Youth marketing

Gen Z events: The generation redefining festival culture

Written by
Izzy Hall
Published on
June 20, 2023
Last updated
April 29, 2024

What this article covers

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Festivals and events have long been a favorable spring and summer activity amongst Gen Z. They offer a chance for young people to get together, relax, and party, and offer brands the chance to get on the younger generation’s radar and win their loyalty – everyone’s a winner!

We recently revealed that 44% of Gen Zers from the UK and 41% from the US expect to spend money on entertainment over the summer. 25% from the UK and 24% from the US plan on attending a music festival, with 19% and 30% from the UK and US respectively saying they might do.

So, what’s the attraction, and how can youth marketers get involved? In this blog post, we’ll be looking  at the face of festivals and Generation Z events, exploring how this sector is developing, and sharing how brands can use live events tap up their target audience.

The changing culture of Gen Z festivals and events

Traditionally (and perhaps stereotypically), festivals have been the place for young people to embrace their freedom and party with friends, with the latter fuelled by alcohol and drugs. However, Gen Z isn’t any old generation – this young cohort has previously been dubbed ‘generation sensible’ and isn’t prioritizing the party lifestyle that previous generations may have embraced.

young Gen Z woman at a music festival

Our research shows that 27% of Gen Zers from the UK and just 17% from the US planned on consuming alcohol and/or drugs at a festival last year, whilst a significant 60% (65% from the US) responded with a firm ‘no’. In fact, only 5% of Gen Z are most excited about drinking when they get to a festival. Whether it’s due to their health-conscious attitudes, advocacy for mental health awareness, or simple fear for their safety (just look to recent incidents at Brixton Academy and Astroworld), Gen Zers are less inclined to take part in drinking culture.

So, after years of lockdowns and social restrictions, is Gen Z rejecting expectations and embracing experiences…?

The new wave of festivals: What does Gen Z do for fun?

This generation is one that understands the importance of connection and wants to authentically engage with other people their age and/or those with shared interests. They want a community. 

When asked ‘What are you most excited for about attending a festival?’, the most popular answer across both the UK and US Gen Zers was ‘hanging out with friends’, with 43% and 50% respectively choosing this option. Not only does this change the way they approach festivals and events, but it also diversifies the types of festivals and events they are interested in attending.

And this doesn’t just apply to Gen Z: recent Pion research revealed that 66% of Gen Zalphas* cite spending time with friends in-person as one of their main interests. This gives us a glimpse into the future: irl events aren’t going anywhere, and festival experiences will play a significant part in this.

music festival crowd

Festivals that tap into a range of their interests are increasingly becoming a popular choice for young people. Things like ComicCon, food festivals, film/TV conventions, and influencer-run events appeal to Gen Z because they’re a chance to have conversations with others who share the same interests. Contrary to popular belief, 62% of students attend conventions and conferences, so don’t neglect these types of events when conducting your student marketing strategy.

What are the Gen Z music festivals of summer 2024?

So, what are the music festivals that Gen Zers will be heading to this summer? Here’s a round-up below:

  • Glastonbury Festival
    The festival of legends. Headliners include Dua Lipa, Shania Twain, and SZA. 26 – 30th June, Glastonbury (UK)
  • Rolling Loud
    The largest hip-hop festival in the world.
    13 - 15th December, Miami (US)
  • Kendal Calling
    A star-studded lineup hosted in one of the most scenic areas of the UK.
    1st - 4th August, Penrith (UK)
  • Lollapalooza
    Shot to recently thanks to Joseph Quinn (Eddie in Stranger Things) appearing onstage with Metallica.
    1st - 4th August, Chicago (US)
  • Creamfields North
    Featuring huge Gen Z names such as Camelphat, example, and Peggy Gou.
    22nd - 25th August, Chesire (UK)
  • Leeds Festival
    Every young person’s favorite celebration to the end of the academic year.
    21st - 25th August, Leeds (UK)
  • Reading Festival
    Starring Fred Again.., Lana Del Ray, and Raye. 21st - 25th August, Reading (UK)
Glastonbury festival

How can brands get involved?

Events are a great platform for brands to market themselves. Experiential marketing at festivals has huge potential. Becoming an event sponsor, securing a stand at a festival, or providing goodie bags at an event are all great opportunities for brands to increase their exposure to Gen Z consumers.

For organizers, offering a student discount is an effective way to draw students in and earn Gen Z loyalty. In fact, 86% said they would attend events more often if more student discounts were offered.

The appeal of events is only growing amongst Gen Zers, and they can’t wait to spend time with their nearest and dearest whilst forming relationships over shared interests. And with so much demand for a summer of sun, spending, and fun, the right incentives are a sure way to help students decide where their brand loyalties lie.

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*We define Zalphas as aged 9-14 years old.

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