Leeds Festival didn’t sell out last year. Leeds Festival didn’t sell out the year before that, nor the year before that. Reading Festival sold out a handful of days before the event itself last year. And the same the year before, and the year before that. Worrying times, in a market dubbed by almost all those in the industry as either ‘saturated’ or ‘shrinking’.
But it’s not surprising, though: as the tastes of the audience change, so too must the line-up posters. Take the last few T in the Parks – Beyonce, Coldplay and Swedish House Mafia played alongside the likes of The Stone Roses, Foo Fighters and Kasabian. The event sold out within hours in consecutive years. Or, take the two-day V Festival (‘T in the Park Lite’) exactly the same ticket price as Leeds, exactly the same ticket response as T.
It’s a point that’s been mentioned more than once: fewer people care about guitar music than five or six years ago, and EDM’s basically taken over your Top 40; Reading and Leeds have failed to understand that. Clearly, with the amount of commercialisation and higher ticket prices/less acts to pay, T and V will always display a much more stacked line-up than the August Bank Holiday resident festival. But it’s the lack of imagination that gets me.
So, this year, things got a bit different: the weekend got an entirely new red and yellow branding and, more importantly, the first acts were announced as early as November, with the second batch coming last Monday. Eminem was a step in the right direction – a step that gave a clear message of intent – as was the introduction of the three-day Dance Stage and Radio 1Xtra tent. Hopefully, this year won’t see Azealia Banks classed as Dance headliner, though.
But if they’re going to do it, they need to go all the way. There’s no middle ground here.
A handful of electronic acts with (still) the world’s biggest rapper mixed with a mass of metal and indie may not entice any more than previous years. Last Monday’s announcement was very guitar-based: Biffy finally get their headline slot, System of a Down and BMTH add to Deftones to appease those at the heavier end of the spectrum and Jake Bugg joins Alt-J in offering something new and refreshing.
Will I be running to the phone to grab a ticket? I don’t like Biffy Clyro. I saw Eminem two years ago. But there’s enough there already to keep my interest until Announcement 3 and, given that my application for Glasto failed so miserably last year (trying to convince your mum that a festival ticket justifies arriving late to your first day at university is inadvisable), it’s a definite maybe.