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Why Aren’t Festivals Selling Out Anymore?

Oh the days of yore when festivals selling out was a regular occurrence. Racing for your Reading Fest ticket with excitement that could only be caused by the idea of a muddy field, your fave musicians and a fuck tonne of beer.

British festivals.  Memories are often fond and rich, producing stories that you recite years, even decades, after the event occurred. The infamous ‘Poo Girl’ of Leeds Festival ‘09, you were never there but somehow your mates mate knew who she was and therefore you told everyone you could.

Leeds fest 2009 sold out, but that can’t be said for every Leeds fest. It could be said in recent years that festivals have struggled to sell out capacity, but why is that?

Festival Insights’ UK festival report of 2012 said: “The industry is not the fast expanding free-for-all of 10 of ever 5 years ago: it’s a maturing market. And as rapid expansion calms into sustained and sustainable operation, it’s no surprise that some of the weaker events will fall by the wayside and the best festivals will have to leverage their creative and organisational capabilities to maximum effect, evolving fast in order to survive”.

And in 2013 The Sun wrote a piece dooming the future of UK festivals by damning ticket sale numbers for not being even close to selling out at the same rate as Glastonbury or for having to cancel the event altogether.

However, 2017 and in recent years, it’s looking a lot brighter (and here’s hoping it’ll be the same for the coming festival season). Because, apart from the obvious 50-minute sell out of Glastonbury, Truck festival has also sold out, as well as some day tickets for Reading festival and others predicted to do so before the event arrives.

Generally, if festivals have been selling out, it’s normally about a week or two before the actual event and not months in advance like those fests of the past. Is it because we have more choice of festivals? A larger range of fields in which we can get day drink in until our hearts content. Can we not afford the ticket prices? I mean, I’m a poor student and that, but surely everyone’s bank balance isn’t as barren as my own. Or is it because there are too many free events, is the weather is too shit to want to book anything for summer when we don’t even think we’ll get a summer or maybe we’re just a whole era of procrastinators.

Not to mention, the group admin that going to a festival involves, it takes about three whatsapp groups, a facebook message feed and approx. 20 reminders in your phone. Trying to arrange to get a group of mates to head down the pub is hard enough, let alone the difficulty in trying to get everyone to buy a ticket, organising travel arrangements (that’s the point when you start to wonder why only two of your mates can drive despite all being all 24, and even then they don’t know if they’d be able to borrow the car of their parents for an entire long weekend.) and then you’ve got to buy tents – ensuring they’re big enough so you have room to actually get dressed in the morning but small enough so you can share body heat with your mates at night. The entire thing is a bit of a palaver really – remind me again why we do it?

Oh yeah, beer and music.

To be honest, festivals are actually a savvy way of seeing musicians you’d have to spend up to £80 to see, depending on the venue. (Fuck you arena artists and your ridiculous ticket prices). If you do the math, you’d spend pretty much the money seeing the three headliners of the festival compared to if you went to their headline gigs on separate occasions, which means you get the rest of the acts at the festival for free. Free.

Despite the lull in sell out fests in the last decade or so, creativity of line-ups and even the addition of payment plans to spread to cost out seem to be making a different to the amount being sold. The Glasto resale tickets are predicted to sell quicker than ever. (Coach bundles go on sale 6pm 20th April and the general ticket admission goes on sale 9am 23rd April just FYI).

Maybe people are just being more spontaneous than before and want to make a last minute decision where they spend their festival credits. What teases.

Words by Eliza Frost

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