Free tickets, discounted prices and a 'one-for-all' mentality. When did festivals start being so nice to one another?
Since when did festival bosses get so nice? A year or so ago if you'd bought a ticket for a cancelled event you'd resort to seeking solace in a tent erected in your lounge with a newly-bought KT Tunstall CD blaring out of some tinny speakers, sobbing into a lukewarm bowl of Super Noodles with only a booking fee-free refund for comfort. Or perhaps that's just what I would've done…
Nowadays, things have changed. Promoters are clamouring over each other to offer those disappointed folk with tickets for cancelled festivals attractive discounts to attend their own bashes.
Bloom Festival 2009 was of course pulled earlier this week, while Big Green Gathering 2009 was pre-emptively closed down by the Robocop-like, authoritarian, metaphorical Megazord that is the combined forces of Mendip Council and Somerset and Avon Police last month, if the festival bosses side of the claims are to be believed. Accroding to organisers, police were worried about ‘gatherings of radicals’ descending on the area (using this twisted logic, a mild-mannered gathering of enviro-hippies chillaxing in a healing field basically requires the same sort of draconian law enforcement as some kind of Commie-Nazi, Al Qaeda-trained cell of Stalinist-Greenpeace guerrilla fighters running through Cheddar Gorge wielding solar-powered AK-47's and anthrax-laced falafel, raping and pillaging everything in their path and screaming things like “save the polar bears, kill the infidels!” and “Heil Al Gore!” But, I digress…).
Since these recession/police state-related misfortunes occurred, all manner of festival organisers have stepped into the breach to offer cut-price tickets to their next events. Alchemy Festival 2009, The Big Chill 2009 and Sunrise Celebration 2010 are among the names offering cut-price entry upon presentation of either a Bloom or BGG ticket.
It all started last year, when The Big Chill decided to compensate fans expecting to go to the cancelled Sunrise Celebration by giving them entrance to their festival and even incorporating a Sunrise Celebration arena into their site. Meanwhile punters expecting to go to the ill-fated Wild in The Country, which was cancelled with under two days notice, weren't so lucky.
So why the change? Could it be something to do with a wider culture of a 'blitz spirit' engulfing the nation as a whole in the face of the recession? After all, we're all in this together.
Or could it be that the festivals offering discounted tickets are struggling with sales themselves and are desperate to cut their losses just by getting as many people on site as possible and get a little extra cash to play with in the run-up to the event? Both are, of course, plausible.
However, VF thinks it might have something to do with the Association of Independent Festivals, or at least the ethos that surrounded its formation. Small festivals are facing ever- greater competition from corporate rivals backed by big business behemoths like Live Nation.
In face of this threat, a smattering of promoters responsible for some of the UK's most treasured independent festivals formed a union to represent their interests, in the face of an ever-growing threat of a David and Goliath rivalry between them and the big hitters.
Therefore it's more than plausible that promoters of small festivals have realised the importance of strength in numbers and that if one goes bust then it may only steer customers towards their bigger, more financially secure rivals.
This can only be good for the festival scene in the UK and will make for a healthier, happier selection of independent festivals in the long term.