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Journal of Convention & Event Tourism
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Stakeholder Management Strategies of Festivals
Tommy D. Andersson PhD & Donald Getz PhD
To cite this article: Tommy D. Andersson PhD & Donald Getz PhD (2008) Stakeholder
Management Strategies of Festivals, Journal of Convention & Event Tourism, 9:3, 199-220, DOI:
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/15470140802323801
Published online: 11 Oct 2008.
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Stakeholder Management Strategies
Tommy D. Andersson, PhD
Donald Getz, PhD
ABSTRACT. The extent to which festivals can function as sustainable
attractions, while fulfilling their social and cultural roles at the community
level, is an issue of considerable importance. In this context, sustainability
will often depend upon the political and tangible support of key stakeholders. Accordingly, this article addresses festival stakeholder issues and
related management strategies, with the dual aims of contributing to event
management theory and improving festival viability. A questionnaire survey of 14 live-music festivals in Sweden yielded data on stakeholder types,
dependency issues, and stakeholder management strategies. With regard to
their long-term sustainability, festival managers indicated the importance of
attaining ‘institutional status,’ occupying a unique ‘niche’ in the community,
sustaining committed stakeholders, and practicing constant innovation.
KEYWORDS. Festivals, stakeholders, dependency, strategy, institutions,
Tommy D. Andersson is Professor, School of Business, Economics and Law,
Gothenburg University, Sweden, Box 610, SE 405 30 Goteborg, Sweden (E-mail: ¨
Donald Getz is Professor, School of Tourism, University of Queensland,
Australia; Visiting Professor, Goteborg University, Sweden; and Professor,
Haskayne School of Business, University of Calgary, Canada, 2500 University Dr. N.W., Calgary, Alberta, T2N 1N4 Canada (E-mail: [email protected]
Address correspondence to Donald Getz, University of Calgary, 2500 University Dr. N.W., Calgary, Alberta, T2N 1N4 Canada (E-mail: [email protected]
Journal of Convention & Event Tourism, Vol. 9(3), 2008
Available online at http://www.haworthpress.com
C 2008 by The Haworth Press. All rights reserved.
doi: 10.1080/15470140802323801 199
200 JOURNAL OF CONVENTION & EVENT TOURISM
Festivals are universally important for their social and cultural roles,
and increasingly they have been promoted and created as tourist attractions. They are also viewed as tools in place marketing and destination
image making, and are valued for their ability to animate cities, resorts,
and attractions. The extent to which they can endure as attractions, while
fulfilling their social and cultural roles at the community level, is therefore
an issue of some importance to social and cultural policy makers and to
place marketing and tourism agencies.
Festival viability, effectiveness, and long-term sustainability is often
questioned in light of the observation that many festivals have stagnated
or failed (Getz, 2002), while others have achieved longevity and appear
to have become permanent institutions and hallmark tourist events in their
community. It has also been demonstrated that many festivals do not adopt
a marketing orientation (Mayfield & Crompton, 1995; Lade & Jackson,
2004; Mehmetoglu & Ellingsen, 2005), presumably because the majority
are in the not-for-profit and public sectors and are therefore based on a
philosophy of service.
This article reports on exploratory research from Sweden with the aim
of building upon previous studies of festival organization and management, including the themes of how festivals evolve (Frisby & Getz, 1989;
Getz & Frisby, 1988; Walle, 1994; Sofield & Li, 1998; Sofield & Sivan,
2003; Richards & Ryan, 2004; Quinn, 2006), interactions among festival
stakeholders (Larson, 2000, 2002; Larson & Wikstrom, 2001), why festivals fail (Getz, 2002), festival stakeholder identification and roles (Reid
& Arcodia, 2002; Getz, Andersson, & Larson, 2007), and stakeholder
management strategies practiced by festival managers (Andersson & Getz,
An overview of core theoretical foundations to this line of research is
provided in the ensuing section, namely stakeholder theory (encompassing
collaboration), resource dependency, and institutional theory. The literature concerning festivals and stakeholder management is also provided,
including references to their marketing orientation.
Methods and analysis are then presented from a questionnaire study of
14 live-music festivals in Sweden. The festivals are profiled with regard to
ownership and revenue sources, then analyzed with regard to identification
of, and dependence on, key stakeholders, the managers’ self evaluations,
and finally stakeholder management strategies employed. Discussion and
conclusions begin with a summary of identified strengths and weaknesses
Tommy D. Andersson and Donald Getz 201
or threats. Methodological, then theoretical conclusions are presented.
Implications are drawn for festival managers, and suggestions are made
for future research.
In contrast to the traditional emphasis on shareholders in management
theory (i.e., the investors who own companies), stakeholder theory relates
to a wider environment of people or entities that can affect, or be affected by,
an organization’s actions. Freeman (1984: 25) advocated a broad definition
of a stakeholder as “. . . any group or individual who can affect or is affected
by the achievement of the firm’s objectives.” Stakeholder theory stresses
the interactions of power, legitimacy and urgency (Mitchell, Agle, & Wood,
Batt and Purchase (2004) mentioned four strategies to use by a firm when
relating to its key stakeholders—grow, develop, maintain, or abandon—
which are choices related to investing in the relationship. Other strategic
choices are defend, monitor, collaborate, or involve, which are the classic strategic stakeholder management choices (Savage, Nix, Whitehead,
& Blair, 1991). These relate to management’s perceptions of the stakeholders’ ability to threaten the organization, support or collaborate with it.
Pertaining to human service organizations, Kramer (2000) noted that they
engage in a variety of political strategies to cope with the forces influencing
their resource acquisition and service delivery systems. Nonprofits are increasingly choosing some form of collaboration strategy (Reilly, 2001). To
maintain their autonomy they learn to shift from competition to co-optation
and collaboration (Kramer, 2000).
Nonprofit and service organizations also try to sustain their core beliefs
and identities, although in the festival sector their mandates are likely
to be self-defined and their membership or governance might be flexible
when it comes to making changes. In terms of collaborations and other
inter-organizational relationships, co-operation is the most informal and
carries the least risk regarding sustainability of core values, whereas
joint ventures, partnerships, and mergers are more formal and carry
more risk—to the point where a separate identity can be lost altogether.
Moreover, co-operative behavior is often encouraged by those providing
resources (Snavely & Tracy, 2000). Erickson and Kushner (1999) studied
202 JOURNAL OF CONVENTION & EVENT TOURISM
two public events and argued that a firm’s value as a network partner is
based on its network identity—a combination of its core competencies,
other connections, and ability to gain further network- specific knowledge.
Stakeholder theorists have also considered the evolutionary perspective.
Clarkson (1995) argued that success and survival depends on an organization’s ability to provide wealth, value, or satisfaction for all its primary
stakeholders. Jawahar and McLaughlin (2001) proposed that at certain
stages in an organization’s life cycle (“formation, growth, maturity, and
decline or revival”) different stakeholders will be more important, based
on their ability to meet organizational needs. Some stakeholders may be
favored, especially in the formation or decline/revival stages because of
resource dependency. Accordingly, different strategies might be required
for stakeholders at one point of time and over time.
In addressing the question of why festivals fail, Getz (2002) concludes
that event managers need to understand resource dependency theory as it
affects their organizations. The basic premise, as articulated by Donaldson
(1996), is that organizations compete for resources and those that survive do
so by finding an appropriate niche that assures them of continued resources.
A clear implication of this theory is that managers must become skilled at
managing the relationships that can generate support and resources.
Failures might arise from a poor “fit” with the environment, as in the
case where a festival is not able to attract interest and support from its
host community because of cultural differences, a lack of key contacts, or
internal management deficiencies. According to Donaldson (1996), “fit”
stems from how an organization adapts to accommodate environmental
Dependence occurs in an inter-organizational relationship when one
party has a high need and another has control over the resources that
satisfy the other’s need (Pfeffer & Salancik, 1978). Resources can be either
material (e.g., money, land) or intangible, including knowledge, reputation,
and trust (Hellgren & Stjernberg, 1995). Additional considerations relate to
the scarcity of resources (what are the alternative sources?), the nature of the
festival’s operational environment (competition or symbiotic relationships
among resource users), certainty versus fluctuations in resource availability
(is long-term support guaranteed?), and variability in resource needs (are
the same resources needed every year?).
Tommy D. Andersson and Donald Getz 203
The resource dependency approach to organizational theory posits that
firms facing uncertain environments will establish joint ventures as a means
of reducing uncertainty and sharing the risk (Pfeffer & Nowak, 1976). As
festivals mature they begin to behave more and more like institutions,
which, in this context, is a process of remaining united for a specific purpose and in turn often leads to becoming a permanent, legitimate, and valued part of society. Institutional status should ensure sustained support and
resources. It might also be expressed in branding terms, as the organization
will possess a highly visible, positive brand that inspires confidence. To
become an institution, or to find and sustain a permanent niche in the community, the event organization must be expert in developing a supportive
network and in managing its many diverse stakeholder relationships. This
is achieved by using strategies to gain, maintain, and repair the legitimacy
of the festival from multiple stakeholder perspectives (Suchman, 1995).
Selznick (1957) distinguished between institutions as tools to accomplish specific tasks and institutions to which people formed commitments.
Emile Durkheim (1978) argued that sociological analysis should discover
the causes, mechanisms, and effects of institutions on societal life. Essentially, institutions regularize social life, and may foster co-operation and
increase efficiency. Applicable to many festivals, it can also be said that
institutions are like public goods in that all members of society may benefit from them, whether or not they contribute to their establishment and
upkeep. Coleman (1990) believed that institutions are part of what is often called “social capital.” Taking an anthropological perspective, Sahlins
(1976) suggested that cultural institutions mainly serve symbolic purposes.
One meaning of ‘institution’ is that of “. . . constraints or rules that
induce stability in human interaction” (Voss, 2004: 7561). These arise because societies face recurrent problems, so that when we call an organization an “institution” we are saying that it exists to deal with a fundamental
social, cultural, or economic need. Since not all people can be directly
involved in creating institutions, a set of actors or stakeholders has to
decide—or establish through repeated interactions or interdependencies—
the rules or the organizations to deal with major social problems. Stability
in these institutions has direct benefit to the stakeholders, or society as a
whole, and should ideally generate increased efficiency in resource use.
A central focus of the classical study of institutions is the evolving relationship between an organization and its environment, which of course
204 JOURNAL OF CONVENTION & EVENT TOURISM
includes all its stakeholder interactions. “New institutionalism,” according
to Heimer (2004), is an outcome of organizational sociology. It focuses
on the process (symbolic reasons are emphasized) by which a practice or
structure is diffused, becomes a prerequisite for legitimacy (among key
stakeholders), is taken for granted and expected. This approach has different applications to the study of festivals, such as through the examination
of how festivals have globally become preferred tools in tourism development and place marketing, which Richards (2007) and others have called
Also from institutional theory is the notion that an organization’s chances
of sustainability are significantly improved by demonstrations of conformity to the norms and expectations of the institutional environment (Meyer
& Rowan, 1977; Meyer & Scott, 1992). Legal and regulator compliance
is one necessity, but collaborations and network linkages will also tend to
impose conformity among festivals. A particularly important agent in this
process is likely to be that of government granting agencies and corporate
sponsors who impose conditions (or expectations of compliance) on their
support and resource allocations.
Pertinent Research on Festivals
Reid and Arcodia (2002) believe that implementing a framework to
assess stakeholder satisfaction, and incorporating stakeholders throughout
the planning process, will lead to increased community satisfaction and
support, thereby helping to prevent failure. They proposed a conceptual
model showing how events are linked to primary and secondary stakeholders. “Primary” stakeholders were defined as those on whom the
festival is dependent (namely, employees, volunteers, sponsors, suppliers,
spectators, attendees, and participants) while “secondary” stakeholders
include the host community, government, essential services, media, tourist
organizations, and businesses.
Larson (2002) identified specific festival stakeholders in terms of those
producing and marketing a festival, and determined that identity building
is a strategy used by festival organizations when selecting partners
and in managing relationships. Collaboration partners having similar
identities to the festival are preferred. Based on comparative case studies
in Canada and Sweden, Getz, Andersson, and Larson (2007) classified
external festival stakeholders as: “facilitator” (provides resources and
support); “regulator” (usually government agencies); “co-producer”
(other organizations and persons who participate in the event); “allies and
Tommy D. Andersson and Donald Getz 205
collaborators” (such as professional associations and tourism agencies);
and those impacted (mainly the audience and the community). A number
of stakeholder management strategies being used by festivals were also
identified through cross-case analysis, including: internalizing powerful
regulators (e.g., getting local authority councillors onto the board of
directors); getting suppliers to become sponsors (thereby making them
partners); developing longer-term sponsorships; and working closely with
independent organizations who became co-producers.
A number of studies have taken a broader stakeholder management perspective on festivals. The collective works of Larson (2000), Larson and
Wikstrom (2001), and Larson (2002) applied the notion of a “political market square” to festival and event management. In this inter-organizational
approach, stakeholders involved in event production politically interact to
achieve their aims.
Little research on festivals has been undertaken using the resource dependency construct. Richards and Ryan (2004: 115) concluded that a
Maori festival “. . . illustrates that cultural festivals mirror many different dynamics and are places of discourse between different paradigms of
traditional and evolving culture, between minority and majority groupings, between a need for independence and a dependency, usually on
public authorities that might in other circumstances be seen as part of the
majority-dominated structures.” Andersson and Getz (2007) used a single
festival case study to correlate stakeholder power with cost and revenue
Quinn’s (2006) study of two well-established arts festivals in Ireland
sheds light on stakeholder issues and the institutionalization process. Quinn
conceptualized festivals as socially sustaining practices, with important
contributions to cultural infrastructure and place identity. The Wexford
Festival Opera and Galway Arts Festival both achieved success as tourism
attractions and thereby “. . . enhanced their standing as organizations worthy of state support and made them more attractive to corporate sponsors”
(p. 299). A related issue is that taking an external orientation might threaten
community links and support. Her evaluation led to a list of indicators of
the relationship between festivals’ external orientation and their contribution to sustainable development at the local level, and these indicators can
be seen in terms of institionalization as constituting the social problem
that an institution must solve. The indicators include the broad headings of
providing cultural infrastructure, fostering appreciation and participation
in the arts, creating community animation and pride, and acting as place
marketers and visitor attractions to generate economic benefits.
206 JOURNAL OF CONVENTION & EVENT TOURISM
Festivals are most frequently in the public and nonprofit sectors, but
for-profit companies also produce them. While a community-service orientation (typical of public and nonprofit festival organization) does not
preclude taking a marketing orientation, it is logical to expect that forprofit festivals must be customer and marketing oriented. In this context a
marketing orientation is primarily a philosophy or value set, which has to
be manifested in various marketing and management strategies. Research
on festivals and their marketing orientation and strategies has been limited.
Mayfield and Crompton (1995) studied the marketing orientation of festivals in Texas, revealing substantial differences. Interestingly, older events
tended to have less of a marketing orientation, perhaps reflecting complacency or lack of professionalism compared to younger organizations.
Lade and Jackson (2004) tried to identify key success factors for festivals, with particular emphasis on their marketing orientation. They identified specific marketing strategies being used by two Australian festivals,
and several strategies related to stakeholders and collaboration. Mehmetoglu and Ellingsen (2005) examined a group of small Norwegian festivals,
finding them to not be marketing oriented. They hypothesized that marketing orientation would increase with, among other things, the adopting of
more tourism goals and increasing size.
While this literature review demonstrates that research on festival management has been progressing, it can also be concluded that there has been
insufficient attention paid to festival-tourism interdependencies. Tourism
agencies are sometimes recognized as important stakeholders, yet many
tourism marketing agencies seem to neglect the festival sector in favor of
other event types, perhaps because of the complexity of dealing with so
many community-oriented, not-for-profit organizations. As revealed in the
Calgary, Canada case studies (Getz, Andersson, & Larson, 2007), several
festival managers wanted more support from their destination marketing
organization, and had tried to establish legitimacy within a tourism context,
yet they felt ignored.
RESEARCH METHOD AND DATA
The survey targeted major festivals in Sweden and had support from
a nation-wide festival organization, FHP, which is a lobby organization
comprised of the 16 largest live-music festivals in the country. Researchers
mailed the questionnaire (in Swedish) to members using the list provided
by FHP, and the organization’s manager independently requested members
Tommy D. Andersson and Donald Getz 207
TABLE 1. Sources of Revenues
Ticket sales (audience) %
Local government grants (municipality)
Rent or fees from concessions
Merchandise sales (own)
Other (please specify)
Senior government grants (state/national)
to complete the survey. Research was initiated in 2005 and completed in
2006. The response rate to the questionnaire was 87.5% (n = 14), and while
this sample size does not lend itself to sophisticated statistical analysis of
the data, it does provide a high-quality portrait of one major festival type
in one country. Input from the FHP manager suggested that festivals in
this organization do not always succeed, as there had been recent crises
and failures among the membership. Overall, the Swedish festival sector
is more diverse than this sample, and probably similar to many other
countries in that it is constantly changing as new ones enter while others
fail or change in fundamental ways.
Festival profiles were obtained from all respondents, including statements on their mandates and vision. Regarding sources of revenue (see
Table 1), previous case study research had revealed major sources in both
Canada and Sweden. Perceived dependence was examined by providing
a list of 15 possible stakeholders (see Table 2) and asking respondents to
indicate their level of dependence on a seven-point scale that was anchored
with 1 = “you can do without them” and 7 = “you have no alternative
but to work with them.” Specific types of festival stakeholders had been
revealed through case studies and the research cited earlier.
A list of 16 “statements about our festival” (see Table 3) were provided
and respondents were asked to indicate their level of agreement with each
of them on a seven-point scale anchored with 1 = “completely disagree”
and 7 = “completely agree.” These statements pertained to several themes:
stakeholder relationships and perceived dependence; crises experienced;
strategies employed and needed; and the current state and position of
the festival within the community. Together the responses constitute an
evaluation of the festival and the organization by their managers/owners.
Stakeholder strategies were examined more specifically (see Table 4) by
asking which strategies (from a list of 18) had been employed over the past
ten years, and the perceived degree of success on a scale of seven—with
208 JOURNAL OF CONVENTION & EVENT TOURISM
TABLE 2. Perceived Dependence on Stakeholders
Stakeholders Mean (out of 7) Std. Dev.
Paying customers (as opposed to the general public). 5.92 2.25
Our local authority (municipality) 5.71 1.97
The police and other public services 5.57 1.95
Other artists or performers (not international) that we 5.07 1.68
The venues (or facilities) we use 4.84 1.95
The media 4.28 1.54
International artists or performers that we pay for 3.85 1.99
Artist booking agency 3.85 1.83
Our major corporate sponsors 3.71 2.19
Independent organizations that help us produce 3.53 1.71
Our small corporate sponsors 3.07 2.01
Suppliers of light and sound equipment 2.92 0.82
Government agencies that give us grants 2.85 2.44
The providers of food and beverages at our event 2.78 1.47
Salespeople of products at the festival 2.42 1.69
Notes. 1 = “You can do without them.” 7 = “You have no alternative but to work with them.”
TABLE 3. Respondents’ Evaluation of Their Festivals
Statements about Our Festival Mean Std. Dev.
We occupy a unique and important niche in our community. 6.36 1.01
We have become a permanent institution in our community. 6.00 1.88
We are completely in control of our festival’s brand and branding 5.93 1.44
We have few conflicts with our stakeholders. 5.86 1.10
We have survived one or more difficult crises that made us stronger. 5.07 1.27
We are mostly oriented toward community service, not profit. 4.93 1.98
We are dependent on one market segment for our audience. 4.77 1.64
We constantly innovate in our programming. 4.69 1.38
Our major stakeholders have become totally committed to the 4.43 1.16
We are very dependent on one or a few powerful stakeholders. 4.36 2.71
We work with the same stakeholders every year. 4.14 1.41
We are pursuing a growth strategy in terms of our audience. 4.00 1.36
There is little chance now that the festival could fail financially. 3.71 1.77
We are worried about competition from other events. 3.36 1.74
In the past the festival was forced to completely change, or re-invent 3.00 1.75
We need to become more tourism oriented. 2.50 1.87
Tommy D. Andersson and Donald Getz 209
TABLE 4. Stakeholder Strategies Employed and Perceived Degree
Stakeholder Strategies Total Mean S.D.
Developed a set of core values to be the basis of your branding? 14 5.57 1.34
Lobbied government for money or other benefits? 13 4.92 2.02
Used your program and marketing together to create a strong brand
identity or image?
12 5.58 1.16
Promoted creativity in order to invent new product within the festival? 10 5.30 0.67
Converted a supplier into a sponsor (to reduce your costs)? 9 6.33 0.71
Shared tangible resources with other festivals? 7 4.29 2.14
Developed a formal marketing partnership with another
7 5.43 1.40
Put aside money for a rainy day (a reserve fund)? 7 3.71 1.70
Initiated an outreach program to provide community service? 6 5.67 1.03
Convinced the media to become official sponsors? 6 6.83 0.41
Licensed other companies to use your festival name or logo? 6 4.67 1.97
Paid a company to find us new sources of funding or new sponsors? 6 3.17 1.72
Brought your sponsors together for their mutual benefit? 6 5.17 1.72
Imitated other festivals/events in order to keep up with market
5 4.40 0.89
Borrowed money to cover a financial loss? 4 6.25 0.50
Taken legal action to protect your brand or logo? 2 4.00 4.24
Brought major sponsors onto your board of directors? 1 4.00 —
Convinced a stakeholder to assume the financial risks for all or part
of your festival?
0 — —
seven meaning “completely successful” and 1 meaning “not at all.” In part,
this drew upon the resource management strategies suggested by Emery
and Trist (1965), all of which require active stakeholder management.
Other strategies suggested in this list were derived from previous case
Possible problems or threats were examined by presenting respondents
with a list of 28 “hypothetical threats” and asking them to indicate if “this
has already been a serious problem” and “how serious a threat is it right
now?” (with 1 meaning “no threat at all” and 7 meaning “a very serious
threat.” This approach requires respondents to consider their immediate
situation. Most of the listed threats had been examined by Getz (2002) in
the context of exploring festival failure.
All respondents but one (an owner) were festival managers, with an
average experience of 4.5 years as a manager (range 1–11 years). Seven
of them were run as not-for-profit organizations, while four were projects
210 JOURNAL OF CONVENTION & EVENT TOURISM
of (and owned by) local governments. Three were private companies, of
which one was owned 50% by a private company and 50% by a not-forprofit organization. The average festival age was 14 years (range 2–38) and
only two festivals had not produced the festival continuously—they had
missed one year each.
Sources of Revenue (Table 1)
Two of the festivals predominantly financed by public money provided
all their entertainment free of charge. These two were exceptional in terms
of large attendance as well as total budget, but they had no volunteers. A
third festival without entrance fees was one of the private companies. Six
festivals in the sample had both an open, free program (for the benefit of
residents) and a ‘commercial’ program with entrance fees that generated
most of the income for the festival. Five festivals were of a more traditional
type and charged all visitors an entrance fee. Regarding sponsorships, none
of the 14 had a “title sponsor” but 7 had a “presenting sponsor” and 12 had a
number of sponsors. The composition of sponsors varied from year to year.
Overall, as an average percentage of all revenues received by the 14 festivals, ticket revenues (at 47.08%) were most important. They represented
more than half of the total revenue for the majority of festivals, but the publicly owned festivals were much less dependent on ticket sales. The second
largest source of revenues, overall, was that of local government grants
(21.54%). Three of the festivals were financed mainly by public money—
mostly from local authorities, as it can be seen that grants received from
the central government or the provinces were negligible (0.46%), whereas
public money from local municipalities was important for many festivals.
The third most important revenue source was that of rents or fees from
concessions (18.77%), so vendors are important stakeholders. Corporate
sponsorship was not well developed as a revenue source (only 10%). The
festivals did not make much money from direct merchandise sales (1.38%)
or other sources (0.91%).
Stakeholders and Dependence (Table 2)
To assess the dependency levels of festivals on powerful stakeholders,
respondents were provided with a list of 15 possible stakeholders. They
were asked to use a scale of 1–7, with 1 meaning “you can do without
them,” and 7 meaning “you have no alternative but to work with them.”
Answers reveal that the audience is the most important stakeholder overall
(mean: 5.9 out of 7), followed by the local municipality (5.7), then police
Tommy D. Andersson and Donald Getz 211
and other governmental services (5.6), artists other than international (5.1),
and the owners of venues used by the events (4.8).
Low importance was assigned to “government agencies that give us
grants” (mean = 2.85). This is undoubtedly a reflection of the low level
of support from senior levels, and does not diminish the significance of
local authorities. Suppliers, vendors, and salespeople were accorded little
significance, but these are distinct from artists and booking agencies.
Respondents’ Evaluation of Their Festivals (Table 3)
A set of 16 statements was provided, to which levels of agreement were
requested on a 7-point scale. Together these constitute a self-evaluation of
the festivals, covering a range of strategic issues but stressing stakeholder
relationships and marketing. We interpret scores of over 6 to be very high,
and scores of 5 to 6 to be high levels of agreement. Low levels of agreement
are indicated by scores of 3 and less, while 4 is mid-range.
Respondents generally saw themselves as occupying “a unique and
important niche in our community,” and being a “permanent institution
in our community.” These two statements generated the highest levels
of agreement (means of 6.36 and 6.00, respectively), which was a very
surprising result. The sample was not selected on the basis of the age or
success of festivals, nor on their size or significance for tourism, so it was
not anticipated that they would uniformly believe themselves to hold such
a profound position in their communities. On the other hand, given that the
FHP manager had indicated there had been festival failures, it is possible
that any survey of operational festivals will be biased towards the older
and better-connected ones.
A related explanation is that there is only a small population of livemusic festivals in Sweden (certainly this is true within specific communities), and they have all become dominant events within their immediate
environment. There was not a high degree of worry among respondents
about competition from other events (“We are worried about competition
from other events”: mean = 3.36), nor was there a high level of concern
about financial failure (“There is little chance now that the festival could
fail financially”: 3.71). Self-perceived institutional status might also come
from having survived one or more crises. The level of agreement was fairly
high with the statement: “We have survived one or more difficult crises
that made us stronger” (5.07).
To be permanent institutions and feel secure about their future, the festivals must have committed stakeholders. The respondents certainly believed
212 JOURNAL OF CONVENTION & EVENT TOURISM
this to be the case, given the high level of agreement with the statement:
“We have few conflicts with our stakeholders” (5.86). However, there was
only a moderate level of agreement with two related stakeholder statements, namely: “Our major stakeholders have become totally committed
to the festival” (4.43) and “We are dependent on one or a few powerful stakeholders” (4.36). Note the high standard deviation on the latter
statement (SD = 2.71), as it does indicate a polarized response.
Marketing-related issues were also explored in this self-evaluation of
the festivals. A high level of agreement was given to the statement: “We are
completely in control of our festival’s brand and branding efforts” (mean =
5.93). The lowest mean (2.50) was generated by the statement: “We need
to become more tourism oriented,” which presumably indicates that many
respondents either felt their festivals were already successful as tourist
attractions and/or that they did not need to market more to tourists because
of their community-service orientation.
Stakeholder Strategies and Perceived Success (Table 4)
Eighteen statements were provided in this question, each indicating a
possible strategy with the emphasis on stakeholder management. Many of
these strategies had been revealed in previous case study research. They
covered lobbying, collaboration, conflict avoidance, contractual relationships, marketing, and financial arrangements. Strategies for dealing with
resource dependency were included (i.e., changing the environment, saving, collaborating, cost reduction). Key festival stakeholders were specifically mentioned, including government, the community, sponsors, other
festivals, the media, suppliers, and private companies. Some of the marketing strategies involve internal rather than external stakeholders, such as
innovation and branding.
The “Total” column in Table 4 indicates how many of the 14 festivals had
employed the specified strategy, while the means pertain to their assessment
of its success. For example, of the 13 respondents who indicated they had
“Lobbied government for money or other benefits,” the resultant mean of
4.92 out of 7 indicates that they had been only moderately successful in
their lobbying efforts.
Looking at the Total column, the most frequently practiced strategies
(f ) and their means were: “Developed a core set of values to be the
basis of your branding” (f = 14, mean = 5.57); “Lobbied government
for money or other benefits” (13, 4.92); “Used your programming and
marketing together to create a strong brand identity or image” (12, 5.58);
Tommy D. Andersson and Donald Getz 213
and “Promoted creativity in order to invent new product within the festival”
(10, 5.30). Apparently lobbying was less successful than their marketing
The most successful strategies were: “Convinced the media to become
official sponsors (6, 6.83); “Converted a supplier into a sponsor to reduce
your costs” (9, 6.33); and “Borrowed money to cover a financial loss”
(4, 6.25). Borrowing money appears to be one of those crises that help
some festivals get stronger. Converting media and suppliers into sponsors
is potentially a good way to save money and build support, so it might be
surprising that only a minority of the festivals had tried it.
None of the respondents had convinced a stakeholder to assume any or
all of the festival’s financial risks. However, in the case of publicly owned
festivals this is a moot point since government holds full responsibility.
In some countries, governments have outsourced festivals and events to
nonprofit organizations and for-profit companies in order to shed their
risk, or at least diffuse it. Only one festival had brought sponsors onto their
board of directors, and that apparently contrasts with North American
practice where corporate sponsors provide a much higher level of revenue
and therefore are more powerful.
Two strategies had been employed by half the responding festivals
(f = 7), and in both cases the neutral means suggest that results were
mixed or neutral. The first, “Put aside money for a rainy day (a reserve
fund)” (mean = 3.71) is a good strategy that many event managers would
like to follow, but often they do not generate enough surplus revenue to
pursue it. The other was “Shared tangible resources with other festivals”
(4.29). While cost-saving collaborations make a lot of sense theoretically,
especially in the context of resource dependency, there will usually be
practical and political barriers or problems arising. It might be a strategy
resorted to in times of crisis, and perhaps forced upon an organization
by a powerful stakeholder. In contrast, a fairly high level of success was
indicated for the strategy “Developed a formal marketing partnership with
another organization” (f = 7, mean = 5.43). Marketing alliances should
be expected between marketing-oriented festivals and tourism agencies.
Two other strategies are worth noting, as they were each attempted by 6
festivals and had some success: “Initiated an outreach program to provide
community service” (5.67) and “Brought your sponsors together for their
mutual benefit” (5.17). Outreach programs can garner public support and
perhaps lead to political commitment, while bringing together sponsors
for their benefit adds value to the sponsorship package and can foster
longer-term commitment. Six festivals also “Paid a company to find us
214 JOURNAL OF CONVENTION & EVENT TOURISM
new sources of funding or new sponsors,” but the mean of 3.17 suggests
less success or at least mixed results.
Past Problems and Current Threats
Respondents were provided with a list of possible problems or threats
and asked to indicate whether “this has already been a serious problem”.
Items were derived from previous research on why festivals fail, case studies reported in the literature, and previously mentioned theory. Respondents
were also asked in the same table “How serious a threat this is right now”
(1 = “no threat at all”; 7 = “a very serious threat”). Unfortunately all but
one festival misunderstood the second part of the question and answered it
only if they had indicated it had already been a serious problem. Thus the
mean values were based on only a few answers.
The top problem or threat in terms of both how many festivals had experienced it and its current severity was “bad weather” (f = 9, mean = 5.78).
This is a universal issue for outdoor festivals, and undoubtedly accounts
for many financial difficulties when ticket sales are adversely affected.
The other major problems or threats were: “The high cost of entertainment or performers” (7, 5.14) and “Over-reliance on one source of money”
DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS
Figure 1 is a compilation of strengths and threats or weaknesses revealed by the various answers discussed above. Unlike a SWOT analysis,
opportunities were not questioned. Most of the respondents believed they
had already achieved the status of “institutions” that occupied an important and unique niche in their communities. It is suggested in the replies
that this status is accompanied by committed stakeholders and a strong
brand, independence (which appears to really mean being able to effectively manage dependencies, getting suppliers to become sponsors, and
control of branding), constant innovation, and emerging stronger from one
or more crises.
Threats or weaknesses include a set of potential dependencies: on one
market segment, one source of money, the weather, and major suppliers including performing artists. In addition, rising costs, debt, and cashflow problems were identified. Strategy is required to sustain strengths
(indeed, to achieve them in the first place), and to combat threats and
Tommy D. Andersson and Donald Getz 215
FIGURE 1. Revealed Strengths and Threats/Weaknesses.
Strengths Threats or Weaknesses
Possessing institutional status in the community, Dependence:
which relates to: On one market segment
Occupying a unique and important niche On one source of money
Having committed stakeholders On the weather
Developing a strong brand On major suppliers (e.g., artists)
Independence, which relates to: Rising costs
Effective management of dependencies Debt
Getting suppliers to become sponsors Cash-flow problems
Control of branding
Constant innovation, including:
Having survived one or more crises and
eliminate perceived weaknesses. Many of the strategies of necessity involve key stakeholders, especially those pertaining to financial health and
Results of this exploratory survey of 14 Swedish live-music festivals
contribute to our understanding of how festivals organize and survive within
a stakeholder network, especially the issue of dependency, and strategies
they employ. An obvious limitation is the absence of failed or otherwise
terminated events, which would provide many insights. A larger sample
with greater age disparity would also be preferable, while international
and inter-cultural comparisons would also present more opportunities for
revealing fundamental stakeholder issues and evaluating widespread or
divergent management strategies.
The Swedish festivals sampled in this research appeared to occupy fairly
secure niches in their environment. Indeed, respondents thought they had
become permanent institutions. Yet it is possible that they were enjoying
a lower level of direct competition from other festivals and events than
would exist in large cities or in other countries. Accordingly, there is a
real need for comparative and cross-cultural studies, including systematic
sampling from large populations of festivals that reflect diversity in age,
size, market appeal, and ownership.
216 JOURNAL OF CONVENTION & EVENT TOURISM
Respondents reported that their festivals were dependent on powerful
stakeholders for resources, but there existed a split between those dependent mostly on paying customers and those dependent upon, and in some
cases, owned by local authorities, which are mostly community-service
oriented. The network of stakeholders was not greatly affected by ownership, nor by taking either a service or market orientation, as they all had
to deal with local authorities (and were dependent on police and other
local authority services). But the relative power of stakeholders was dramatically different. This fact obviously has to shape stakeholder and other
Although the sample is too small for meaningful statistical tests, there
was a hint in the data that the older festivals were more dependent on
local authorities. Overall, the newer festivals perceived lower levels of dependency on most of the stakeholders, so this is a hypothesis to test in
larger samples. It fits theoretically, in the sense that those festivals that
survive longer have found a secure resource niche, which requires sacrificing some degree of independence for local authority support. Another
possibility is that, in the Swedish context, festival organizers over time
seek more support from local authorities and other partners based on the
belief that they have become important to the community and should be
supported. Institutionalization in this context is therefore at least partly a
matter of choice.
Of the generic stakeholder management strategies suggested by Savage
et al. (1991), a permanent combination of collaboration and involvement
is evidently the sine qua non of institutionalized festivals. Festivals in the
public sector, and nonprofits with strong funding and support from local
authorities, involve the government as a matter of legal or political necessity. All have to effectively collaborate with local authorities because of the
need for essential services and regulatory approvals. However, this sample
of Swedish festivals differed from the previously reported case studies of
festivals in Calgary in that corporate sponsors were not being brought onto
festival boards (Getz, Andersson, & Larson, 2007). Hence there are cultural
and political differences affecting stakeholder management strategies.
Regarding strategies to deal with resource dependency (Emery & Trist,
1965), it is clear that festivals in the public sector, and some others dependent on local authority revenue, do not really need to worry about their
dependency. As institutions, highly service oriented, they count on permanent support. A strong marketing orientation is only required by the
Tommy D. Andersson and Donald Getz 217
festivals that are most dependent on ticket sales, and they will also have to
implement strategies to avoid the high risks (such as weather) associated
with sales variability.
Unfortunately, the data suggest that strategies implemented to save
money, share resources, and find new monetary sources did not always
work well, resulting in debt and the necessity to borrow. Financial crises
are probably inevitable in the festival sector, as are failures, so that over time
the most effective strategy (for the survivors in Sweden) might very well
be to seek institutional status through partnering with the local authority.
Becoming a permanent institution in the festival’s host community is at
least, in part, a matter of choice. Festivals that pursue this strategy, aimed
at securing committed and powerful stakeholders, will probably have to
sacrifice a degree of autonomy. However, the Swedish festival managers
also believed they were managing dependency well, had achieved a strong
brand, constantly innovated, and were stronger for having survived one or
more crises. Accordingly, there is apparently a permanent tension in the
management of festivals, probably regardless of their ownership, between
the desire for autonomy and the necessity of accommodating powerful
There is no doubt that festivals have to be adept at stakeholder relationship management, especially with the powerful groups that provide
resources. Those within the public sector, or otherwise dependent on local
government revenue, are generally community-service oriented. Part of the
service they provide is for residents and part for tourists. Those festivals
dependent on generating ticket sales have no choice but to adopt a marketing orientation. Given the evidence provided previously by Mehmetoglu
and Ellingsen (2005), it seems likely that a tourism orientation increases
marketing efforts and sophistication.
To increase the viability and sustainability of their festivals, managers
have to identify stakeholder salience, especially by considering how dependent they are for resources, and by developing specific relationship
management strategies. This explains one important trend identified in the
Calgary case studies (Getz, Andersson, & Larson, 2007), that of not-forprofit festivals hiring professional development managers to secure money
from both corporations and governments, and to manage the accounts and
stakeholder relationships that arise.
218 JOURNAL OF CONVENTION & EVENT TOURISM
Some successful stakeholder management strategies have been identified, although not all of the festivals had pursued them. One involved the
media and suppliers by getting them to become sponsors, and another was
to engage in community outreach. Branding strategies appeared to be successful, and the value of branding probably applies to all festivals. On the
other hand, given the low level of reported success, the Swedish festivals
will have to learn more about sharing, developing sponsorship, and finding
alternative sources of funding.
Future research on festival management should evaluate the long-term
efficacy of specific marketing and stakeholder strategies in different cultural and political contexts. Findings of this Swedish research and results
of previous case studies suggest that festival management has to fit into
specific environments, which shape dependency and institutionalization.
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