To me and many of my friends, there are just too many festivals across the country; it seems every single park or green space has a festival. In fact it doesn’t even need grass nowadays to call itself a festival — even the local pubs are getting in on the act, and in their dubious way, calling themselves a festival. The tipping point must surely have come? I know in the political sense that immigration into this country has been too high, but even those figures cannot match the number of ticket sales all of these festivals need to survive. I had one of those, ‘shake your head moments,’ when I read about the biggest ever tribute band festival happening, with over 35 tribute bands on, then get this, a huge number of cover bands! Glastonbudget is the name — my god, not only do we have too many festivals, we now have a huge festival for the people who don’t want to see original bands but tributes. Where is this all going to end? I ask myself. Then the biggest problem of all with large festivals: they make it hard to actually enjoy the music. The sound is awful, bands tend to play abbreviated sets, getting close to the stage generally requires camping out all day (or pushing your way through the crowd), there’s always someone in front of you twirling in circles or juggling, food and drink are expensive, and the less said about the toilets, the better. More than anything, big festivals are about the scene.
Then we have the old trick, ‘Come and play our festival — you don’t get paid but you get great exposure’, as in most cases the only bands getting paid are the headliners. Of course there are some well run and fair festivals, where the bands are treated like people rather than just having them on because they have a few thousand following them on Facebook, hence they might sell 50 tickets. Many people organise these festivals with the sole purpose of making money, which is fine and dandy, but for bands to probably travel hours in their vans to turn up and play some tent in a field with 25 people around them, they really have to ask themselves was it worth it? Meanwhile, the festival organiser rakes in the cash from the hire of countless burger and food vans stationed around the site. Then I ask myself, do people actually go to festivals for the music? Of course they do I reply but ponder on it.
This isn’t just a UK issue, it’s the same all around Europe, and especially in the States. The reality of it all is the tipping point has arrived, and I think I will see after 2017 a decline in the half-baked festivals. Originality and uniqueness is often something that fans look for in music festival line-up, and it can sometimes be the deciding factor on whether they attend. I ask myself what’s a better musical experience — a decent show, or a festival?
As the market corrects itself and we ease down the slope from peak festival, it’s clear that plenty of them will survive. It’s even possible that some of them will find ways to stand apart again that don’t involve booking all the same bands as every other festival, but no doubt I will be in a field sometime this year reporting back to Sounds — if you are, please email in and talk about your experience.
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