Glastonbury proves you don't have to sell out to sell out
REVOLVER: BRIAN BOYDon music
HOLD THE back page! The headliners for Glastonbury 2013 are Led Zeppelin, The Smiths, The Rolling Stones, Kanye West, Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Arcade Fire and Justin Bieber. Talk about all-inclusive: there really must be something in there for anyone who has ever listened to a bit of a music anywhere – whether intentionally or not.
Sorry, but the above is just the dream line-up for next year’s return of the “Best Festival In The World – Ever!”. On the eFestivals website (“the definitive guide to festivaling!”) there is currently smoke coming off the pages devoted to discussing Glasto’s headliners.
At time of writing, the headliner thread is up to 158 pages of speculation, insider information, unofficial official confirmations and official unofficial confirmations. Delve into the thread and you may not emerge for a few hours. Other “certainties”, by the way, include Fleetwood Mac, Depeche Mode and – something that really got my attention – The Replacements.
Earlier this week, Glastonbury again became the most over-
subscribed cultural event in the world when millions tried to get their hands on tickets for next year’s bash. Despite a price tag of £205 (plus the bastard booking fee), all 135,000 tickets sold out in an hour and 40 minutes.
That the festival can do this without announcing a single act who will be playing is a testament to how massively popular it still is. With most every other festival a long way from selling out – or being forced to slash ticket prices – Glastonbury could still up its admission charge (by £10) and cause box-office meltdown.
Despite all the security precautions and all the small print, you just know that a certain percentage of those 135,000 tickets will end up in the hands of those to whom the festival means nothing more than a social engagement and an excuse to buy a new pair of Gucci Wellingtons.
It has been said (by me) that Glastonbury is the best thing in the world. Everyone should get a chance to take the trip to Worthy Farm and dive deep into the beautiful madness. But now that it’s all gone into Willy Wonka Golden Ticket territory, there are only two viable options open to Michael and Emily Eavis to democratise the process.
The Coachella festival – known as the “Californian Glastonbury” – has, for the past few years, been in the same situation of being unable to meet demand for tickets. This year they decided to “double up” by staging the same festival with the same acts one week after the first event.
There’s certainly no financial reason why Glastonbury couldn’t double or treble up next year – all events would sell out in minutes. As for the logistics, if Coachella could do it, why can’t Glastonbury?
The other approach is to look at what the Hay-on-Wye literary festival does. Bill Clinton (a devotee of the festival) refers to Hay as “a Woodstock for the mind”. In the same way that Glastonbury isn’t just about the music, Hay isn’t just about the books. It’s also about scientists, comics, poets, performers, lyricists and the whole festival experience.
“We believe the exchange of views and meeting of minds that our festivals create inspire revelations personal, political and educational,” the organisers say. And believe me, that’s only one- 10th of its charm and attraction.
From their base on the English- Welsh border, the same organisers now – by popular demand – run 15 festivals across five continents. If Hay can put itself on in Belfast, Beirut, Nairobi, Segovia and Cartagena, why can’t Glastonbury travel?
And here’s the money shot when it comes to Glastonbury and Hay. Both are run as nonprofit ventures. They aren’t just a backdrop for brand sponsorship and “commercial imperatives”. They both attempt, however clumsily, to mean something and to do something.
Proof that you don’t need to “sell out” to sell out. Somebody give Glastonbury wings.
Ireland 1965 meets The Rolling Stones. Don’t miss the new DVD, Charlie Is My Darling, which looks at The Stones’ tour here.
How quick they turn: in London Lady Gaga got booed; in Barcelona they threw sausages at her. There’s also video footage of Gaga in Barcelona throwing up mid-song. Poor thing.