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British music festivals in tune with older, cashed-up fans

By Belinda Goldsmith

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's summer music festival season kicks off this week with a line-up ranging from the Rolling Stones to Beyonce to exiled Tibetan monks designed to attract the modern festival-goer - a 36-year-old with a well-padded wallet.

Music festivals have become an integral part of summer for British music fans with Bon Jovi and Blondie at the Isle of Wight festival this weekend, Slipknot and Iron Maiden at metal-fest Download, and Iggy Pop at Yoko Ono's Meltdown in London.

But figures show a shift in the type of fans attending music festivals with research by website MSN this year finding the average festival-goer is aged 36 and expects to spend about 425 pounds ($665) on a ticket, transport, and food to attend the event.

This comes as ticket prices have surged with the UK's biggest festival, Glastonbury, charging over 200 pounds ($315) for the first time this year, 95 percent up on the 2003 price of 105 pounds - more than 2.5 times the rate of inflation.

Catering for the older crowd are older acts with musicians in the 10 top headline acts an average age of 39. British folk-rockers Mumford & Sons are the only top act this year to have released a debut album in the past five years.

Research director James McCoy from market researcher YouGov said the costs had changed the crowd at big festivals with a survey finding 22 percent of festival-goers from last year planned to go on a holiday instead of paying for a festival.

"People have less money to spend and many of the festival-goers we surveyed were turned off by poor weather and long queues," said McCoy, joking about the annual photos of Glastonbury festival-goers in raincoats and covered in mud.

"There is clearly some backlash to higher prices and also to the commercialization of festivals. This won't significantly impact the industry although we might see some smaller, more alternative festivals emerge on the side."

BETTER FACILITIES

The changed demographic and increased competition for ticket sales has put pressure on festival organizers to provide for a more discerning guest who demands more than a burger in a field.

Last year a list of music festivals were cancelled in Britain due to poor ticket sales and with adverse weather.

Rob da Bank, founder of the 4-day Bestival festival hosting Elton John, Fatboy Slim and Snoop Dog on the Isle of Wight off southern England in September, said tickets were taking longer to sell as people waited to check the weather before committing.

"But overall the scene is healthy with lots of different festivals on offer including more for families as 40-year-olds don't want to hang up their festival boots," he told Reuters.

"However, running a festival in the 21st century has changed over the past 10 years and people expect far better service, from toilets cleaned twice a day, boutique camping options, and a wide variety of different foods on offer."

Glastonbury retains the title as the UK's most popular music festival, attracting about 135,000 people who paid from 205 pounds ($315) a ticket for the June 28-30 event, with tickets selling out in a record 1 hour and 40 minutes last October.

The festival aims to cater for everyone on its various stages with the Rolling Stones and the Arctic Monkeys on the main stage while hip house fans have Tyree Cooper, ravers get cult garage DJ Maurice Fulton and children have their own show.

Glastonbury also include the Grammy-nominated Gyuto Monks of Tibet, signed to Universal's Decca Records, who live in exile in Dharamsala, north India, with the Dalai Lama.

The monks, who last performed in Britain 40 years ago at London's Royal Albert Hall, will perform their chants in a 60 acre space at Glastonbury called Green Fields where festivalgoers can "participate in new and old ways of living".

Drawing the big names has become key for the major events.

Beyonce is slated to perform at the V Festival in August while Scotland's biggest festival, T in the Park, in July has Rihanna, the Killers, and Snoop Dogg on its roster.

"Every year we have to spend more on marketing to stay ahead as there are so many festivals out there," said da Bank.

(Reporting by Belinda Goldsmith, editing by Paul Casciato)

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