The festival bubble


Blowing bubbles

Recently there’s been some reports in the press about the decline in festival goers. It doesn’t take Inspector Morse to finger King Cash as one of the culprits. We are in the middle of a recession, which might have passed the banks and big business by now, but we’re still having to deal with the end of the aftershocks of what has been the most immense money muck up of all time. People just don’t have the liquid moolah to spend on things unless they really want them.

We’ve also read a recent article that blames this downturn in festival foot traffic on two things. The first is over-crowding. Money hungry promoters are apparently stuffing as many people into their event as possible. Whilst this might be a good, short-term money making idea, they’ll pay the long game price in the future when they get a bad name for this practice.

The second it says, is the weather. We didn’t really get a proper Summer in 2012, which clearly contributed to low festival attendances. Many people wait till the last minute to buy tickets and then don’t bother if there’s rain. We reckon however that if the promoters do a bit of proper planning, complete with wood-chip and metal track-ways for the car park, the impact could be lessened and this could sway a few more festival goers into attending.

Other news sources blame the monotony of the generic British festival line-up. If you’re prepared to look around for good music, then there’s never been a better time to be alive, and as long as you’re not going to quote chart stats at us then we’re going to get along. We’re not by any means convinced that people entirely go for line-ups. There’s a social aspect to Festivals that’s really important too – which is how many of our favourite events (we’re thinking SGP and Boomtown) manage to sell out without hardly a whisper of their line up. There’s definitely more to the laws of attraction   than just the music.

One of the guys who runs the technological end of this site has been going to festivals for years. He made a throw-away comment in the office that actually sums up the whole situation quite nicely, telling us that each festival has a definitive personality. Apparently it’s the little things, like the quirks and the crowd that keep you coming back time and time again. These events are not just about the music, they’re about giving people a slice of life that’s different from the nine to five. A place where you can walk around and freely talk and connect with people in an unhurried manner without a need for an agenda.

Of course festivals that often have the real personality are those that have grown up over many years and they often started out as a labour of love as opposed to a money making exercise. It’s taken years for them to weave the social balance of different kinds of people, who’re all cool enough to just get on at some of the UK’s best loved festivals.We’re therefore forced to conclude that the UK has perhaps reached festival saturation point. Every craze and scene seems to go through the same life cycle. In the early days, when these kind of events are a new thing then only those who’re cool and in the know go to them. As time goes on everyone wants to go to these magical parties and a number of new ones arise to fulfil the need. Some of these are put on by people in the know who are aware of exactly what the festival audience are after, some of them are just money making events. As you’d expect, if people go to one cash hungry festival too many, then they’ll be turned off.

Similarly there are people out there who will have tried out the whole festival experience and may not have liked it. The camping, mud and excess isn’t for everyone, especially those who’re used to their mod cons or going to events where everyone has a numbered seat and you can all get a view of your favourite pop star on a giant video screen before going back to your hotel. Not everyone likes the whole getting back to nature thing and we believe that there must be a significant percentage of people who feel this way about these events. We’ve gone through that trial period, which would have created a swell in numbers, and many who’ve had a go just didn’t like it and won’t want to return.

Although it’s a bit of a cliché, perhaps festivals will be improved without the part-timers? It may be better for events if everyone there is after the hardcore festival experience, without worrying about whether or not their hair looks good or if they can get on the local area’s wi-fi connection in order to upload their latest faux festival fake video. Festivals are all about the glorious moment when you lose yourself and find yourself right in the now, without having to worry about the past or the future and everything you want to be is in the present. To quote the late, great Freddie Mercury, this is a kind of magic, and it requires everyone to be on the same wave-length for the vibes to happen.

We hope that the influx of hangers-on into the festival scene doesn’t mean that there’s some kind of equal and opposite reaction where you get a load of ‘true heads’ banging on about how it’s not like it used to be whilst missing what it is. Everything changes and people will always want something new, after all that’s why you don’t go and see the same film over and over at the cinema. Whatever the reasons, festivals have clearly had their boom time and now its time to get serious. We just hope the end result of all of this is that they improve their game to offer their audience that little bit more and keep it all as fresh as it ever was.