and bar concessions where it really hurts, their pockets.

This particular industry panel sparked a debate on why millennials aren’t drinking at festivals and what organisers could do about it. Many suggested that millennials simply aren’t hedonistic whilst others argued that we don’t want our “under the influence” actions broadcasted on social media for everyone to see. It was even suggested that millennials simply can no longer afford to get drunk at a festival.

With the question of how to monetise the millennial on the mind of many organisers, my argument is a simple one. Industry needs to create events that don’t require event/festivalgoers to get off their face to enjoy. Millennials pay through the nose for experiences, which is why we spend hundreds on a ticket in the first place, along with a whole new festival wardrobe (#selfie).

While a well-stocked bar and beloved headline act was enough for Generation X, it just won’t cut it for millennials. The boundaries of what experiences can be created at festivals are being pushed more and more, and we are seeing more creative activations and experiences than ever. However, when it comes to pleasing millennials at events and festivals, some organisers need to look a little further, and beyond the bar.