John Giddings

John Giddings


John Giddings

Founder, Solo Agency

Owner, Isle of Wight Festival

On Gambling, Tapping Into His War Chest And Resurrecting Bowie’s Career

John Giddings has realized many tours over the past year, from Lady Gaga to Nick Mason to Iggy Pop to Little Mix’s final tour (for now), and Genesis’ final tour (forever). Giddings navigated post-pandemic and Brexit-related storms smoothly, even if “it was a gamble,” as he admits. “We all had to work harder to make it all happen. Nick Mason played 29 countries between March and July and they kept changing the rules on us, suddenly creating the need for visas, and we obviously lost Russia and Ukraine. But everybody is in the same boat; it’s the job we must do. We can’t just stop doing it, can we?”

Giddings believes that one should have a war chest stashed away, to go back to on a rainy day. “We had a rainy two years,” he says, adding that he never had to touch the war chest before. “The world has definitely not gone back to normal since,” Giddings continues, “All the things we took for granted, like a plane leaving on time, just aren’t anymore.”

Giddings’ business philosophy is simple: “Treat other people as you would like to be treated. There’s nothing wrong with being hard but fair in this business. Don’t mess people around, but remember that it’s called the ‘music business,’ it’s not called ‘music friends.’ Your job is to make people money, so do your job properly. Be honest; bullshitting people doesn’t get you anywhere because you’ll always get caught out. It’s much easier to tell the truth, because then you can remember what you’ve said.”

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The show that, according to Giddings, resurrected David Bowies career: live on the Pyramid stage at Glastonbury 2000. (Photo by Jim Dyson/Getty Images)

That may explain why Giddings cannot accurately remember one of the biggest accomplishments of his career, which is persuading David Bowie to play Glastonbury in 2000. He first had to convince Glastonbury founder Michael Eavis, who didn’t want to book Bowie, because the artist was going through his drum ’n’ bass phase. So, he spread a rumor with a journalist at the Sunday Times. “I said, ‘Glastonbury is begging David Bowie to headline,’ and they printed a half-page article the following week,” Giddings says. “I was taken aback. Michael was inundated with calls to get David; that’s what made Michael change his mind.”

Giddings still needed to convince Bowie, who said he couldn’t do it because he was expecting a child. “I don’t remember this happening, but I’ve been told that apparently on the conference call, I said, ‘Well, David, if you don’t confirm in the next 24 hours, Prince is going to do it,’ which I made up. I don’t remember doing that, but it resurrected his career. He’d been 10 years in the woods, but at Glastonbury he played every hit known to man. It was extraordinary, one of the best shows of my life.”

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British neo-soul singer Laura Mvula performs on stage at this year’s Isle of Wight Festival. (Photo by Dawn Fletcher-Park/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Another huge accomplishment is the resurrection of Isle of Wight Festival in 2002. “Nobody believed a festival on an island you can only get to by boat would be successful,” Giddings remembers, “But I had gone there in 1970 and saw Jimi Hendrix and The Doors. I would only have taken it on because it was called the Woodstock of Europe. If it took place somewhere else, I wouldn’t have been interested, but it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done.”

Looking ahead, Giddings notes, “You can’t book stadiums for love nor money next summer. There’s a new wave of gigs coming, and it’s just getting bigger and better. Entertainment will never die. There’s something about live music, especially in the open air. It’s an emotional experience. It’s like a drug; you can’t give it up.”

Giddings once asked his doctor about the addictive quality of his job. The answer he got was, “You don’t realize, John, that you don’t go to work for money, you go to work to make decisions. You enjoy the stress.” And he confirms, “All of us entrepreneurs, we’re doing it for the crack of making things happen.”