Label volunteer, Louise Peart, tells us about the appeal of music festivals and their future in these unprecedented circumstances.
There is nothing more quintessential than the humble British festival. Common experiences include: Getting tossed through a mosh pit of sticky arms with friends you’ve just made from the tent next door. Fumbling through your new fanny pack to check your phone is still there (and panic when it’s not). Not being able to find your tent, so you end up walking further than you did on DofE trying to find it. Ahhh, the bliss.
Festivals have become increasingly popular throughout the UK, particularly within the last decade. According to data produced by the Statistica Research Department, around 5 million of us attended a festival in 2019, and the figure was predicted to rise steadily in 2020 (no thanks to Covid). But what is it about the festival experience we love so much? What drives us to pay hundreds for a ticket where the facilities consist of a boggy tent pitch and a half an hour walk to the nearest portaloo?
The most obvious answer is the feeling of togetherness. Music holds the power to unite, inspire and string together groups of people that otherwise wouldn’t stumble across each other. Festivals manifest this into a physical meeting that can last days, not just three minutes of a song. In a crowd of thousands, every person belting out a particular song will have their own interpretation of its meaning – different memories and emotions entangled within the lyrics, yet we all hear the same melody and have the capacity to feel a certain way about it. While listening to music through your headphones can be a deeply personal experience, festivals remind us that we’re not the only ones feeling a certain way and we’re all capable of being entranced by a song. Being almost a year into the pandemic, a sense of community that harnesses an emotional outlet is something festival-goers are craving more than anything right now, mounting huge expectations on their eventual return.
Festivals also serve as a way to find new artists, and for emerging artists to share their work on a huge scale. Admittedly, the Spotify algorithm does a pretty good job at this already, but there’s nothing like seeing a band/artist live for the first time and forming a connection when you’re in physical proximity. According to information published by the BBC, musicians and songwriters were set to lose 65% of their income during 2020, resulting in a “domino effect” as smaller artists have missed out on income from live performances which would have paid for studio hiring to produce further work. Lockdown resulted in live music revenues falling by 85% in the past year – which is likely to be the breaking point in many up-and-coming musician’s careers, with opportunities for work being almost non-existent.
That being said, there is light at the end of the tunnel. In summer 2020 (during that four-week period where things were looking ‘normal’-ish – boy did we not know what was coming), Sam Fender performed live at Gosforth Park, Newcastle, with members of the audience forming their own ‘bubble / rule of six’ in fenced quads. This allowed thousands to attend the outdoor event, but still remain socially distanced from others and complying with Government regulations. Could this be the future of live music? Of course, it’s still a world away from the typical Glastonbury weekend experience, but at this point many of us will snap up whatever chance we can get to experience some version of normality.
So, what’s looking likely for 2021? Well, unsurprisingly, Glastonbury has already confirmed that there will be no festival this year and ticket holders will be given the opportunity to roll over their deposit for 2022. Reading Festival and Leeds Festival are still due to take place in late August, however, the current uncertainty is sure to make festival-goers think twice before buying tickets. One thing’s for sure: the future of festivals hasn’t been cancelled and, when we are back, it’ll be better than ever.
Header designed by Volunteer Designer, Molly Goldby
Article Edited by Matthew Rousou – Label Music Editor