So music fans are bored of festivals eh? Glasto organiser Michael Eavis thinks so. His recent comments in the Times - “It's on the way out. Partly it's economics, but there is a feeling that people have seen it all before” - have had the internet buzzing, never mind scaring us shitless by suggesting his own festival could only have a few years left in it.
But I think he’s being a wee bit melodramatic. Obviously 2008 has left him a little tender, when he “almost went bankrupt” after booking Jay-Z. And sure, he makes some valid points – it’s true that a lot of established festivals have struggled to sell out this year. The same Times report claims that Leeds and Reading may have up to 40% of tickets left and Hop Farm, despite boasting a glitter-crusted performance from the Purple One himself, Prince, only sold 20,000 out of a possible 50,000 tickets.
But is this really surprising? You can’t swing a glo-stick these days without black-eying at least six festivals. We’re in a recession. With supply out-stripping demand there was bound to be an impact felt somewhere. A reduction in the amount of festivals on offer wouldn’t be a bad thing. A reduction in prices of course would be even better. But think about it - if you add up how much it would cost to see all the bands you’d watch on a bill separately, it would probably be a lot more than a festival ticket.
Instead, look at the bigger picture. Elsewhere, festivals are shifting tickets. For a start Glasto sold out this year. As did T in the Park and Sonisphere, and as has V Festival. Then of course there’s the smaller festivals like End of the Road and Secret Garden Party that have performed staggeringly well.
T In The Park - full coverage
Sonisphere - full coverage
Eavis’ fears go deeper than just sales though, fretting: “We sell out only because we get huge headliners.” But we all know this is bollocks. For a start, the Glastonbury line-up is only released after tickets have sold out.
Then there’s the comments from eFestivals’ Neil Greenway, arguing there’s not enough variety anymore in festival headliners with the same bands playing on repeat. Again, a valid point. But look at last weekend’s Sonisphere, who had Biffy Clyro as their Saturday headliner. A game-changer of a booking, as was, lets be fair, Jay-Z, in the sense that the gates have been opened for other bands who’ve never headlined the larger UK festivals – such as Elbow, Lamb of God, and Machine Head as well as artists of a non-guitar-based ilk – to step up to the plate.
I for one refuse to believe the future of Glastonbury is hanging in the balance. It has a history, and a mystique that will always go beyond who’s playing on the Pyramid. Music festivals - in particular Glastonbury - are a British summer institution. And along with a passion for live music, that’s not about to disappear anytime soon.
Keep up to date with all the summer festivals at NME.COM/festivals