Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

Where are the festival headliners of tomorrow?

And, while we’re at it, are the classic rock stations running out of hits?

Arcade Fire: anyone for the last of the festival headliners?

Fri, Jul 11, 2014, 09:55


Here’s a question for anyone who waited hours for a taxi to get home from Marlay Park after the recent Arcade Fire or Kings Of Leon gigs. Who are the festival headliners of tomorrow? Who are the new acts capable of pulling 30,000 or 40,000 people to a park in south Dublin?

There are only a finite number of acts capable of pulling a large audience to a festival or standalone event. You know the list of acts very well because these are the acts who turn up here every other summer: Kings Of Leon, Coldplay, Metallica, Bruce Springsteen, U2, Arctic Monkeys, Leonard Cohen, Arcade Fire, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Eminem, Bon Jovi etc.

You might think that there’s a steady supply of new acts to replenish that list, but you’d be wrong. Stereophonics headlined Slane Castle back in 2002 but no-one thinks they’d do the same business today. Acts who once showed future headliner potential, like Manic Street Preachers for example, are good for a few nights at the Olympia or an O2 at a push, but nothing else.

We know what’s causing the problem and you don’t need another lecture from OTR in the effect of changing record label fortunes on gigonomics and the development of new headliners.

Perhaps it’s time to take a leaf from classic rock radio stations to change this situation. Walt Hickey’s fascinating data analysis for FiveThirtyEight this week showed how many classic rock stations are skewering younger to attract listeners.

Instead of relying on records released in the decade from 1973 to 1982 (which accounts for 57 per cent of all songs played on air), classic rock playlisters are redefining what passes for classic rock. Would something similar work for festival stages? Time for some promoter to put that to the test.