Festival Fever And Fatigue

Glastonbury chief Michael Eavis says newspaper reports about the demise of his festival are premature, and that ticket sales aren’t so slow that it’s bothering him.

"We’ve sold over 100,000 and we don’t announce the bill until May 1," he told Pollstar after it seemed almost every U.K. national newspaper had run at least one story about how this year’s event didn’t sell out in two hours.

"We have another 35,000 to sell in about 10 weeks and that should be easy. I can remember years ago when we were selling them to people who turned up at the gate after the festival had started, so this is hardly a big problem," he said.

The media thought otherwise, with the Sun saying "the crisis deepens," The Guardian blaming "a combination of mud fear and festival fatigue" and The Daily Telegraph saying fans were "shunning" headliner Jay-Z.

Oasis songwriter Noel Gallagher weighed in by telling BBC Radio 5 that there was no place for hip-hop at Glastonbury, while Eavis told the same station there’s no truth in reports that the U.S. rapper – recently married to Beyonce – has decided to pull out.

The Independent said the slower sales are due to competition from abroad, citing "Pinkpop in the Netherlands in May to Benicassim in Spain and the Exit festival in Serbia in July" as the main rivals.

Eavis, who keeps a herd of 400 Friesians on the Glastonbury site, remains bullish, dismissing a statement from Viagogo chief Eric Baker that blamed the ticket registration system.

"The ‘photo on the ticket’ system has been a success in keeping the touts away but it also means that fans who find they can no longer attend the event have no way of securing a refund or selling their ticket to another fan," Baker explained.

A few days before Glastonbury went on sale, The Guardian ran a piece suggesting that festival fever and the live music boom are being followed by "festival fatigue," with too many events chasing too few acts.

Attracting a greater number and wider range of people over the last four or five years, and selling out in increasingly rapid time, it was inevitable that a certain number of the new "booming" festival crowd would decide they’ve "been there, done that, got the T-shirt," and cross it off their lists and move on to something else.

"It’s very apparent that there have been major problems with headliners this year," VirtualFestivals.com founder Steve Jenner told the U.K. daily. "The surge of people who started going to big festivals a few years ago [has] become more demanding."

Former Mean Fiddler chairman Vince Power, who’s returning to the British festivals business after three years, agreed that there are "more festivals chasing fewer bands."

When he announced A Day At The Hop Farm (July 6) at Tonbridge, Kent, he said he’s trying to create "a new independent festival" that "counteracts the current brand saturated music scene."

If the festival boom has slowed, then he believes the way to recharge it is "making the festivalgoers themselves the most important element of the event."

Former colleague Melvin Benn, who now runs the old Mean Fiddler festivals for LN-Gaiety’s Festival Republic, rejected the idea that audiences were against sponsorship and branding.

Although he’s announced that he won’t be looking for a new sponsor to replace Carling for the twinned Reading and Leeds festivals (August 22-24), the third staging of Latitude (July 17-20) – which has more press praise heaped on it each year – is still backed by Pimm’s and Tuborg.

Benn admitted that competition for the best acts is fierce, suggesting he must have paid big bucks to get exclusivity on Rage Against The Machine, The Killers and Metallica.