Festivals Will Be Different, I Like Different.

At this time of year, I would normally be fine tuning Grapevine’s festival database. Checking details, chasing organisers to confirm dates, locations and headline acts. And my favourite part, seeking out the new festivals. This a whole four or five months before we would normally publish Grapevine’s annual festival guide.

Yesterday we had two significant festival announcements, one regional, one international. This morning mainstrean media are already mourning the death of the 2021 festival season in the wake of the cancellation of Glastonbury.

Whilst its loss is significant, Glastonbury is not your normal festival. It is one of the biggest festivals in the world. It attracts some of music’s biggest names. It requires industrial level project planning to make it happen and that takes time, Michael and Emily have simply run out of time to make it happen.

Read the Glastonbury statement here.

Yesterday’s other announcement came from much closer to home. Maverick Festival at Easton Farm Park in Suffolk announced that they are re-scheduling their 2021 event from its traditional July date to September.

Essentially Maverick & Glastonbury are the same thing – a music festival on a farm organized and run by passionate people. Maverick’s advantage is its size and ability to be flexible. I have little doubt that organiser Paul Spencer would be delighted to his see ticket sales match those at Worthy Farm but if they did Maverick wouldn’t be Maverick.

At a virtual Grapevine meeting this week, before the announcements, I dared to suggest that we will need to prepare ourselves for a very different type of festival in the future. I doubt that the big arena style events will be viable or safe. Talk to any Health & Safety Manager and they will tell you that you can conduct the most stringent assessments, mitigate against the most ridiculous scenarios and put up as many signs and instructions as you like – but the minute you add people to the mix anything can happen!

Smaller festivals are more flexible, easier to manage and these I see as the way forward. FolkEast last year proved that it is perfectly possible to get 200 people together safely to enjoy live music. Would the setup they created in their paddock work on a larger scale on the Glemham Estate? I think it could, it would be a different experience, but it could work.

The other reason I think the mega festivals may have had their day, at least for now, is live streaming. A year ago, live streaming was far from mainstream, by March everyone was doing it. [Grapevine now has its own Virtual Gig Guide.]

Live streaming became a growing cottage industry with gigs from front rooms, kitchens and even bathrooms (better reverb apparently!). Without doubt some live streams were better technically than others. The industry was watching, the industry was learning. In November last year we got ‘Studio 2054’, Dua Lipa’s livestream gig supporting her second studio album.

It is estimated that the production costs for this live stream were in the region of $1.5 million. Featured guests included Elton John, Kylie Minogue and Miley Cyrus. The stream was seen by an estimated five million people with tickets costing just $10. According to Lipa’s management company co-CEO, Ben Mawson the venture was profitable. More telling was his comment that “Lipa will do another livestream in the future regardless if in-person shows come back first”.

Logistically it is far easier to arrange a live stream – on a very basic level you don’t have to deal with portable toilets, waste disposal and licensing – if live streaming gigs can be made profitable, they will happen.

However, don’t let me put you off buying your 2021 festival tickets. I have no doubt that the smaller, more flexible ones will happen. I suspect, like Maverick, dates will drift towards later in 2021. Our experiences will be different – I like different, without it you never get to experience new things.

Are professionally produced live streams the future?