Future of Festivals Bleak?

With the recent news of some high profile festivals failing and being forced to cancel this summer, there is growing concern over the festival seen.  Perhaps the biggest event to fail to take place this year is the UK leg of Sonisphere.  The annual event which was scheduled to take place at Knebworth and feature the likes of Queen, Adam Lambert and Cypress Hill, has blamed the weak economy as a major factor.  The festival also is a no show this year in Greece, Turkey, Italy and Sweden.

Glastonbury mud

Glastonbury mud

The news is on the back of the news that Oxegen and Big Chill festivals not happening this year.  So why do we find ourselves in the situation and how will festivals shape up for the future?

At Music Eyz we started a festival guide last year. It was a piece that listed all the festivals, all the acts and a brief piece of detail about each festival.  We gave up eventually, as every time we finished a new festival would pop up and we would never feel it was finished.  We really think it is time for some consolidation in the festival schedule.  The tickets cost a fortune and often its the same acts on the bill at each event.

“It could just be a sign of the (financial) times. Just a few year ago it seemed that festivals were springing up everythere and promoters looked at the Summer and saw poundsigns in their eyes. The UK hasn’t got the best weather as we know, so any outdoor event is always going to be at the mercy of the seasonal (rubbish) weather. When there was money about, people weren’t so worried about rain and the like, now it’s a different story. It could also be to do with the lineups – each one has pretty much the same bands, or that might just be the view from someone who’s looking at this all from a naive point of view. But how many festivals/events do we actually really need? There’s only so many gigs Example can do in one Summer surely (for the record..I love Example… just making a loose point)” said Patrick Downes.

The economic climate is undoubtedly playing its part.  The festival tickets come at a huge price.  Even if you are lucky enough to get the tickets at face value they are still high price tags.  So although you may pick one, its unlikely you could attend more than one.

Example was spot on in his views as well.  He stated that he thought any posh boy whose dad had a field would put on a festival.  He also hinted that the programming of concerts was amatuerish and made no sense.  In addition locations were not always of a thought through nature either.  I think these are great views, some venues had no facilities and were incredibly diffidult to get to.

It also seems that every single concert now has a real commercial edge to it.  Festivals used to be the domain of real music fans, often where ‘real music fans’ would congregate and listen to up and coming bands.  Nowadays there is always a WKD stage or Captial FM arena (obviously these are just examples), showing that the festivals have lost touch a little.

However, we shouldn’t bemoan this commercialisation overall. After all, music is trying to find a way to make itself survive in the light of digital downloads both legal and illegal.  Without this corporate sponsorship there may be no festivals, no live music scene and limited music development.  In addition some of the countries leading music venues such as London’s O2 arena and Birmingham’s LG are heavily funded by corporations.

Anyway, I digress.  The main reasons there are a few cancellations are not reasons to make us panic.  It effects a few, a minority.  The festivals have fallen foul due to the current economy (to a lesser degree), poor organisation and the mere fact that there are just too many.

Expect some consolidation of big festivals, which will only be a good thing.  But also expect some communtiy style festivals.  Groups of individuals organising smaller events and taking festivals back to the people. These won’t feature huge acts like U2 or Hip Pop heavyweights such as Black Eyed Peas, but then again, were they ever meant to?

Our writer Kim MM calls for this community spirit as well, see below:

“Sonisphere is one of the biggest festivals around, not only in the UK but in Europe, attracting people from all over the world however, this year; it has been “postponed”.  This is only one out of many not going ahead this summer.  Personally I am gutted about Sonisphere.  The line up was shaping up to be the best line up I have ever seen and it included some of my favourite bands and the best bands around, even bringing back Queen.  Their support for small UK based bands was incredible, showcasing the best upcoming talent and they lead the way in that respect.  In all honesty, hearing the news that it had been cancelled (thank you Queen for breaking the news), tore my heart apart.  If you have ever been to Sonisphere, you will know that it is more than just a festival, it is like a family and I can’t express my love for them enough. 

Was it cancelled due to poor ticket sales?  Perhaps that was one of the main contributors, most festivals are changing and rather than just being a just metal/pop/folk or whatever genre, they have become more flexible and accommodated and opened their doors to branch out and include softer versions of what they cater to.  This is in no means a bad thing; I believe that everyone should be more open-minded when it comes to music.  I would assume that for Sonisphere, the day tickets would have done well as the Sunday was superb with Faith No More, Incubus, Refused, Glassjaw, and Cypress Hill.  Certain days catered more to certain people so it might have benefited them if they would have mixed it up a little, however, regardless of what all their reasons were to cancel, it has made what would have been my perfect festival and turned it into heart break. 

The price if festivals (not just Sonisphere but all) has sky rocketed which has increased the number of people going to festivals abroad like Groezrock.  Could it be possible to keep costs down?  Festivals like 2000 Trees and Hevy have done it for a lot less than the main ones.   

All I ask of you is to show your support.  I am hoping and praying that something can be done, on Saturday 7th July, we can congregate in Knebworth, have a few bands playing, take a picnic and be a family.  Show your support to one of the best festivals around so they can come back bigger, stronger and better next year.  Fear not, Download is helping by booking some of the bands and hopefully the Vans Warped Tour will go in some way into helping their promotion.  I hate feeling helpless and if the guys at Sonisphere are reading this, please let me know if there is anything at all that I could do to assist next year.  Please show your support in any way you can, I am sure they will appreciate it and next year they will come back with a vengeance!”

We leave you with a final thought from AR Band “There isn’t anyone involved with rock who doesn’t suffer from a festival of this magnitude being cancelled – fans, bands, booking agents, promoters, temporary staff, journalists, photographers, caterers, managers, crew… the number of people affected by this is in the tens of thousands. ”

A sobering thought about all those impacted when most of us are just thinking about our music fix.


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