It’s time bands played for free at world’s great­est mu­sic fest

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Opinion -

Whether you watched it on TV or spent your week­end scut­tling be­tween the Pyra­mid Stage and The Other Stage, you will have ex­pe­ri­enced one of the best mu­sic fes­ti­vals ever.

Whether it was the head­lin­ers giv­ing it loads (Neil Young, Spring­steen, Blur), that ex­cel­lent Sun­day af­ter­noon Mad­ness show (see them again at Elec­tric Pic­nic next month), an ex­hil­a­rat­ing set by Dizzee Ras­cal, or Sta­tus Quo reg­is­ter­ing one of their best per­for­mances (and even find­ing a fourth chord some­where along the line), it was, by com­mon con­sen­sus, the best ever Glas­ton­bury Fes­ti­val.

Even the fact that Michael Eavis faces a £3,000 fine due to Bruce Spring­steen over­run­ning by an ou­tra­geous nine min­utes on the Satur­day night (yes, the noise con­trol/cur­few Nazis were also there) couldn’t dampen the farmer’s en­thu­si­asm. Such was his ex­cite­ment that he sort of leaked who the two big head­lin­ers will be next year.

Next year is Glas­ton­bury’s 40th an­niver­sary, and al­ready the plan is to have one rep­re­sen­ta­tive act from each of those 40 years play. But such was the suc­cess of this year’s event that Eavis in­ad­ver­tently re­vealed that he had re­ceived phone calls from two of the big­gest bands around – bands that have never played Glas­ton­bury – ask­ing if they could do it next year.

You don’t need to be a con­tes­tant on Mas­ter­mind with the spe­cial­ist sub­ject, “Huge bands who have never played the Glas­ton­bury Fes­ti­val” to know that the bands are quite pos­si­bly U2 and The Rolling Stones.

The fes­ti­val it­self is its own PR. But what many don’t know about Glas­ton­bury is that it is the only ma­jor mu­sic fes­ti­val in the world that is run as a non­profit-mak­ing ven­ture. All the money made goes di­rectly to WaterAid, Green­peace and Ox­fam.

The op­er­a­tional costs are huge, and Eavis needs to sell ev­ery last ticket to make money for th­ese or­gan­i­sa­tions. In 2008 the do­na­tion to char­ity was way down, but this year will show a healthy re­turn. “We’ll catch up on last year this year, so they’ll get a lot more money from this year,” said Eavis.

This is why acts booked to play Glas­ton­bury per­form for about 10 per cent of their nor­mal live fee. It’s no se­cret that cer­tain bands avoid it for this rea­son.

The other un­re­marked as­pect of the fes­ti­val is the in­stant bonanza it af­fords the per­form­ers.

We know from Fri­day’s line-up that Neil Young, The Spe­cials, The Ting Tings and Fleet Foxes all had a mas­sive overnight surge in iTunes and Ama­zon sin­gles and al­bums sales.

With a huge TV au­di­ence, a good Glas­ton­bury per­for­mance can put your al­bum back into the top 10. On Ama­zon, The Ting Tings recorded a 282 per cent in­crease in sales, while The Spe­cials were up by 217 per cent. Ex­pect Mad­ness, Dizzee Ras­cal and Bruce Spring­steen (the three shin­ing stars of this year’s fes­ti­val) to have reg­is­tered even big­ger in­creases by the end of this week.

And on the sub­ject of Mad­ness, their cur­rent al­bum, The Lib­erty of Nor­ton Fol­gate, has got­ten five-outof-five re­views all over the shop. It re­ally is their Lon­don Call­ing.

Given that bands will turn a healthy profit (through re­boosted al­bum sales) from Glas­ton­bury, is it not time for them to play for free and thus sub­stan­tially boost the money go­ing to WaterAid, Green­peace and Ox­fam?

Fes­ti­val Repub­lic has helped run Glas­ton­bury since 2002, but it still largely re­lies on the good­will of vol­un­teers. With the ex­cep­tion of tech­ni­cal and se­cu­rity staff, the whole week­end is run by th­ese vol­un­teers (largely drawn from Ox­fam’s ranks of char­i­ta­ble work­ers), who put in 18 hour days in re­turn for free en­try and food.

Time for Mr and Mrs Rock Star to fall into line. Here’s your free pass, here’s your lunch ticket, now go and play gratis. The ex­po­sure gained and the small for­tune made in new records sales should be enough to ease your dis­com­fort.

Given how fan­tas­ti­cally well this year’s fes­ti­val went, how­ever, farmer Eavis could prob­a­bly bring in a “pay to play my fes­ti­val” pol­icy.

Farmer Eavis: break­ing the sound bar­rier

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