Shaky future for festivals as fans shun blasts from the past

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The Independent Culture

Glastonbury's acts will play this weekend to packed crowds but a raft of the country's other music festivals are floundering, as agents struggle to sell tickets for well below their asking price.

Experts say even high-profile events such as Leeds and Reading festival are suffering from a lack of new talent to attract the massed hoards of music lovers seen in previous years.

George Pryor, a spokesman for Tixdaq, a website which allows users to compare ticket prices, said that weekend tickets for high profile festivals such as Reading and Leeds, both in August, were currently selling for around £130, more than £60 less than the asking price, on the "secondary market", the re-selling market set up to serve fans desperate for tickets.

Reading advertises a weekend ticket, essential four days' entertainment, at £192.50 on its website. Pryor said these were the lowest prices he'd seen in the past three years, and added that the V festival, which takes place simultaneously in Staffordshire and Chelmsford, was also selling slowly.

"We are seeing many more tickets selling for less than face value than in previous years," said Pryor. "It's down to a combination of the economy, the festival organisers not getting the line-ups quite right and there being a lot of tickets on the secondary market."

While Glastonbury, with its high media profile and wide non-musical offering making it an exception among festivals, many "second-tier" events are struggling. The industry trade magazine Music Week published a special report earlier this year in which it highlighted the lack of new talent headlining major festivals. Of the seven summer festivals surveyed, including Reading and Leeds, just two out of 19 headliners "broke through" in the past three years. In 2007, more than half of the 20 headline acts at the same festivals were new.

"There's a lack of new rock bands coming through to headline these festivals," said Ben Cardew, the news editor of Music Week. "They are the life and soul of Reading; you need your Nirvanas and Arctic Monkeys and they are not really happening at the moment. If you look at the line-ups this year there's lots of bands headlining two festivals but there aren't many bands who haven't headlined before. It lacks that novelty; people would have seen these people play at some point in the past."

Reading this year is headlined by My Chemical Romance, The Strokes and Muse, with the Leeds festival seeing Pulp replace The Strokes in one of its headline slots.

Spread too thinly?

Headliners: U2,Coldplay, Beyoncé
Others: Primal Scream, Mumford and Sons, The Chemical Brothers, Queens of the Stone Age, Morrissey, Elbow
While Glastonbury's mainstream line-ups consistently attract derision, U2's delayed appearance after their cancellation last year because of Bono's back problems has only helped their cause. Morrissey, Elbow and Beyonce all have large followings and have fans spanning a wide demographic, the kind of varied choice that Glastonbury does best. However, few of the other bands have not been regulars at UK festivals over the past two years.
Verdict ***

Leeds and Reading
Headliners: Muse, Elbow, Pulp
Others: My Chemical Romance, The Strokes, 30 Seconds to Mars, the Offspring, Madness
Muse toured widely and headlined Glastonbury last year, so their choice is fairly predictable, and while Elbow and Pulp are inspiring acts, their most hardy fans would have seen them play at Glastonbury and Wireless in Hyde Park earlier in the summer. The Strokes, while always attractive, will have made appearances in Scotland, Ireland and Spain's Benicassim before making it to England.
Verdict *

Headliners: Eminem, Rihanna, Artic Monkeys, Plan B
Others: Pendulum, Primal Scream, Dizzee Rascal, Duran Duran.
A better, if still somewhat uninspired selection of acts which all perform extremely well live, mostly aimed at a younger demographic. Plan B and Rihanna are currently riding popularity waves, and Pendulum and Dizzee Rascal are often a hit with crowds. However none of these acts could particularly be described as "emerging", even if successful, and this could well be a carbon copy of a line-up from a previous year.
Verdict ***

Forecast is for mud

Revellers who have enjoyed a string of sunny Glastonburys after the quagmires of 2005 and 2007 may want to dig out their wellies as forecasters warn of thunderstorms and downpours by Wednesday, when Worthy Farm opens its gates for the 41st festival.

Rain is predicted for Thursday, although clearer skies are expected for the official start on Friday, before a more unsettled Sunday. Festival goers are encouraged to prepare for any conditions. In 2005, 300 tents were washed away by floods after a month of rain fell in two hours.

Emergency bundles of straw were distributed in 2007 as rain turned the fields into a classic festival mud bath.

Amanda Hall