“Why The Summer Music Festival is About to Burst”
“UK Festivals: Has The Bubble Burst?”
“The Music Festival Bubble: When Will it Pop?”
“The End of Summer Festivals? Why The Bubble Will Soon Burst”
“Will The Music Festival Bubble Burst?”
“Festival Bubble Bursts”
“The Bubble Bursts: What Does The Future Hold For Music Festivals?”
“The Music Festival Bubble Didn’t Burst: It’s Slowly Deflating”
“Oh Enough With The Bursting Bubble Analogies”

Now and again I lecture on the live music industry, and I recently delivered one on the international festival market for students in the UK, Denmark and Norway. I searched online for the words “festival”, “bubble” and “burst” and found hundreds of instances of these words in relation to music festivals.  Industry ‘experts’ have been warning about it for years, at least as far back as 2007. Here’s The Guardian’s piece on it from 2011, back when we were in the jaws of the toughest economic climate in history (according Mervyn King, Governor of The Bank of England).

People who’ve been trying to assess the state of music festivals since 2007 are idiots. Or anyway, the people who write the headlines are. There is no festival bubble. But if the media are going to insist on bubbles, maybe they could think of it like a big bottle of fizzy water, with bubbles of all sizes rising and popping, only to be replaced by others of all sizes. Eventually the water will go flat, of course, so for the purposes of the analogy we’ll pretend someone keeps replacing it, as businesses of any kind are formed, and trade, and close, to be replaced by something else.

Back in 2006 we heard that boutique festivals were the way to go, and that everyone would turn their backs on Reading and Leeds, and Glastonbury, and the other behemoths. It didn’t happen. And it won’t happen next year, or the year after. People attend festivals for a multitude of reasons, and those reasons change every year as people decide to stop going (families, mortgages, unemployment, imprisonment, boredom, tired of camping/queueing/the weather, can’t be bothered driving, found a better one in Slovakia, don’t like the security guards, crashed the bus on the way there, take your pick) as much as a new audience decides to start going, and it’s this new audience that will dictate the shape of our music festivals in the future, not whether or not we have enough white men with guitars to fill the gap left by other white men with guitars whose knees have given out. The only thing that death threats against Emily Eavis after she booked Kanye West for this year’s Glastonbury is that some people are racists.

But look, what if the racists are right? What if there is no headline place for man who isn’t white and isn’t playing a guitar? Well, a festival that continues to pursue a booking policy that isn’t aligned with their audience will be unlikely to survive, just like a

Every day, all over the world, bands play at venues and festivals in the final slot of the evening. We call these bands “headliners”. The only people who get to decide if the band in the headline slot is worthy of the title are the audience

If Glastonbury

Festival audiences are part of societies and societies are in a constantly state of flux as tens of thousands of people who held X thing dear die, and tens of thousands of people who’ve never heard of X thing decide that Y thing is what they’re going to care about it.

Since yesterday, in the UK, XXX people were born and about XXX died. So that’s XXX new people whose tastes we do not know, and XXX dead people who can’t come to your festival any more. Societies shift every day, and tastes change, and bands become cool, then stop being cool, and festival bookers have to guess what their audience wants and hope they get it right, unless the festival focusses on a very specific genre Festivals are businesses, like cinemas, restaurants and bars, and they exist – as we all do – on the conveyor belt of death. We’re born, we live, and then we fall off the end and those who replace us decide how best to enjoy themselves. Its okay for a festival to die. It’s okay for Glastonbury to die if it does.

it’s the same as the ‘We’re losing all our music venues to onerous legislation/noise complaints/gentrification!’ argument that I’ve been hearing in London for almost a decade: no one seems interested in documenting those live spaces which open up to replace them in other parts of the city


I’ve got first hand experience of what happens when your bookings fail to resonate with your audience. The day after Glastonbury announced Kings of Leon as their opening day headliner, we announced them as one of ours. The headline in the local press? UNKNOWN BAND TO HEADLINE QUART FESTIVAL. Our local press weren’t enormously supportive of our three-year plan for Quart (take the emphasis off the headliners, position in similar waters to øya, Dour and

I turned my back on my own country’s major festival after I got offered heroin at half-past nine in the morning, and saw a lad drinking Tennents Lager through a catheter attached to a (presumably unused) colostomy bag


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