The Evolution Of Festival Genres In The UK

Joseph Okpako/WireImage
– Stormzy
Headlining Glastonbury, June 28 2019
Research conducted by e-cigarette and vape brand Blu finds that the number of rock artists on the lineups of some of the UK’s most famous festivals has almost halved since the 80s.
Researchers analyzed 164 lineups from eight of the most popular UK festivals, across their two main stages, evaluating the genres of each act and comparing how they have changed over time.
The most significant changes can be observed at Glastonbury, as well as twin festivals Reading and Leeds. 
The researchers at Blu looked at the bills of each festival, starting at their foundation, 1970 in the case of Glastonbury, 1989 in the case of Reading (Leeds Festival launched in 1999 only, but both festivals share the same lineup).
The biggest change can be observed in the hip hop/grime categories. While those were non-existent in Glasto’s early days, you started seeing the first genre representatives in the early 90s. In 1990, the festival’s 20th anniversary, De La Soul took the Pyramid main stage.
In 1993, Dizzee Rascal played on there, however, Blu’s stats still indicate zero grime that year, raising questions about the company’s genre categorizations. 
In 1994, the Beastie Boys brought rap music to Worthy Farm, contributing to a 5.36% hip hop representation on Glastonbury’s two main stages, the Pyramid and the Other Stage. That year, it was on par with folk and world music, as far as main stage representation goes.
Rock still dominated more than half of the bill that year, 53.57% to be specific. 
Jay Z at Glastonbury 2008
Jim Dyson/Getty Images
– Jay Z at Glastonbury 2008
The now infamous performance silenced a lot of critics that thought hip hop had no place at the festival

The next big impact by a hip hop artist came in 2008, when Jay Z was asked to headline Glastonbury. The decision was met with both praise and criticism from fans and artists alike. After the performance, most agreed that the rapper from Brooklyn, NY, had been a great choice.
He failed to serve as a proper door opener for the genre, however, seeing that a year later, Dizzee Rascal was again the only artist bringing rap music to the stage (this time categorized as grime). 
In 2017, the last year of research, Glasto’s bill boasted a combined 15.47% grime and hip hop. Stormzy, Run The Jewels, Kano, Dizzee Rascal, Wiley could all be seen at the festival that year. 
Stormzy headlined this year’s edition, June 28. Stefflon Don, Little Simz and The Wu Tang Clan were also performing. 
Perhaps more telling than slow increase in hip hop and grime music, is the decrease in rock acts at Glastonbury. The bill of 2017 only featured 11.9% rock music, according to Blu’s findings. 
The company classified Indie separate from rock, making it the biggest genre at Glastonbury 2017 with a 23.81% representation, followed by 17.86% of electronic music, which has had a significant presence at the event in almost every year since the eighties.
At Reading, rock music used to account for roughly half of the lineup in most of its early years since 1989. That didn’t changed when Leeds was added in 1998. During the 2000s, the genre lost significance, accounting for 18.03% in 2010, and just 10.17% in 2018, the last year Blu looked at.
Post Malone at Reading 2019
Kyle Mcloughlin
– Post Malone at Reading 2019
The decision to let the rapper/singer headline was met with some resistance from some fans. Hard to believe when looking at this crowd

Hip hop was the most dominant genre in 2018, representing 20.34% of the lineup, which confused those fans that remember the festivals as dominated by rock, but delighted a younger generation of fans. Post Malone, Kendrick Lamar, Skepta, led the bill that year, followed by Lil Pump, Ms Banks, A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, Wretch 32, and more.
Post Malone returned this year, alongside Juice Wrld, Stefflon Don, Dave and more.
Noel Gallagher at Isle of Wight Festival 2019
Dylan Roberts
– Noel Gallagher at Isle of Wight Festival 2019
Classic rock still reigns at the tradition-rich British festival

The researchers also looked at Boomtown, Wireless, Lovebox, Download, Creamfields and Isle of Wight festivals.

Lovebox, while always remaining true to its core of electronic and dance music, sacrificed rock music slots in favour of hip hop, grime and R’N’B over the years.
Creamfields was always a celebration of different genres of electornic music, and that hasn’t changed, even if representation of the many subcategories of the genre fluctuates each year.
Wireless grew from a festival with an Indie focus during the mid-2000s into a  proper hip hop and grime festival.
Boomtown has always been a very diverse festival, always representing multiple genres and weighting them differently each year. That hasn’t really changed over the years, and Download has always been a metal festival at its core, and never sacrificed slots to other genres.
Isle of Wight Festival is the only festival on the list that has maintained a large percentage of classic rock and Indie over the years, with pop increasing slightly since 2010.
Blu wasn’t available for comment or clarification on above mentioned genre categorizations at press time.