Posts tagged ‘Glastonbury’

August 12, 2011

Soundwave Revolution sounds death knell for the golden age of music festivals

When Michael Eavis announced the demise of his own Glastonbury Festival, in an English newspaper last month, many thought he’d jumped the gun, believing that his forecast was the ramblings of a man who had lost touch after 41 years in the business. With further poor sales and what seems like a festival going under every week maybe the 75-year-old will prove himself as the industry prophet after all?

Soundwave Revolution is the newest kid on the chopping block, cancelled due to the withdrawal of a major headliner.  But surely there is more to it than meets the eye?   Usually one headliner does not make a festival?  There are plenty of bands that would be itching to step up and fill the void.  Recent ticket sales of rival festivals suggest that lack of interest and low sales are probably closer to the mark.  This year’s Splendour in the Grass failed to sell out for the first time in its decade long history, while last year’s Big Day Out second day in Sydney offered 2 for 1 ticket sales and they still fell short of maximum sales.  Good Vibrations had such bad returns Justin Hemmes has decided to put the festival on ice until the end of next year.  In another new twist and more evidence of dwindling sales, Parklife announced today that they have exclusivity over all their acts, meaning there will be no sideshows from any of the main headline acts.  With less than two months until the festival opens its gates the announcement hints at sluggish sales and the anxiety to inject a USP into the marketing.

According to The Music Network there are over 55 registered mainstream music festivals in Australia, which actually doesn’t seem that many compared to a staggering 300+ in the UK.  So congestion and competition doesn’t seem to be a primary reason for such disinterest in the Australian festival season, not compared to the clogged up circuit in Britain.  Which means the root of the cause is the combined effect of high costs, large travel distances and festival fatigue.

June 4, 2011

Queens of the Stone Age ask fans to vote for set list

Queens of the Stone Age have asked fans to pick their favourite songs, for their headlining set at Glastonbury this month.  This inventive and inclusive idea gives fans the option to vote online for the songs they wish to be played at the festival, through BBC Radio 1’s DJ, Zane Lowe, and his website; .

This type of digital interaction is an effective and fun way of including fans into the social dynamics of the band. The technology is there, why not use it?   It also challenges the band to rehearse and play songs they may have not played for a long time, or ever!  Generally most people who vote on these type of fan base platforms are the serious fans, not necessarily the casual festivalite, so the results will be interesting.  Imagine a set without Know one knows or Feel good hit of the summer?  I suspect if that is the outcome Homme will manipulate the set list to suit the occasion!  Even so it still represents fan interaction and that can only be a good thing.  After all, if it wasn’t for them they wouldn’t be headlining Glastonbury!


April 21, 2011

The Most Expen$ive Mu$ic Fe$tival in the World?

After last weeks fanfare announcement of the Splendour in the Grass 2011 line-up, and now that the dust has settled, it’s time to ask; Is Splendour in the Grass the most expensive festival in the world?

On face value it appears so. $525 for the full price camping ticket, $400 if you want to join the mad scramble trying to book overpriced accommodation elsewhere! The line-up is good, but hey that is still a lot money!

Lets be pragmatic and look at the fundamentals of the festival:

  • The relatively small attendance of 32,000 adds intimacy to the event. The organisers are certainly not trying to squeeze the punters in, to maximize returns.
  • The geographical distance of Australia always adds a certain amount of mileage to the artists tank. Even though the artists management/label would be footing the bills, the festival organisers would be caught between a rock and hard place in terms of negotiating.
  • Competition in Australia is pretty sparse, particularly during winter! And it’s a long way to the fields of Europe!
In a way it’s difficult to compare an Australian music festival held in a southern hemisphere winter against all the northern hemisphere summer festivals? I accept that its probably not a level playing field. Even so the price difference is so severe that one can’t help thinking that this is yet another example of Australians getting ripped off for a luxury product or paying over the odds for international goods. Surely with the Australian dollar being so astronomically strong the organisors will save a few bucks by featuring such a large number of international artists on the bill?
I bet they all want to be paid in Aussie dollars this year?
The most expensive festival in Europe is the godfather of the music festival, Glastonbury.  At £200 ($310) it is an aeon away from its hippy roots, the price has doubled in 10 years, but i guess that’s the price of progression.  Most of the European festivals price themselves between $220 and $300 for 3/4 days. An absolute snip if you’ve got a pocketful of Aussie dollars!  There are all shapes and sizes depending on your preference.
Admittedly there are very few festivals the size of Splendour with such a stellar line-up, with the exception of England’s – Bestival and Benicassim in Spain perhaps.  In fact Benicassim, with a capacity of 50,000, has managed to sign the company of Arcade Fire, Portishead, Arctic Monkeys and The Strokes!  Not bad for $250!  Even the festivals that party for 6 days, Paleo Festival – Lake Geneva and Sziget – Budapest, will only set you back around $300!

Whether it’s the most expensive music festival in the world, which it probably is, is superfluous anyway, because it will sell out in record time and the demand for next year will supersede this!  And it’s not going to get any cheaper!
Anyone want to start a festival? If you build one, they will come!
May 26, 2010

U2 cancel Glastonbury!!

The news that U2 have pulled out of their Friday headlining spot has probably reached the far-flung corners of the world by now! With Bono needing emergency back surgery over the weekend it would have been asking a little too much of him to perform in just over a months time – even Bono couldn’t manage that?   Tragic as it may sound, Glastonbury has had to cope with this type of set back on many occasions.

The most famous Glastonbury no-show is now part of Glastonbury folklore; The Stone Roses cancelled in 1995 due to John Squire breaking his collar-bone riding his BMX, replacement band Pulp seized the moment with a showstopping performance that catapulted them to massive popularity, and the rest his history.   The most recent high-profile cancellation was Kylie Minogue in 2004 – she had just been diagnosed with breast cancer! – Basement Jaxx filled the spot with divided opinion –  and unlike Pulp failed to capitalise on their elevated status.  2004 also saw The Libertines pull out (not much of surprise given their chequered history!) to be replaced on the main stage by festival favourites, Supergrass.

1997 saw a double blow on the Sunday night.  Most people only remember 97 for the mud and Radiohead’s groundbreaking performance, but both the top acts for the Sunday night pulled out for personal reasons – Neil Young who was replaced by the anti-climatic Kula Shaker, and headliner Steve Winwood, who was replaced by indie stalwarts Ash, who failed to deliver a career-defining performance!  Another notable absentee from the Glastonbury main stage was Morrissey in 1992 – during his flag waiving, race provoking hey day – could have been a Glastonbury moment? – replaced by a safe pair of hands – James.   Even Pink Floyd pulled out in 1971 because they couldn’t get all their stage equipment on to the site!

Glastonbury isn’t the only festival to encounter last-minute cancellations, Reading has had its fair share of injuries and legal ramifications.  The biggest no-show in the history of the Reading festival and on a par with the current U2 crises has to be Eminem pulling out of the headling slot on the sunday night, this was due to legal reasons and an impending court case.  He was replaced by the MOR Stereophonics, there would have been a few disappointed punters that night!  Jack White’s – The White Stripes pulled out in 2003 due to a motorcycle accident, which left Jack with a damaged guitar hand!  Ironically it was the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club who replaced him! Jay Z also cancelled that same year with the markedly different, The Darkness taking his spot!

Oasis infamously cancelled last year’s V Festival due to Liam’s throat!  Probably had nothing to do with the brothers falling out?  Too late to call a last-minute replacement – Snow Patrol moved up a slot.

There will be many rumors circulating as to who will fill the mighty gap of U2.  No doubt Emily and Micheal will be frantically ringing around to call in a favour or two – they probably have one of the biggest address books in the business, so if anyone can?  One thing that history has taught us though, most replacements are much less significant than the original, and very few (Pulp aside) actually seize their big moment.  Although that still won’t stop the wild speculation!

November 23, 2009

U2 to finally play Glastonbury

Michael Eavis has finally got his wish!    For years he’s been trying to entice the Irish super-group to Worthy Farm with little effect, now he’s finally landed the deal in conjunction with Glastonbury’s 40th anniversary.    Great timing and an excellent result for both parties in more ways than one…….this is the ultimate collision of the music super-brand – most famous, commercially succesful music festival in the world teams up with the biggest, most globally recognised band in the world…….Well not quite…..Since U2 released ‘No line on the horizon’ they’ve seen their world domination falter and diminish quite rapidly – the album has been their slowest selling  in the last decade, even with all the blanket publicity and exposure it received.    As a live draw their massive popularity has frayed around the edges – Wembley Stadium failed to sell out both nights until a few weeks before the concert and tickets were selling on ebay for less than their face value!   This never happened to Muse or The Foo Fighters at Wembley…..Muse recently sold out their latest show at Wembley in 12 minutes.
Maybe the public feel U2 publicity fatigue – or maybe the younger, more relevant bands around have stolen their thunder and their marketing ideas. Whatever the case Glastonbury 2010 feels like the perfect opportunity to remind everyone that they’re still here!

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July 14, 2009

Festival Fatigue

The sheer breadth and depth of the BBC’s latest coverage of Glastonbury and T in the Park is quite an achievement.  The BBC had a combined production staff output of 720 at both events – A huge amount of staff you may think – but wholly justified when you consider the amount of multiplatform coverage it has delivered in the past few weeks. 

In this current age of multimedia overload, festivals and gigs are yet another experience that can be replicated and consumed vicariously at any time through any media. Which leads me to question the relevance of actually attending a festival or gig when many of the acts perform for you in the comfort of your own home?
Of course the sheer visceral emotion of singing along in a communal tribe is impossible to replicate without being there – although surely with so much blanket coverage – the drama, nuances and set lists of each band become common knowledge which leads to a diminishing of the genuine live experience.   I’m sure Blur were great in Hyde Park last week – but their set would have been much more memorable and surprising if know one had already witnessed it on TV, from Glastonbury, the previous week!
Gone is the suspense of the artist – the shock of the new.   Many live experiences we now see  are recycled from previous images or memories.  Of course it is not just the BBC who are too blame for this devaluation of the live experience!   – or though as much as I admire their blanket multiplatform coverage I still feel they are one of the main offenders.

The artist still has the ability to reverse this cultural trend – and untimely the power of expression still lies with them – but many unfortunately seem unperturbed.   Some artists have refused the BBC and other production companies the rights to record their performances – Leonard Cohen, Rage Against the Machine – both last year.  Of course this is much more favourable if the artist is very well known and doesn’t need the media exposure to increase royalties.   If the artist is dependent on mainstream coverage then changing the set list frequently can add an element of unfamiliarity at least without deterring from the ultimate monetary aim – it also adds a bit of mystique to a band – and detracts from the dreaded ubiquity and consequently fatigue of an artist. 

“Surprise is the greatest gift which life can grant us” (Boris Pasternak)

February 1, 2008

Mud Slinging…..

It’s February and time to register for Glastonbury tickets again.  Or maybe not!  Michael Eavis seems hell bent on completely sabotaging the once great legacy that he seek-ed to establish.   His constant rhetoric about under 25’s is tiresome.  Today he announced the Saturday headliner as Jay Z – in the hope that it’ll attract the youth.

Why is he so keen on alienating all of the demographic that supported his festival when it was less publicised.  His constant tirade about making things better is starting to resemble a certain Mr Brown – the more he meddles – the worse things get.   Increased sponsorship, larger crowds and blanket TV rights have turned the festival into a middle class/social event anyway.  Gone is the counter-cultural edginess that once made it so unique and inspiring.

Many of the younger generation are probably disinterested anyway.  Glastonbury was a creation of the 70s, wobbled through the 80s and really came to prominence in the 90s.  It’s with this generation that it has its most historical significance.  Since then it rather feels like it has out grown itself.   The last few years have evidently been tarnished by the elements but there are factors to suggest it doesn’t quite have the same pulling power for the youth that it would’ve had 10 years ago.  

  • Congested festival calender – so many competitors with some offering edgier line-ups like Reading or Bestival.
  • Cheap flights to visit European festivals.
  • Blanket TV coverage – why not relax and watch it at home/ Not such a fabled mystery when you can watch it on BBC 2.
  • Huge crowds – lots of queuing!
  • June Monsoons
  • Expense – 150 pounds+ a ticket isn’t very appealing for a cash-strapped student.

The announcement of Neil Diamond headlining the Sunday night is hardly going to start a teenage stampede for tickets!

Last years crowds where too unmanageable and left a bad taste in the mouth.  If Eavis wants to replicate the glory days he needs to reign in the festival and take it back to its core values.   The trouble is he’s tampered  with the format so much he’s forgotten what made it great in the first place!