The role of stakeholders in shifting
environmental practices of music
festivals in British
Faculty of Science, Thompson Rivers University, Kamloops, Canada, and
Faculty of Adventure, Culinary Arts and Tourism, Thompson Rivers University,
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to increase understandings of the complexity of stakeholder
relationships and their impact on environmental practices in music festivals in Western Canada, but also to
highlight how managers can leverage their festival platform for stakeholders to create new partnerships that
foster and support primary values around sustainability.
Design/methodology/approach – We use a community-based participatory framework to guide this study,
and qualitative research methods in the form of in-depth interviews and surveys at three separate music
festivals within the interior of British Columbia, Canada.
Findings – The majority of patrons are aware of the environmental impacts of music festivals and are more
likely to attend a festival with effective practices. By making environmental sustainability a core value of the
festival and communicating environmental objectives with both stakeholders and patrons, managers can begin
to alleviate the operational barriers to environmentalism.
Originality/value – One of the primary contributions of this study is that it provides management with
deeper understandings of a wide range of barriers to effective environmental practices in Western Canada. We
consult directly with both festival management and attendees about environmental practices. This paper
presents a fuller perspective of how to move beyond simple measures and craft a more sophisticated and
flexible environmental strategy that reduces risk, anticipates obstacles and greatly improves the odds of
Keywords Sustainability, Stakeholder relationships, Environmental practices, Music festivals, Communitybased research, Tourism industries
Paper type Research paper
Festivals have the potential to become effective change agents for environmentalism by
delivering strong educational messages to their audience through signage, performances
and interactive sessions (Barber et al., 2014; Brennan et al., 2019; O’Rourke et al., 2011; Wong
et al., 2015). However, operational barriers such as financial constraints, the lack of suppliers
or supplies and the minimal amount of control over patron behaviour are preventing
managers of these events from becoming leaders in environmental programming (Brennan
et al., 2019; Laing and Frost, 2010; Mair and Laing, 2012; Zelenika et al., 2018). There is
recognition for the need of responsible leadership in response to issues of sustainability
(Metcalf and Benn, 2013; Minh-Duc and Huu-Lam, 2019; Robertson et al., 2018); however,
festival managers are not the sole decision makers. The managers of festivals also have to
answer to numerous stakeholders, including festival patrons, who all hold some form of
Funding: This research was awarded funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council
(SSHRC) – Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship ($17,500).
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
Received 7 July 2019
Revised 2 October 2019
8 February 2020
5 March 2020
Accepted 6 March 2020
International Journal of Event and
Vol. 11 No. 2, 2020
© Emerald Publishing Limited
power (Freeman, 1984; Getz et al., 2007; Larson, 2011; Luonila and Johansson, 2016).
Research on stakeholder relationships in music festivals and how these can best be managed
tends to focus on improving economic sustainability by enhancing stakeholder management
and urging organizers to create relationships that will foster financial sustainability
(Andersson and Getz, 2008; Getz and Andersson, 2010; Karlsen and Nordstr€om, 2008; Ooi
and Pendersen, 2010; Turkulainen et al., 2016). Evaluating primary versus secondary
stakeholders would help managers to identify key partnerships (Freeman, 1984; Todd et al.,
2017). Stakeholders of festivals are often both voluntary and involuntary, as community
businesses, law enforcement and local residents feel both the positive and the negative
impacts of the event, regardless of their preferences (Getz et al., 2007; Turkulainen et al.,
2016). This literature provides a solid foundation for the importance to consult and
communicate with stakeholders for the economic sustainability of music festivals; however,
environmental sustainability is regularly overlooked (Brennan et al., 2019). Equally
important to note is the lack of research which highlights the opinions of patrons when
studying environmental impacts and practices (Hartmann and Ibanez, 2006; Laing and
Frost, 2010; Von der Heidt and Firmin, 2009). This is a surprising gap in the research as
patrons are often identified as the most significant stakeholder (Andersson and Getz, 2009;
Blesic et al., 2014). There is a modicum of research in Canada (Getz et al., 2007; Nelson et al.,
2011) with a particular scarcity noted in Western Canada on the sustainability of music
festivals. While the theories of sustainability developed around festivals are sound, it is
important to recognize that cultural differences can significantly influence the applicability
of the research findings (Gelder and Robinson, 2009; Getz and Andersson, 2008; Meynhardt
et al., 2016; Nicholson and Pearce, 2001). By speaking directly with both festival managers
and patrons, this study answers two critical questions: (1) what incentives or barriers
presently exist for management to implement improved environmental practices and do
they foster change? and (2) what are the concerns and motivations of consumers when
thinking about environmental sustainability at music festivals? This research demonstrates
that a high level of engagement with key stakeholders is required to foster economic, cultural
and environmental sustainability.
The increasing demand for critical approaches on music festivals
The growing concern, and resulting pressure, for festivals to become eco-friendly is
recognized by many scholars, with studies urging for further research in new regions (Laing
and Frost, 2010; Hottle et al., 2015; Martinho et al., 2018). Environmental impact assessments
and ecological footprints outline the consequences of music festivals on the environment,
particularly in resource demands, air pollution, general and food waste, water usage and
energy consumption (Collins and Cooper, 2017; David, 2009; Dutta et al., 2016; Li et al., 2014;
Tronstad and Gelderblom, 2016; Zelenika et al., 2018). Litter accumulation and visitor
trampling has also led to water and environment contamination, causing direct suffering to
animal habitats and vegetation with expected long-term negative consequences (Cierjacks
et al., 2012). Specific calculations of waste and damage are difficult to measure due to the short
timeframe of festivals, thus continuous research is imperative given the large size of the
industry and its potential to negatively affect communities and local or regional
environments (Gibson and Wong, 2011; Martinho et al., 2018). Other scholars have
analysed the implications of these impacts and offered suggestions for festival managers on
how to mitigate impacts and better incorporate greening strategies into their festival design
(Laing and Frost, 2010; Horng et al., 2014; Zelenika et al., 2018).
Despite numerous academic reviews and assessments, music festivals still struggle to
meet what many feel are easily achievable environmental standards. Scholars criticize the
different environmental impact assessments as being little more than an attention-grabbing
tool, in that they fail to provide useful information for making informed environmental
decisions. This is due, at least in part, to a limited understanding of how consumer activities
relate to impact (Collins and Cooper, 2017). Other barriers to implementation are the lack of
support from stakeholders (particularly local government), time constraints, control over
venues and patrons and availability of sustainable suppliers and supplies (Brennan et al.,
2019; Mair and Laing, 2012). Festivals are project-based organizations (Luonila and
Johansson, 2016) where resources and goals are negotiated by multiple parties, thus it is
crucial that the festival management team choose the right organizations to develop
relationships with in order to achieve their environmental sustainability goals (Getz
et al., 2007).
Collaboration between resource outfitters and stakeholders is a permanent element of
festival design (Andersson and Getz, 2008). Stakeholder relationships in the festival industry
are complex, often further complicated by the fact that the same stakeholder may hold
multiple roles that evolve throughout the festival’s life cycle (Karlsen and Nordstrom, 2008;
Turkulainen et al., 2016). The complex relationships between stakeholders and festival
management, as well as between different stakeholder groups themselves, have led to the
application of multiple theories and approaches to managing festivals including resource
dependency, institutional theory and stakeholder theory (Getz et al., 2007). Stakeholder theory
is the most widely adopted theory in festival literature, as it provides an effective
management tool for understanding the multifaceted relationships between stakeholders
(Todd et al., 2017). Stakeholder theory can be understood as a method of ranking the priority
of stakeholders based on their power, legitimacy and urgency in order to develop
management strategies (Mitchell et al., 1997; Mossberg and Getz, 2006). Power refers to the
stakeholder’s influence over the organization in hand with the organization’s dependency.
Legitimacy refers to the stakeholder’s relationship with the organization (legal, contractual,
ownership, etc.), while urgency refers to the ability of stakeholders to gain management
attention along with their level of demand (Mitchell et al., 1997). In practice, stakeholder
theory aims to understand the relationship impacts of all groups, beyond those of financial
shareholders (Todd et al., 2017). This study utilizes stakeholder theory as a guide because of
its purpose to relate to more than one partner. Stakeholder theory considers the wider
environment of people or entities that can affect, or be affected by, an organization’s actions,
rather than directing focus only on dependencies, shareholders or the institution (Andersson
and Getz, 2008). While current literature on music festivals examined through stakeholder
theory considers multiple entities, there is limited research that has resulted in management
outcomes designed towards environmental sustainability specifically. Debates throughout
management literature centre around “strategic functions such as corporate planning,
performance, systems theory and corporate social responsibility” (Todd et al., 2017, p. 496).
Clarkson (1995) argues success is dependent on providing satisfaction to primary
stakeholders whereas Jawahar and McLaughlin (2001) argue that different stakeholders
are more important based on their ability to meet an organization’s need. Often certain
stakeholders are favoured, particularly because of resource dependency, and “many of the
strategies of necessity involve key stakeholders, especially those pertaining to financial
health and marketing” (Andersson and Getz, 2008, p. 215). Therefore, the aim of using
stakeholder theory within this study is to analyse how different stakeholders are affecting
While this article focuses on operational strategies with stakeholders, it is worth noting
the recent shift in research from a managerial approach to an event design perspective
(Jackson et al., 2018; Orefice, 2018; Robertson et al., 2018), which has relevance to the findings
of this study. Orefice (2018) pays particular attention to strategic event design, where
“Strategic design requires integrating design approaches at the level of an organisation’s
mission and long-term strategy”. These design approaches involve teamwork, collaboration
and trust in all educational and practice-based environments (Jackson et al., 2018). There is
greater awareness of the need to address environmentalism within the complex system of
music festivals and it is important that festival providers lead this change (Robertson et al.,
2018). This paper aligns with studies that call for managers to work collaboratively with
stakeholders from the conceptual stages of their festival, and encourages managers to engage
stakeholders early in conversations of environmentalism with the aim of long-term
environmental sustainability and improved patron experience.
A community-based participatory research framework (CBPR) guided this study. This is an
approach that involves researchers and participants working as partners in multiple aspects
of the research process (Daley et al., 2010; Israel et al., 2005), which facilitates co-learning to
achieve a balance between research and action (Frerichs et al., 2016). CBPR has been used
extensively in health sciences (Frerichs et al., 2016; O’Fallon and Dearry, 2002; Townsend
et al., 2016), but these principles also have applicability to other disciplines. There has been a
rapid increase of CBPR projects over the past two decades, and consequently a corresponding
need for guiding principles (O’Fallon and Dearry, 2002). A number of principles were
endorsed in 2001 by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). In our
study, that deals directly with festival organizations and their stakeholder partners, the
following principles helped to form a framework: (1) to promote active collaboration and
participation at every stage of research; (2) to foster co-learning; (3) to ensure projects are
community driven; (4) to disseminate results in useful terms; and (5) to ensure the research
process is culturally appropriate (O’Fallon and Dearry, 2002).
We conducted research throughout the summer of 2017 at festivals within the interior of
British Columbia, Canada. Each festival is unique in its values, atmosphere, theme and
profiled music genre. The Salmon Arm Roots and Blues Festival is a not-for-profit festival
that celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2017 with up to 10,000 attendees over a four-day
period. The festival has become a staple attraction for the city and has been established as a
family friendly event that features a range of music from blues to bluegrass, Celtic to Cuban
and Americana to afro-beat. Bass Coast Electronic Music and Art Festival is an artist-owned
and operated festival that appeals primarily to a younger generation and centres on electronic
dance music (EDM) and art. This is a small-scale, four-day festival with an estimated 5,000
attendees and no sponsorship. Rockin’ River Country Music Festival profiles country music,
with a diverse audience across sex and age. This is a private music festival with a focus on
bringing in the best country artists. Over a four-day period, it had 29,000 attendees in the 2017
festival. This was a cross-sectional study with an intentionally small sample size, where the
sample festivals were carefully chosen to capture a wide spectrum of theoretical and practical
implications to address sustainability. In addition, these events are the three main music
festivals in the region, all of which are well known by the public and economically significant
to the local communities. These were also criteria that were factors in their selection for this
study. However, it is worth noting that we do not claim that our results are generalizable to all
music festivals in western Canada.
We used qualitative methods in the form of in-depth semi-structured interviews with
festival directors. Drawing on debates around environmental and cultural issues to
understand the concerns of listed stakeholders, the interview questions were developed to
gain data on the influence and effects of each stakeholder. The key questions focused on three
main areas: (1) the barriers or incentives that managers experience to implement
environmental practices? (2) the partnerships that affect the sustainability of festivals? and
the complex relationships between the values of a festival and partnerships that sustain it.
Open-ended questions allow for more flexibility and in-depth responses, where concepts can
evolve and underlying ideas may emerge (Taylor et al., 2015). Interview questions were
delivered beforehand for review and the interviews took place in a setting of the participants’
choice, such as home offices or festival sites, in order to create a comfortable atmosphere.
Four interviews were conducted in total: one with each festival director (Bass Coast, Roots and
Blues, and Rockin’ River) and one with the green team manager of Bass Coast. Roots and Blues
and Rockin’ Rivers’ managers both oversaw the environmental programming within their
festivals. The interviews averaged just over one hour in duration. Interview transcripts were
shared with the managers afterwards for them to review, correct or retract any information.
Additionally, managers were encouraged to ask questions and provide feedback throughout
the study. The review and approval of all information by festival managers was essential to
the integrity of this study as it was a key element of community-based research (Ablah
et al., 2016).
All of the interviews were audio recorded and transcribed verbatim. Data were then coded
to establish central themes using NVivo qualitative data software. The data were analysed to
denote commonalities and divergent patterns related to the managers’ perspectives. The
analysis of the data was guided by a specific process of content analysis (Elo and Kyng€as,
2008). The authors read through each transcript several times using open coding. The
authors then jointly discussed the categories and coding to identify relevant sub-themes.
Trustworthiness was established due to the collaborative nature of the data analysis through
content validation. According to Elo and Kyng€as (2008), direct quotations are critical to
displaying trustworthiness. Direct quotations from interviewees appear throughout the
results section below in order to ensure participants’ voices are heard and to demonstrate
their perspectives as clearly as possible.
We not only worked with management but also engaged the festival community directly
through on-site surveys as this was a request from our participants. Over 600 surveys were
conducted on site with festival attendees to inquire about patrons’ understandings of
environmental awareness, the importance of programs and practices and the willingness to
contribute to festival environmentalism. Visitor surveys are generally recognized for their
effectiveness in obtaining formative, process and summative information for basic types of
planning and marketing evaluations (Getz, 1991). The questions revolved around the
opinions and perceptions of festival patrons with regard to the environmental structure of the
festival they were attending. The surveys were designed to take no longer than five minutes
and consisted of ten questions about patrons’ understanding of environmental impacts,
awareness, importance of programs and practices and willingness to contribute towards
festival environmentalism followed by three demographical questions. These were all
informed by festival management. Surveys were administered in person and on site by the
researchers and were preceded by discussions with management prior to the festivals to
ensure that the content of the surveys and interactions between researchers and participants
would not compromise the core values of the festival. Upholding the culture at each music
festival and not disrupting the experience of the festival attendee was crucial to the
implementation of the surveys for retaining the support of management, and also for gaining
patron trust to partake in the survey. We gathered 206 surveys at the Bass Coast Music
Festival (July 7–10), 204 at the Salmon Arm Roots and Blues Festival (August 18–20), and 203
at Rockin’ River Music Festival (August 4–6). All survey responses were anonymous. On-site
intercept sampling was used, where participants are systematically selected using every fifth
person in line-ups or past a given point, such as entry or exit gates and vendor line-ups
As encouraged in CPBR frameworks, both the interviews and surveys were co-developed
with participants. As a consequence, the interviews with festival management actually
informed the development of the survey to not only ensure that managers approved of
the content but also to ask questions that the managers felt were relevant to their industry.
In this capacity, the study was beneficial to both researchers and festival managers.
Descriptive statistics (measures of frequency not dispersion or validation), usually
communicated by percentages, are drawn upon below to indicate the survey’s findings
about the consumption patterns of patrons. As we did not run complex statistical analysis, we
are not concerned about the reliability and validity of the quantitative data. As described
above, the surveys performed a very specific function in this study that was directly related to
our methodological approach.
The complexity of stakeholder relationships
The creation, staging and execution of music festivals require numerous partnerships, interest
from consumers and support from local communities. Consequently, the key partnerships
required for the economic success and sustainability of festivals have become a common
research theme in studies in management (Karlsen and Nordstrom, 2008; Getz and Andersson,
2010; Luonila and Johansson, 2016). Music festival stakeholder groups have been identified as
co-producers, facilitators, Allies and collaborators, regulators, suppliers, venue, audience and
individuals impacted voluntarily or involuntarily by the event (Getz et al., 2007). This extensive
list of individuals and organizations for festival management to maintain relationships with is
further convoluted by the complexity behind individual stakeholders, who may identify in
multiple groups and whose influence and lifecycle will shift with the festival (Todd et al., 2017).
Managers must be cognizant of who their stakeholders are, how they can influence the event
and what relevant management strategies to apply. This is particularly significant as not all
stakeholders are equal in terms of their ability to impede or help festival organizers (Getz and
Andersson, 2010). Collaboration is essential, but to navigate these relationships and ensure
that every partner is satisfied requires a great deal of time and energy on behalf of
management. Forming bonds with the appropriate stakeholders can make all the difference in
planning, funding, preservation of culture and even enablement of environmental
sustainability. This can be a difficult task, particularly within large events such as festivals
(Turkulainen et al., 2016). Despite these challenges, each manager in this study asserts to have
developed solid working relationships with their stakeholders throughout the years.
Direct consultation with the host community is a crucial aspect in festival design (Brennan
et al., 2019; Ooi and Pedersen, 2010). Festivals require support from the community to gain
access to site properties and develop a strong sense of culture through community
involvement. The relationships are reciprocal as host municipalities often also seek
opportunities to develop artistic culture within their own community (Karlsen and
Nordstrom, 2008; Getz et al., 2007; de Grosbois, 2009). Many festivals require this support
in order to survive, and communities often benefit from the revenue brought in by the event.
One festival manager in this study articulated a need to secure a new location, in part because
they required a larger physical space, but also because there were noise complaints from
community members who were not supportive of the event. The manager of Bass Coast
talked about how the move to a new location after failing to receive full support at their
previous site ended up being a positive experience:
It was definitely the best thing that could happen for us because the land was getting too hectic and
small. The traffic on the road was getting busy and although 99 % of the people that lived in that
valley were really supportive of us it just did not feel good being somewhere where there was not
100 % support (Personal communication, October 27, 2017).
While the manager did not conduct quantitative research to gain these percentages, she is
illustrating a broader point that she is striving for complete community support. In this
situation, the new location was very welcoming, as the city was looking for new revenue after
experiencing the loss of a festival that did not have full community support:
It is an interesting scenario because that site was used for a festival for years and years and it grew so
large that it ended up kind of too large. So then there was nothing for four or five years on that site
and I think the city really recognized at that point what the economic impact had been of the previous
festival and so when we came it was welcomed because it is a small town and they need different
revenue streams (2017).
Research argues that there is a pressing need to develop more innovative approaches to
regional development (Hutton, 2002), and further research has identified recreation and
tourism as an opportunity to do so (Nelson et al., 2011). Community support is crucial from
more than just residents. Permit applications are a requirement within the industry, such as
those approvals for liquor licensing, grey water mitigation, parking and fire safety. This
means that all three festivals deal directly with their local municipality during the planning
stages. Ensuring political support was another factor expressed by the manager of Rockin’
River Music Festival:
If you do not have the community behind you it is a horrible, horrible uphill battle. So you have to
have the political power. You have to have council behind you (Personal communication, November
The list within the community stakeholder group grows further, as the majority of
volunteers, who are also attendees, come directly from the host community. Volunteers are
crucial for festival operations, particularly for not-for-profits. For a not-for-profit the majority
of festival functions, such as beer gardens and the environmental programming, are run
solely by volunteers. Rockin’ River’s manager speaks to the importance of volunteers to the
general success of his festival:
What you really need to have is wonderful volunteer groups to pull from. . . they are integral to
running anything. (2017).
A festival must maintain solid relationships with volunteers. Ultimately, it is the volunteers
who allow festivals to expand the diversity and quantity of their services without creating
budgetary constraints (Bachman et al., 2014; Cnaan and Goldberg-Glen, 1991). Another study
has revealed that the setting and environment of a festival are the main contributing factors
behind volunteer commitment (Catano et al., 2001). The green team manager of the Bass Coast
speaks to how important it is to show appreciation to volunteers:
Honestly we just really appreciate our volunteers. I just try to always be grateful for their help
and treat them kindly and just express my gratitude for their help. . . They are so stoked to help
out and most of the green team volunteers will be thanked by people. For example, the attendees
will thank them for doing such an amazing job. So it’s like while they are working they are
receiving so much gratitude from everyone around them (Personal communication, December
Research has demonstrated that a volunteer’s intent to return is influenced by their
experience at the festival and there is a higher chance of satisfaction or return rate among
volunteers when the festival image is congruent with the self-image of festival volunteers
(Bachman et al., 2016).
Business relationships within music festivals can take many forms and there are
hundreds of partnerships to maintain. These include sound companies, staging, artists,
fencing, plumbing, electrical and vending. The Roots and Blues festival manager speaks to
the volume of vendor business alone that is required to meet festival needs:
I mean the whole site and the whole event is just basically a big opportunity for infrastructure to
show up as well as suppliers. We have at least 35 in food vendors and there is another 40 in the
artisan market. That is almost a hundred businesses just right there (Personal communication, June
As expected, management of these relationships takes numerous staff members, and
managers must trust their staff to create and maintain partnerships that are beneficial for both
the festival and the business. When asked about how management decides with whom to
make partnerships, the answers varied slightly. The Roots and Blues manager speaks to how
even placement of food vendors is a fundamental component to maintain a solid relationship:
I mean we might have four hot dog stands but they are all on four key points away from each other on
site because it is not serving those vendors. We have to protect the vendor’s investment to stay. For
example. . .if you are a hot dog vendor you are not going to be pleased to have two other ones right
next to you (2017).
In addition to this reference above, the Bass Coast manager mentions the importance of not
creating competition among suppliers, but also touches on the significance of ensuring that
partnerships reflect well with the values of their festival:
And we approach the food vending kind of like curating the art instillations or the artisan vending.
The food-vending manager vends at a ton of different festivals and is very experienced so he is able
to curate who we accept to be fitting with our values and also to provide a really good cross section of
food so they are not competing with each other (2017).
Sponsorship is the most common form of funding within music festivals (Andersson et al.,
2013) and it has a strong impact on management decisions due to contract stipulations and
requirements. Gaining sponsorship can also be delicate for management. Roots and Blues’
manager explains how sponsorship works for his festival, and how profit numbers play a big
role in whether or not he can gain investors:
Because they are underfunded (sponsors). They have to select. They have to save us (from financial
peril), or help us get started. They have to focus. And it is not criticism. It is just that they are
underfunded themselves and we will never have the funding we want because we are in the arts. . .
that is never going to be sustained. That is why we stick to an average over the last twelve years for
attendance and that is where we try to set our budget. Even though we had a great year last year we
still came into this year with the same budget that we had the previous year (2017).
Sponsors also have limited funds and must allocate them carefully to fund an organization
that is truly in need. This places organizers of Roots and Blues in a difficult position: if the
festival progresses too quickly and presents a larger budget, sponsors may decide the funds
could be allocated somewhere else to be of better use. He also explains how contracts with
sponsors can actually limit new opportunities:
I wanted to do this last year (create new partnerships). But I did not do it because we have an exclusive
deal that I did not want to break. Because of the financial year we had for the previous two years I did
not feel like I could gamble on both deals (2017).
It was clear throughout his interview that collaboration and support was critical to the
festival. This suggests that the orientation, goals and values of the festivals are crucial
components used by festival managers to prioritize stakeholders.
Maintaining communication with stakeholders is essential, and personal communication,
either face to face or through messaging, is thought to be the most successful mode
(Turkulainen et al., 2016). Rockin’ River’s manager speaks about the importance of
maintaining communication with all stakeholders:
We have tried tomaintain communication aswell aswe can and to have a very open dialogue with all of
them because I think it is vital. . . All of these people have my personal phone number and if they have
an issue or a question they feel free to giveme a call and that has been a tremendous thing forme (2017).
Turkulainen et al. (2016) recognized that the management of stakeholders within festivals can
be a greater challenge because communicationmust bemaintained over the projects extensive
lifecycle. It is thought to be additionally difficult due to the unpredictability and ambiguity of
experiential goods in cultural projects such as music festivals (Pan and Huan, 2013).
It is clear that stakeholder management is not as simple as one might assume, as they can
be both negatively and positively influential (Brennan et al., 2019; Robertson et al., 2018). To
create and sustain partnerships requires significant time and strategy on behalf of managers.
What should be noted here is that the majority of the partnerships are created and navigated
with sustainability in mind, particularly economic and social components. The three pillars of
sustainability are generally understood by many scholars to be economic, socio-cultural and
environmental (Getz and Andersson, 2008; Mair and Laing, 2012; Quinn, 2006), but studies
often fail to stress the importance and impact that stakeholders can have on environmental
practices. Managers are keen to form partnerships that will benefit their festival financially
and are quick to turn down partnerships that do not reflect the culture of their festival.
Conversely, many fail to take into account how the partnerships they create affect their
environmental practices. Managers understand that change is not always simply operational.
Partners, shareholders and sponsors need to be on board and communicated with when any
substantive change is being contemplated. In this sense, it seems inconceivable not to
acknowledge that environmental programs, as the third pillar of sustainability, could be more
successful if supported by stakeholders (Brennan et al., 2019). The most significant
stakeholder, holding the utmost potential to initiate this change, is the patron.
The consumption patterns of patrons
Music festivals are becoming more popular worldwide, prompting extensive research on the
consumption patterns of patrons in regards to their experience and motivations to attend in
order to improve attendance and generate economic value in communities (Ballantyne et al.,
2014; Bowen and Daniels, 2005; Blesic et al., 2014; Hudson et al., 2015; Leenders, 2010; Pegg and
Patterson, 2010). Although festivals rely on collaboration and support from businesses and
communities, the patron is the most crucial stakeholder, particularly in regards to not-for-profit
and private festivals (Andersson and Getz, 2009). They are also the group that has the greatest
potential to drive change, as their perceptions and values are vital knowledge for managers,
particularly to create effective marketing strategies (Andersson and Lundberg, 2013; Jackson
et al., 2014; Smith and Costello, 2009). Developing loyalty with patrons is a significant part of
stakeholder navigation that festival managers have learned to manage well. This building of
trust with consumers is predicated on the belief that the festival will deliver a unique experience,
worthy artistic line-ups, food, safety and cleanliness. Post-festival surveys are a common way
for managers to capture patron opinions in search of feedback (Getz, 1991). The surveys in this
research differed from the usual context in that the focus was on the environmental impacts of
festivals and how this influences patron decisions when deciding which festival to attend.
Management indicated that conversations with patrons regarding their perceptions of
environmental sustainability ranged from rare to non-existent. These surveys uncovered that
patrons are aware of environmental impacts, particularly with waste, damage to the local
environment and pollution. Only 43 respondents in total (7%) believed that music festivals
created no significant negative impacts. When asked to rate the level of importance of
environmental programs, ticket price, atmosphere and line up to their overall experience at a
music festival, results revealed that patrons found recycling, proper disposal of waste and
atmosphere as most important.
What is interesting to note from these surveys is the differences in responses at each
festival and the awareness they provide about the relationship between festivals and their
patrons. Respondents at Bass Coast Music Festival revealed strong environmental values
and placed the most importance on basic environmental efforts in comparison to the other
festivals. Patrons of Roots and Blues had similar responses, scaling high for importance of
efforts such as recycling, proper disposal of waste and the use of environmentally friendly
products. One of the more interesting findings from this study was that 88% of respondents
from Bass Coast and 79% of Roots and Blues respondents were more likely to attend a festival
that is environmentally friendly. Additionally, 88% of people from Bass Coast and 85% of
respondents from Roots and Blues were willing to pay an additional charge on their ticket
price to mitigate negative environmental impacts. At Bass Coast, 31% were willing to pay
twenty dollars or more while only 6% at Roots and Blues would pay twenty dollars or more.
However, 41% at Roots and Blues were willing to pay five to ten dollars. Many festival
attendees did express verbally that they would want complete transparency from the
organizers about how this additional fee would be utilized. Only 12% of respondents at Bass
Coast and 15% at Roots and Blues were not willing to pay an additional fee to combat negative
impacts. Over half of these respondents at both festivals (57% at Bass Coast and 55% at
Roots and Blues) felt it was the responsibility of the organizers to manage any negative
impacts. The responses at Rockin’ River Music Festival were quite different. At this festival,
respondents were less concerned with environmental practices, although they recognized
that impacts do exist. Intriguingly, at this festival, 55% indicated that they would not be more
likely to attend a music festival because it has improved environmental practices, and 53%
were not willing to pay an additional charge. Of this 53%, a majority of the patrons either could
not afford an additional fee (56%) or thought it was the responsibility of the organizers to
handle environmental hurdles (27%).
These results are indicative of the relationship between festival and patron values. Bass
Coast was the most environmentally oriented, with a patronage base expressing similar
interests. Roots and Blues, while eager to become more environmentally oriented, falls slightly
short in their practices in comparison to Bass Coast, and the results of their surveys do as well.
Rockin’ River’s management has a stronger emphasis on their artistic line-up, and not as many
environmental core values, which is mirrored in the survey results. This is supported by
studies that have proposed that festivals with green values can be suggestive to patrons and
serve as a behavioural model (Hottle et al., 2015; Alonso-Vazquez, 2015). Green festival
involvement is known to significantly influence attendees’ perceived value of green events.
This suggests that as consumers become more involved in an environmentally friendly event,
they are more inclined to realize environmental value (Wong et al., 2015). In turn, participation
and demand for environmental practices is expected to grow, which will give festivals with
established environmental initiatives a competitive edge. Nonetheless, the potential to educate
patrons should not be overshadowed by financial gain. Throughout the interviews the
managers expressed personal concern for environmental practices, showing an awareness
that the natural environment is something that we all share, and that environmental
negligence within a festival could eventually impact their own experiences in the environment
outside of the festival. Organizers can use their festivals to create and strengthen awareness of
this important connection to patrons by using the pristine setting to showcase why
environmental practices are so critical, both within the context of an event and beyond.
There are some commonalities to note from the survey results. While the artistic line-up is
one of the key components of music festivals, it is not always the main motivator for
attendance; good weather, sociable company, appealing music, and feelings of solidarity and
togetherness ranked higher as motivators (Leenders, 2010). In this study’s survey results,
when patrons were asked to rate the importance of artistic talent, 87% of the respondents at
Bass Coast and 74% at Rockin’ River reported the line-up to be important or very important,
whereas responses from Roots and Blues were closer in value and had 39% rating line-up as
important or very important. These are higher numbers than expected considering some
previous research that argues that artistic line-ups play a smaller role as a motivational factor
(Leenders, 2010). Almost all respondents (98%) identified that the atmosphere is very
important. These responses are critical as they emphasize that the physical environment is a
crucial component of building festival atmosphere (Lee, 2016).
There appear to be no major significant differences of opinion that can be traced to the age
of attendees or festival location, and only slight differences in regards to sex. More females
(90%) were aware to somewhat aware of the environmental impact than males (85%). More
females also rated environmental practices such as recycling (82%), proper disposal of waste
(84%) and use of environmentally friendly products (65%) as very important, roughly 10%
more than males (recycling 74%, proper disposal of waste 73%, use of environmentally
friendly products 55%). Also, more women (76%) were willing to pay an additional fee than
men (71%). These findings are consistent with previous research that contends that women
are generally more concerned with environmentalism (Milfont and Sibley, 2016; Salehi et al.,
2015; Zelezny et al., 2000).
Analysis of survey data indicates that festival values are a stronger variable than age, with
responses ranging widely for each festival. Results analysed by age become more interesting
when broken down by festival, as it is the patrons aged 35 and above at Roots and Blues that
acknowledged more types of negative impacts. Additionally, more respondents at this festival
aged between 45 and 74 also claimed to review the environmental policies of music festivals.
Conversely, the majority of patrons at Bass Coast fall into the younger age categories (25–34,
35–44 and 18–24) and this generation appears to have stronger environmental values in
comparison to all age groups at each festival. The results of perspectives on environmentalism
analysed by age are not consistent between each festival. This demonstrates again that many
of these environmental values are not based on demographics, but rather on personal values,
which are reflected in the theme, atmosphere and values that are portrayed through the music
festivals. Previous research has suggested that demographics are less important than values
and attitude in explaining environmentally conscious behaviour (Banerjee and McKeage,
1994; Laroche et al., 2001). The manager at Bass Coast believes that consumers themselves
have become the main driver for environmentalism at her festival. She explains why:
Just because of the type of community that is part of Bass Coast. In a broad statement: they are
open minded, creative, work in a large variety of industries, but seem to be interested in
something new. And that curiosity I think also is reflected in trying to live healthy, have a smaller
impact, and be better people. It is just an overall common thread between people that come to
Bass Coast (2017).
A study of environmental behaviours of attendees in Australia found that the festival
experience and sense of event community, as well as the festival’s provision of proenvironmental facilities, its advertising and educational initiatives, are all seen to contribute
to environmentally responsible or irresponsible behaviour (Alonso-Vazquez, 2015). One of the
most significant reasons for attendance at major events relates specifically to the theme and
activities (Nicholson and Pearce, 2001). The Bass Coast manager indicated that, from
inception, she set out to develop a festival that had a minimal impact on the environment, and
these values are now woven into the atmosphere of the festival and valued just as highly by
the community that is drawn to Bass Coast.
Management should be more in tune to how caring for their environment could improve
festival atmosphere. Other stakeholders are often task-oriented, but consumers are more
hedonistic, and pleasing festival patrons is an essential element of management (Pera et al.,
2016). When asked to rank stakeholders in order of importance, all three festivals described
their patrons as the most important stakeholder. For Rockin’ River, the manager refers to
being aware of his patrons’ wants and needs, particularly in regards to the artistic line-up,
as a critical piece to the sustainability of the festival, but he also explains how the
festival is more than just a music venue. The festival grounds become almost a home for
I think we do a lot more than most just to try and entertain. We have got you there for four days so we
want to make sure that we take care of you. We become your host. . . no different than having friends
and family over for the weekend. We want to make sure that they are taken care of (2017).
Being able to provide a place where festival patrons have a strong sense of community and
social inclusion has been identified as a common source of pride among festival organizers
(Finkel, 2010; Laing and Mair, 2015). By this logic, if patrons begin to voice their concerns for
environmental practices, particularly in connection to their festival experience, managers will
feel the pressure to implement green initiatives. When speaking about change within
festivals, Roots and Blues’ manager stated that at his festival they do not implement large
change unless at least 7% of his consumers make a request:
I do the seven percent rule, so if it is over seven percent of opinion then we listen to it. . . like a
third rule. It is just a percentage that I have always used as a way of helping let me know if it is a
commitment I should concentrate on. The thing is that I get filled with so many requests so I
know when to gauge the ones that actually have momentum and may be on a lot of people’s
Unfortunately, he does not feel as though there is enough demand from patrons to improve
Most of the time it is left to us organizers to raise the bar. And that is one of the reasons why we do not
focus on it. Honestly, because we do not have a lot of push from the patrons overtly. There has never
been a conversation that happens (2017).
As one manager refers to above, there has not yet been a dialogue with attendees around the
environment in his festival. That does not mean there is not a conversation to be had; it just
indicates that neither side has initiated a dialogue. Although patron opinion is valued, few
studies have examined the influence of attendees on management decisions or their concern
with environmental practices (Mair and Laing, 2012; Wong et al., 2015). Our survey opens the
door for conversations with attendees that could deal directly with consumers to gain insight
into how they feel about environmental practices. Our research suggests that consumers have
the potential to leverage their role as the most valued stakeholder and create real change. Our
findings also indicate that there is a potential marketing advantage to becoming
environmentally friendly because consumers would rather attend a festival with strong
environmental practices. Although respondents were quick to say they would rather attend an
environmentally friendly festival, only 22% of all respondents check the environmental policies
of a festival before purchasing a ticket. This is interesting to note because there appeared to be a
correlation between practices portrayed online and patron views, and there is a significant
difference in the environmental values included on each website. Roots and Blues outlines their
environmental practices in detail, Rockin’ River has omitted them entirely, and Bass Coast does
not provide extensive information about their environmental practices, but instead stresses the
importance of environmentalism to the entire festival ethos. It is up to management to use this
knowledge to develop stronger advertising. Environmental advertising should particularly be
exercised through social media, as it commands the greatest reach and it is a key part in brand
development and loyalty (Hudson et al., 2015). However, it is important to understand and
consider the attitudes that audiences will bring with them to the festival to develop an effective
sustainable social media marketing plan for sustainability (Brennan et al., 2019; Jackson et al.,
2014) and consider more factors that can affect the positive experience of participants (Filingeri
et al., 2018). The use (or lack of) environmental advertising and proper environmental facilities
can directly impact the level of engagement of pro-environmental behaviour of patrons at music
festivals (Alonso-Vazquez, 2015).
The interviews indicate that if patrons were more vocal about the importance of
environmental practices at music festivals, managers would feel more pressure to foster
change. Through analysis of the findings of survey results, this research provides a snapshot
of patron opinion on the environmental efforts of music festivals in British Columbia. Contrary
to management opinion, this research reveals that patrons do care about the environment; they
just are not overly vocal about it. It should be acknowledged that patrons of these festivals do
find environmental initiatives such as recycling and proper disposal of waste very important
practices to include in a festival. Atmosphere is relayed as one of the most significant elements
of the patron experience in this study, and the environment plays a crucial role in its creation
(Lee, 2016). Generating conversation with attendees to learn more about their preferences with
regard to environmentalism can help managers gain a competitive edge, improve their festival
atmosphere and lead to a more sustainable event (Barber et al., 2014; Song et al., 2015). These
findings suggest that further research should be conducted around other complex social
components that can affect environmental practices of patrons, including convenience,
perceived efficacy, outreach and participation (Filingeri et al., 2018; Hottle et al., 2015).
Behaviour change is a central factor necessary for shifting to more sustainable waste
management, yet there is a lack of research on behaviour change intentions (Zhang et al., 2011).
This area of research warrants more investigation into behaviour change, intentions and how
music genres play a factor in the environmental perspectives of patrons.
Pushing the message to all entities: how to generate change
The exchange of knowledge and creativity between organizers and stakeholder individuals
leads to valuable co-creation (Jackson et al., 2018; Orefice, 2018). These networks are widely
acknowledged for the opportunities they present for enterprises to make operational
improvements and enhance the value of their business activities (Luonila and Johansson, 2016;
Pera et al., 2016). By approaching stakeholders with a holistic lens, which considers their
influence on and their role within management, organizers can critically analyse and prioritize
the stakeholder relationship to enhance festival sustainability (Karlsen and Nordstrom, 2008).
Previous studies emphasize the importance of creating partnerships that increase the viability
and economic sustainability of festivals (Andersson and Getz, 2008). Our findings suggest that
including environmental practices within these conversations is the first step to overcoming
barriers to environmentalism and building a sustainable foundation to move forward.
Stakeholders are not always thought of as instrumental in working towards environmental
sustainability. Currently in British Columbia, festivals are not under enough pressure to
operate at a high level of environmentalism and are facing too many operational obstacles to
create effective change without fear of substantive damage to the bottom line. While some
scholars argue that a single individual in an organization can develop innovation and that it
does not necessarily need to come from the top of the chain of command to be successful
(Andersson and Bateman, 2000; Hemingway and Maclagan, 2004), implementation of change
does need to be communicated through all entities. This is particularly the case in festivals that
are comprised of dynamic multi-organizations. The role of festival leadership includes being
an innovator and partner, and improvements with innovation, production and experience are
facilitated not only through festival operations but also with the cooperation of stakeholders
and partners (Getz et al., 2007; Luonila and Johansson, 2016). Rockin’ River’s manager speaks
to the importance of communication and understanding of operations with all involved:
It takes everybody understanding. You cannot just be one guy at the top going “okay, this is
important.” It needs to be everybody understanding that the philosophy of the industry. . . the
philosophy of that particular company. . . needs to go right down to the volunteers (2017).
While this quote does not directly involve environmentalism, it highlights management’s
understanding of the importance of keeping every stakeholder informed. He further explains
the complexities of festivals and the importance of working together through an analogy:
I absolutely believe that everything has to work together. I always talk to everybody about a festival
being like a Rubik’s Cube, inside a Rubik’s Cube, inside a Rubik’s Cube. Everything has to be in
motion at all times and we have to watch every move that we make and be smart about it. Every
single square is important. Everybody is important (2017).
Getz et al. (2007) emphasize that managers of festivals are not independent actors, but rather
dependent co-producers in a network of organizations, relying on many sources to help
achieve their goals. It is because of these dependencies that festivals struggle to meet
environmental targets. The many challenges of environmentalism include learning to
implement practices that can be easily set up and executed. Roots and Blues festival manager
We are always looking for those things that we can just do up line and have them set up so when they
are down the line they can be implemented without thoughts like, “that’s the way we just do it.”
Versus trying to do some kind of cultural change (2017).
This need for cultural change can be understood as a need for complete understanding,
agreement, and participation from all those that create impact or will be impacted. He
explains how this also becomes one of the reasons that his festival does not feel the need to
operate at a higher level of environmental sustainability:
We are talking about a cultural change because it is your community. It is not an individual thing.
You can have your own culture. . . but if I want all of us to follow it. . . that is a cultural change. I think
we are piggy backing off of a movement in our time. I do not think we have to be the leader in that
honestly. Because I think culturally the momentum is there. We are being influenced by other
festivals and we are influenced by other people so we are always trying to adjust because it is
There is no immediate call to action for festivals in Western Canada to begin making an
environmental shift in values because outside pressures are not yet strong enough. There has
yet to be a conversation around the environmental practices with stakeholders, as the festivals
are waiting for society to inspire change rather than owning their responsibility to create
change themselves. Protecting the values of the festival was expressed as being an important
element in each case. There is already an understanding that managers do not want to partner
with organizations that are not going to benefit the festival or that might reflect poorly on them
as an organization. While the view of one manager is that personal affairs cannot be allowed to
interrupt business, his ethical values in partnership are always a consideration:
My political values, my religious values, none of that plays any part whatsoever. My ethical values
matter very much. And my moral stances absolutely matter in who I hire. But you know. . . that is
just good business (2017).
Managers are already making decisions based on personal values at a business level, but
values need to expand to include environmental practices, as impact reduction relies heavily
on the beliefs of managers and host organizations who can act as stewards of
environmentalism (Mair and Laing, 2012). Two of the three festivals examined do not
currently address environmental practices in their partnership process. Conversely, for the
Bass Coast manager sustainability has always been a core goal and these conversations are
already initiated when seeking partnerships:
I mean the suppliers that come in through our application process, I do not think they have the
opportunity to even express that interest before we are like, “this is what we’re looking for,” so we
have already started that conversation (2017).
The festival is able to avoid partnerships that do not align with values of environmentalism
by establishing a dialogue early, thus allowing them to work on agreements that benefit
everyone. The relationships between managers and stakeholders are two-fold and there
should be expectations on both ends. For example, managers have expressed the need for
patron involvement for environmental success. The survey results showed that 52% of
patrons are aware of the negative impacts of music festivals and an additional 35% were
somewhat aware. While some are eager to participate, others feel it is the responsibility of the
organizer to prevent impacts. Music festivals in Scotland faced a similar challenge and
researchers suggested the need for festival organizers to assume a directional role to facilitate
shared responsibility (Brennan et al., 2019). Currently, there is little expectation for attendees
to assume responsibility, but by communicating and educating attendees, managers can
increase participation in environmental programs and significantly influence perception of
the value of green events (Wong et al., 2015). This same approach should be applied to
partnerships. As managers begin to seek out more environmentally friendly providers,
suppliers will begin to feel pressure to change. Manager of Bass Coast speaks about how her
suppliers are already beginning to be exposed to these needs:
Well some of the bigger generators are eco-diesel. Things like that. So within their own companies I
think they are starting to also try and reflect what people want. I think that the people that run those
companies, you know supply and power, you would supply to a huge variety of industries from
festivals to tree planting to work sites like construction. And I think through that they are exposed to
different mindsets. So maybe just through exposure and their own personal interest. . .it is starting to
pop up (2017).
Sponsorship contracts should also be addressed in this way. Bass Coast does not take
sponsorships to protect the integrity of its core values. She explains her view on sponsorship:
Our whole concept is that Bass Coast is sponsored by you. By the attendee. By the ticket holder by
the artist by everyone involved. That is who sponsors Bass Coast! And so that is our belief. We are
not opposed to very specific industry related partnerships if it really is benefiting both and also the
attendee. . . but we do not have any. We have been approached by cigarette companies and car
companies and things like that and it is just not of interest (2017).
Bass Coast is in a unique position because it was built without the financial support of
sponsorships, but the lesson is still applicable. By choosing not to partner with companies
that do not reflect their environmental values, organizations and their managers can begin to
lessen restrictions or the impacts of taking on a sponsor that contradicts the beliefs of festival
leadership. The benefits of greening a festival and becoming formally recognized in this
regard include alleviating industry and stakeholder stresses as well as attracting more
sponsorship that aligns with these goals (Mair and Laing, 2012). The manager of Roots and
Blues has already experienced a snowball effect with liquor sponsorships:
Right now we partnered with local craft breweries and then suddenly another brewery heard we
were doing this and wanted to get in. And we did not have room for them so they paid for all the
sponsorship appreciation beer to be involved. That gives competition. The more people and
sponsorships you have on this the more other sponsors see that they have a “piece of the pie” and
they want to get in. . .competition breeds competition. Monopoly breeds monopoly. There is no way
around it (2017).
Music festivals provide a platform of opportunity for partners to improve services,
experiment with new products and foster new collaborations, making them attractive for
businesses looking to build relationships with other enterprises in the festival’s partner
portfolio as well as consumers (Mackellar, 2006; Luonila and Johansson, 2016). By mastering
the ability to leverage their platform and craft strategic relationships that are beneficial both
in financial and in environmental terms, managers can come out with more favourable
contracts and also attract interest from other businesses. Getz, Andersson, and Larson (2007)
argue that festivals with strong identities that are valued within a community can develop
powerful positions in relation to their stakeholders. As explained by Barber et al. (2014),
“festivals should partner toward a common strategy that will influence the destination’s
positioning, awareness, and funding opportunities that can benefit recycling and other local
environmental behaviours” (p. 617). As music festivals become more established, the power to
leverage their platform matures and becomes an opportunity to develop robust relationships
with stakeholders that support their environmental sustainability.
Generating change within a music festival can be difficult. This is particularly the case if
the change involves a shift in values or goals. The culture of music festivals currently revolves
around exploration of music and atmosphere, socialization and feelings of escape (Blesic et al.,
2014). Music festivals bring together mass numbers of people and partnerships who are all
invested in the success of the event. Without patron participation and broad stakeholder
support, the responsibility for environmental program success rests with festival staff alone.
Organizers must learn to incorporate their current knowledge and management of these
complex relationships to address environmentalism, rather than treating it as a separate
entity. The complexity behind stakeholder relationships reveals that many of the barriers to
environmentalism extend past simple financial constraint or lack of supplies. Organizers are
limited by their capacity to resource staff and afford equipment, and recent research suggests
connecting otherwise disparate communities to address issues of sustainability such as
“individuals (artists and audiences), organisations (festival organizers, production suppliers,
local authorities), and infrastructure (driven by policymakers and investors)” (Brennan et al.,
2019). In a study of creativity in the management of outdoor events, successful collaboration
was evident through engagement, involvement and immersion with stakeholder partners as a
result of processes of communication and shared vision of what the event was or could be
(Jackson et al., 2018). Managers would not expect to make a large change to the finances or
social values of their festival without stakeholder support, and this study suggests that
environmentalism should receive the same consideration. With all parties involved and a
deeper understanding, programs will have a much greater likelihood of success and any
barriers will become easier to overcome.
As concern for environmentalism continues to grow, it is essential that managers of music
festivals better understand how their current stakeholder relationships, including
perspectives of patrons, encourage or impede their ability to incorporate green practices
(Filingeri et al., 2018; Jackson et al., 2018). It was apparent from our management interviews
that the economics and cultures of a festival are made possible through collaboration. These
findings also supported previous research that emphasizes the importance of stakeholders
for problem solving during times of distress (Getz and Andersson, 2008). Sponsorship
contracts and resource dependency lends many stakeholders strong influence on
management decisions, highlighting the importance for each festival to develop relations
with stakeholders who have shared values that are in alignment with one another. The
evidence indicates that partnerships should be created that enhance environmental practices
as well, and that the right stakeholder, in addition to bolstering a festival’s financial or
cultural components, can also provide solutions to environmental barriers. Consideration also
needs to be given on how the various actors within the festival are interacting with the crowd
to understand where improvements can be made towards optimising the experience for
participants (Filingeri et al., 2018).
Staying true to the original values of the festival is of major importance to their audience,
and maintaining a foundation of loyalty and trust with patrons is imperative. In regards to
environmentalism, the majority of patrons are aware of environmental impacts, but their
level of concern and knowledge varies depending on the festival they are attending. The
feedback from patrons often reflected the environmental practices of the festival, and
arguably the values and atmosphere established at each event. It was notable that the
majority of patrons were more likely to attend a festival that has strong environmental
practices; however, it is up to the organizers to deliver and communicate this message to
attendees. The local community and patrons are an integral part of what makes a festival a
success, and their direct involvement and feedback opens new doors for communication with
management around sustainability.
This study provides management with deeper understandings into a wide range of
barriers. This in turn enables a more solid understanding of how to move beyond simple
measures and craft a more sophisticated and flexible environmental strategy that reduces
risk, anticipates obstacles and greatly improves the odds of successful implementation.
Understanding how some stakeholder partnerships can actually restrict new programs is one
example of a more sophisticated and strategic approach. Identifying barriers and
communicating the full complexity of the issues to management means that the right
information gets into the hands of people who can develop long-term solutions and
sustainable improvements to environmental policies and practices.
Most of the results and conclusions of this study are derived from the practical implications
of the participatory research approach that was employed. Within the interviews, managers
indicated that they did not think of their own stakeholder relationships as complicated, but
rather viewed them within the context of business decisions. As our conversations deepened
and more questions were asked, managers were required to critically analyse their
partnerships and reflect on how these relations impact both their day-to-day and big
picture festival operations. This thought process was not intended to convince managers to
change their associations, but to begin to acknowledge both the positive and negative impacts
that some relationships have (Brennan et al., 2019; Robertson et al., 2018). The knowledge
produced through these conversations is already being used in a meaningful way. The Roots
and Blues music festival has dramatically improved their environmental practices for the 2018
and 2019 festivals. Through the use of a community based participatory research
methodology, the research results are clear, constructive and already being put into action.
This research demonstrates that management already has the tools for and
understandings of how to navigate the complex relationships that keep their festivals
operational; therefore, it is a matter adjusting their perspective to include environmental
practices and involving stakeholders from conceptual stages. A shift in values on behalf of
management can result in long-term improvements to festival sustainability and also initiate
a potential chain reaction that creates pressure for other festivals to evolve. While smaller
scale music festivals may not attract global media attention or produce the same economic
income as a mega event, their symbolic meaning and cultural influence are equally powerful
and should be recognized as such. The arts, and the creative processes that they
encompass, are thought to be a key contributor to social learning in environmentalism
(Galafassi et al., 2018) and the wide reach of music festivals positions them well to drive
relevant action to their audience, both within and outside of the event (Robertson et al., 2018).
With escalating international competition for resources and a growing need to protect our
natural environment, it is even more important for events to have the support of all those
directly and indirectly impacted. For these reasons, and due to the multitude of people
reaping a diversity of benefits, it is imperative that we continue to foster and contribute to
research that supports sustainable music festivals.
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About the authors
Dominique Hazel is a recent graduate of the Master of Science in Environmental Science at Thompson
Rivers University in British Columbia, Canada. Dominique Hazel is the corresponding author and can be
contacted at: [email protected]
Courtney Mason is a Canada Research Chair in Rural Livelihoods and Sustainable Communities at
Thompson Rivers University in British Columbia, Canada.
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The role of stakeholders in shifting