Thursday, 18 September 2008

Why do Brits love music festivals ?

So the UK outdoor music festival season is over.

A few months ago I considered the health of the UK festival market and what the future would hold and wrote about it here. Now the summer is over its time to look back and reflect. My conclusions remain very much the same as they did at the start of the festival season. That this year there were winners and losers. That big names always help shift tickets. That punters are developing brand affiliations to particular festivals.

I was also unfortunately right that further festivals would be cancelled, over 40 in total this summer; and that the reasons for each cancellation would be due to variety of factors including the economic slowdown, market saturation, the poor summer weather, lack of experience of running and marketing such events, and weak or not properly thought through line ups. Each cancellation was largely due to one or more of these factors to a greater or lesser extent.

But despite these cancellations thousands and thousands of people attended music festivals this summer. The UK has more outdoor music festivals than any other country in the world, despite our terrible summer weather. So why is this ? Why do we love our festivals so much ?

This is an age where society is fuelled by mass media. We cannot get away from it; and like it or not, it influences the way we think and act. In the past, when I first attended festivals they were by and large events that existed on the periphery of society, away from the glare of the crass ‘everything is for sale’ celebrity culture that we now endure. But these days there is media saturation of the events. Television, the radio and internet have made festivals so accessible that for many people the choice has been taken away. We have become robots who simply must attend a summer music festival, because that is what everyone else is doing. The message almost seems to be that if you haven’t been to a festival there is something wrong with you. Everyone is doing it. Only last week an article in a popular women’s magazine ran a report on a well established UK festival, reporting solely on the celebrities who were there and what they wore. If celebrities are doing it, then we must do that next year seemed to be the message. Festivals, once the free spirited embodiment of alternative culture have become absolutely and totally mainstream.

But despite the influence of our mass media there are other reasons why the UK has more festivals than other countries. For instance, there is something built into the British psyche that just loves an excuse to be outdoors in the summer. Even if it is raining. Maybe we have some romantic notion of a great British summer, that actually doesn’t exist.

There has also been a resurgence in live music over the last few years. Society is becoming more insular, with many sitting at home, wired into their PC’s developing a new way of socialising through Facebook, Myspace and Bebo. Modern society is losing the ability or opportunity to truly experience something with a deeper emotional or social connection. Live music still offers this opportunity, and festivals are a natural extension of this opportunity.

Another reason why us Brits may love our music Festivals so much is that we are pretty good at putting them on. Whatever your thoughts on Glastonbury, the fact that 160,000 people manage to exist in happy union on a farm using temporary infrastructure whatever the weather is staggering. The extent of an event such as Glastonbury never ceases to amaze me. Some events I have personally attended this year such as Summer Sundae have been incredibly well put together, thought out and organised. They are an absolute credit to the people who run them.

So, for me personally, my love of festivals is a combination of my passion for music, my love of camping (I currently own three tents and next year am about to purchase my fourth which I hope will lead to tent envy amongst my friends), my love of the great outdoors and most importantly a chance to be in a place where I feel completely at home and feel that there are many like minded people surrounding me.

And as for my favourite festival this summer ? Well, since you’re asking, it was End Of The Road Festival, which was an absolute gem, closely followed by Summer Sundae.

So here’s to next years festivals. I’m busy planning what I’m going to attend already.

Lets just hope that next year we get a little more sun.

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