Introduction: It’s been a crazy year for festival fans and industry insiders. Over 500 festivals took place this year making this one of the biggest expansion year’s in festival history, but it wasn’t all good news, 2011 saw the demise of at least 50 festivals. Liquidation, closure and bankruptcy represent the extremes of failure in an industry dominated by passionate amateurs and over eager irrational wannabe businessmen, but it’s only part of the story.
2011 was rough year for Festival Republic, Lattitude sold out just days before the event with a stacked critically acclaimed line up, Big Chill struggled to sell out despite having its biggest headliners to date, and Reading and Leeds limped across the finishing line with a clearly undersold Friday night and weekend tickets still on sale right up to the weekend of the festival (via Stargreen).
Glastonbury on the other hand enjoyed an instantaneous sell out, before the line up was even announced, such is the amassed goodwill generated by the festival. While V continued it’s rampage selling out within an hour with its Urban, Pop, Soft rock assault.
So what’s the story? Well Melvin Benn (R&L) and Michael Eavis (Glastonbury) took to the BBC this past week and both put the focus firmly on the headliners. Eavis talked up the big gets, the U2s and Coldplays while Benn touted the value of top to bottom line ups referring to headliners as the “icing on the cake”.
So with that in mind who is right? Well two of Strictly’s finest, David Hayter and Lewis Lowe, will be having their say, first up is Lewis who believes that…
Headliners Do Not Matter
As this years festival season drew to a close questions started to be asked about whether headliners still matter in 2011? I personally don’t think that they do, well, to an extent anyway.
Melvin Benn, the big boss man of Festival Republic, who runs the Latitude, Reading & Leeds festivals among others is quoted as saying “The headliner is very much the icing on the cake, as opposed to the cake itself “. Now most quotes from good ol’ Melv when posted on the web run the risk of him being charged for being an internet troll, so ludicrous are some of his claims, this time however I have to agree with him.
A really good festival takes a whole host of quality acts and places them throughout the line up which is something (sespite Melvins wisdom) Reading and Leeds didn’t seem to do this year. The headliners were fairly decent choices, albeit a bit predictable, but the rest of the line up looked uninspired. It’s not just Festival Republic who are guilty of this, Downloads Andy Copping has a knack of billing some top notch headliners (System Of A Down, AC/DC) whilst keeping his fingers crossed, hoping that no one notices the rest of the line up. Unfortunately for him, people do and it could be the key to why tickets are often available in large numbers right up until the day of the festival.
In complete contrast Glastonbury Festival founder Michael Eavis aims for the best in both, he secures big name acts to top things off whilst ensuring that true quality runs throughout the line up. A quick glance at this years line up and you’ll see that it was more packed than Dawn French’s fridge, and although 2012 sees the festival taking a year off to allow the ground to recover, you can bet your house/car/wife that the2013 will see Glastonbury back and better than ever.
With a majority of festivals boasting numerous stages on their sites variety is the key and there are plenty of modern festival goers who will spend their whole time away from the main stage every year, anyway. I can’t deny that headliners are important to a festival, however a strong all round line up is far more satisfying to an attendee than a huge amount of filler before one main act.
Tomorrow David Hayter will be here to tell you why Headliners not only matter but why they are the single most important act on the entire line up.