Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences

Festivals in the Netherlands on the decline

5 Aug 2019 12:00 | Communication

Research by the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (AUAS) into Dutch festivals shows that the number of festivals in the Netherlands has decreased by more than ten percent over a two-year period. Professor Harry van Vliet (Cross media): “The decrease in the number of music festivals was already visible in 2017, but has clearly gained momentum over the past year, and also applies to food festivals.”

In the annual Festival Atlas, Van Vliet and the AUAS research group Cross-media analyse the festival landscape with regard to music, food, visual arts and film. In 2018, festival lovers had 1444 festivals to choose from, consisting of 1029 music festivals, 170 food festivals, 150 film festivals and 95 art festivals. A year earlier, there were 1482. Some festivals have multiple editions in the same year. Visitors could go to 1651 festival editions in total. Most festivals charge an admission fee (65%), take place outdoors (62%) and last one day (57%).

Twenty-five percent fewer music festivals in Amsterdam

The number of music festivals has decreased considerably in the past two years: there were 1155 music festivals in 2015, 1172 in 2016, 1057 in 2017, and 1029 in 2018. This signifies a decrease of ten and twelve percent in 2017 and 2018, respectively, compared to 2016. There was a significant drop between the years 2016 and 2017.

The reduction in the number of festivals in the province of Noord-Holland stands out, and is so extensive that Noord-Brabant took over the lead as the province with the most music festivals in 2018. The decrease is clearly visible in Amsterdam, where the number of music festivals decreased by a quarter in 2018 compared to 2016. A similar reduction is also seen in Utrecht and Eindhoven (17 and 16 percent, respectively). However, this does not apply to Rotterdam and The Hague.

Stricter policy

These differences may indicate the possible influence of municipal policy. “We have not investigated it specifically, but it has probably become more difficult to obtain a permit in certain cities due to stricter policies,” says Van Vliet.

Another reason for the reduction is that the number of new music festivals has decreased in recent years. Whereas there were 184 new music festivals in 2015, there were ‘only’ 88 in 2018. Nevertheless, the music festival landscape is dynamic. In 2018, 391 of the 1155 festivals held in 2015 were no longer on the festival calendar, a decrease of 34 percent.

Dramatic decrease in number of new food festivals

The number of food festivals in the Netherlands has also been decreasing since 2017. There were 186 food festivals in 2016, 196 in 2017, and 170 in 2018. The number of food festivals thus decreased by 13 percent in 2018 compared to the previous year. The decline can be traced back to specific provinces: Noord-Holland, Gelderland and Zuid-Holland had significantly fewer food festivals in 2018 than in previous years.

The number of new food festivals in particular has dropped dramatically over the past three years: from 86 in 2016, to 53 in 2017, and only 25 in 2018. This steady decline is particularly visible in July and September, and in the provinces of Zuid-Holland, Noord-Holland, Noord-Brabant, Utrecht and Zeeland.

Number of film and art festivals more stable

With 150 film festivals in 2018, the difference from previous years (140 in 2017 and 144 in 2016) is small. However, the number of film festival editions in 2017 and 2018 was considerably lower than in 2016. There were 202 film festival editions in 2016, compared to 170 in 2017 and 180 in 2018. The number of festivals in the different provinces has remained more or less the same. Only Gelderland had a peak in 2016.

In 2018, there were 95 art festivals, the vast majority of which (81 percent) are held annually. The percentage of biennials – festivals held every two years – at 13 percent, is striking: this is hardly ever seen with other types of festivals and therefore appears to be a typical feature of art festivals. Most art festivals are held in the provinces of Noord-Holland and Zuid-Holland, together accounting for half of the total number of art festivals. Art fairs are also almost exclusively concentrated in these two provinces. Other art fairs can only be found in Noord-Brabant (Art Breda, Art Eindhoven and Brabant Art Fair) and Limburg (Tefaf).

More information (in Dutch) can be found at