Festival woes can only be a good thing for young music fans

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Iona Bain

Amidst all the anarchy in London this week, one very interesting piece of news may have slipped off the agenda, but it certainly caught my eye. The BBC reports that tickets have not been selling like hot cakes for music festivals this summer.

This might be not be as grave as the civil unrest across the UK this week but festivals falling by the wayside should be of interest to anyone monitoring the impact of the recession on young peoples’ spending habits. After all, 16 – 25 year olds are the premier audience for festivals, which were thought to be invincible a few years back. Ever-rising ticket prices, a seemingly endless demand…who would have thought at the height of festival mania that Michael Eavis would now say that Glastonbury was “on its way out”?

31 music festivals have gone to the wall this year and Melvin Benn, head of Festival Republic, said it had been a “challenging summer” for his festivals, which include Reading, Leeds and the Big Chill.

The BBC even grabbed a word with Kasabian, with the band agreeing that “people are sick of the same old bands headlining.”

But this is not news. I commented on the surprisingly slow uptake for the Reading Festival on my very first Young Money blog (I have a personal interest, being a musician and music lover). This was a development that went largely unmentioned across the media. Prior to Kasabian’s comments, I wondered whether festivals like Reading have a “Groundhog Day” business model, putting on similar acts year after year and expecting young fans to pay hundreds of pounds for it each time.

Commentators who have noticed fewer attendees at this year’s festivals blame the economic climate as well as the weak line-ups on offer, but I believe it is a combination of both, alongside a culture of selling in-demand tickets for outrageous prices online. There was only so long this could continue – the financial crisis has finally put a brake on what young people are prepared to cough up for. This has led to tickets for this year’s festivals selling on secondary websites at much lower than the face value cost, rather than much higher.

The recession is having many negative effects on young people, but there could be at least one positive outcome. If it means festival ticket prices start to normalise, and we stop paying exorbitant and possibly exploitative prices on secondary websites, then at least that is one silver living that we can all cheer.


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