52% intelligent. 9% modest. More monkey than bear.

Monday, April 07, 2008

we saw the green fields....

I’m pretty sure that people have been saying that things aren’t what they used to be since the dawn of time. I’m confident that even the discovery of fire was greeted by some malcontent moaning about food being cooked and harking back to the good old days when everything was raw and a bit of cold in the cave never did anyone any harm, did it? The caveman of today is little more than a mollycoddled nancy… In much the same way, for all that it is traditional for Michael Eavis to hail each successive Glastonbury Festival as “the best ever”, there are always the naysayers loudly telling the world that the World’s Greatest Festival™ isn’t as good as it used to be. Eavis gave away milk at the first festival in 1971, and for some people it’s probably been all downhill since then.

Tickets went onsale for the 2008 Glastonbury Festival at 9am on Sunday morning, and it seems that the knives are out. In 2007, all 137,500 tickets sold out inside two hours. This year, 40,000 tickets were left after the first 24 hours, and they still seem to be on sale now. This, coupled with an apparent decline in the number of people registering to purchase tickets in the first place (you have to be registered with the festival in advance to buy a ticket), indicates that the festival is in decline. Explanations for this apparent decline vary: some blame the choice of Jay Z as headliner, some blame the fact that the last three festivals in a row have been muddy, some just say that the original spirit of the festival is now dead…. There’s no Lost Vagueness this year, for starters….

Me, I think a lot of that is cobblers and Glastonbury is probably a victim of its own success. Yeah, alright, so they haven’t sold out yet, but the festival certainly will sell out and 100,000 tickets in a single day? That’s still not too bad for a single day, is it? It still seemed pretty damn busy to me when I logged on a little before 9am. Last year I was down in Oxford and I didn’t get any further than a “page busy” message. We were lucky that Sarah was able to get a “magic connection” that kept bringing up the ticket page and was able to get everyone’s tickets. In an attempt to make sure that we get all the tickets that we need, we try to get a bit organised. This isn’t really too much effort, and really just involves making sure that we all have a list of everyone’s registration numbers and stay in close contact on the phone. This means that if someone does keep getting through, they have all the information they need to buy everyone’s tickets. This year, a few of our usual gang were out of the country (in places as far apart as Thailand, Australia and Egypt) and so we were looking a bit short-handed. As the internet still represents your best chance of getting tickets, I decided that using the fastest connection I could find probably wouldn’t do any harm, and made my way into the office and it’s superfast, industrial sized connection. It worked: nobody else on our little list actually made it as far as getting any tickets, and C. and I ended up buying them for everyone. 14 in all. We had a slight problem, ironically, with our own order, where we got an error message after the card details had been entered. When we tried again though, our registration numbers were coming up as being “used”, so I was reasonably confident it had all gone through, and before too long my confirmation email arrived. Job done.

It was only when I got home that I started hearing that sales were slow. It had seemed busy to me, but apparently only 100,000 tickets were sold on Sunday, and when I had a look out of curiosity at about 6pm, I got straight through. To be honest, this annoyed me. Glastonbury has something of a long history of technical failure. Every year they trumpet how efficient their system is, and every year it seems to fall over under the load. The worst year was 2004, when I spent all night trying to get through and in the end managed to get tickets via the international ticket line at about 7pm the following day. Even in a year when demand was apparently well down, it seems that the demand was still comfortably outstripping their ability to sell. You do wonder why we pay a booking fee sometimes (£5 on the ticket and £4 on the transaction itself, that’s £1.25m in booking fees alone. How much would a few more servers be?). Having said that, I think you do have to take your hat off to Eavis for at least trying to stamp out touting. The registration system, introduced in 2007, effectively makes it impossible to pass a ticket on to someone else, and so when you actually come to buy a ticket, at least you are only competing against other people who actually want to go to the festival themselves, and not an army of touts and ebay profiteers.

Mind you, back in 1993 I was able to walk into an actual shop a couple of weeks before the festival and hand over £65 for my ticket. It’s now £160 and a whole lot of hassle. Still, don’t tell me it’s not going to be worth it. Even a muddy Glastonbury is better than no Glastonbury at all…. And I’m not too worried about the bill. Sure, I’m not going to be rushing to see Jay Z, but sometimes the real joy of Glastonbury is in what you can find away from the main stages – something that I’ve actually only discovered in the last couple of years. Where before I seemed to be drawn like a magnet to the Pyramid to watch the headline act, now I’m much more likely to be at Jazz World or in the Left Field. All this fuss about Jay Z (who may be about to cancel anyway) seems a bit odd to me, when in the good old days we didn’t see any kind of a bill at all until long after we had all bought our tickets. What’s the big deal?

So, yeah, it was a bit of a hassle to get tickets… and surprisingly stressful too, with the magic connection leading to a self-imposed feeling of responsibility for getting everyone else's tickets too....but not so much that I’m not already really looking forward to my annual trip down to the farm. After 3 years of torrential rain and the inevitable trench-like conditions, a bit of sun would be nice this year please….

It was always sunny in the good old days, you know.


They're re-opening registration today (Tuesday) at 4pm. Apparently they've heard from loads of people who wanted tickets but didn't bother registering first time around. That's the initial 4 week registration period that was subsequently extended by a couple of weeks. Boy, they must really be keen to go.

(to be fair, a lot of people are probably put off by the scrum for tickets, and now tickets are available have perhaps changed their minds. Good luck to them.)



  • At 7:46 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    couldn't agree more - is it all a bit annoying and concerning for a couple of hours on a Sunday morning? Yes, but it has always been worth it and two months of anticipation is pretty fine too!

    Fiery Little Sod

  • At 9:23 am, Blogger LB said…

    the Independent this morning is putting the lack of demand down to:

    (i) competition and the fact that the other Festival tickets (V, Reading etc) went on sale first
    (ii) the weather for the last few years
    (iii) Jay-Z

    I have to say that whilst I can't abide Jay-Z either, (ii) was my biggest reservation this time around. It really is not much fun in a foot of mud (and certainly not for three festivals running!)

    I idly wonder as well whether Glastonbury is suffering the same malaise as, say, top-flight football. Football now is all about the logistics, and leaving early to beat the traffic, and the "match day experience" rather than just enjoying the game. I wonder whether people can't see the wood for the trees and are put off by the difficulty getting there and back, the mud etc and are forgetting that it's about the enjoyment of the "main event" itself?

  • At 9:45 am, Blogger swisslet said…

    I think the demand in recent years has been fuelled by the saturation media coverage - not least the wall to wall radio and tv on the BBC. This has made the festival look desirable and fashionable and has put it to some extent on the social circle. It's become something for people to try. I think you're right that - last year especially - the weather made the festival one of those things where people thought "bloody hell, rather you than me" instead of "that looks brilliant, I'd love to go to that". Demand, as a result, is lower this year. It's also true, probably, that although none of the festivals look like having a really strong bill this year (in fact, they look like they've largely got the same bill), I did look at Reading / Leeds and think how much I'd like to see Rage Against the Machine. Glastonbury's bill so far does not have any acts like that.

    But as always, I've been to Reading, and as an event in itself, it's nowhere near as attractive as Glastonbury. Want to get swept out of the main arena and back to your tent 15 minutes after the last band? Beer tokens? Brown van catering? Nope, me neither. Glastonbury has changed a lot, even in the time I've been going (since 1993), but it's still a lot more utopian than most other festivals.

    Me, I don't really mind the mud. It makes for a very different festival, and I'd rather it was sunny for sure.... but you get what you get, and as long as your tent is dry and you have some wellies, it's not so bad.

    Monday last year was miserable though.


  • At 9:46 am, Blogger swisslet said…

    as a sidebar on the BBC coverage, when I blogged for them last year - something that consisted of nothing more than a link from their page to here - traffic to this site went up by a factor of more than ten for the couple of weeks around the festival.

    That's how much interest there is.

  • At 12:31 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Interestingly, Matt's rego number is probably a good indication of how many people registered as he registered very late. Taking the first 1 from the front, you're left with 185948. Given that your's and C's numbers were only in the 500's, and ours were about half way, I think you could surmise that they are indicitive of 'counting up'.

    Why all of those 190,000 registrants didn't buy tickets we can only guess. Credit crunch, maybe?

    I'm really looking forward to it, not in the least because I get to spend some quality time with LB and my friends. Actually, that's the main reason. The music is just for the ambiance:)

  • At 8:51 am, Blogger LB said…

    225,000 registrations, apparently (about half the number of last year). So few, in fact, that Eavis is considering scrapping the whole pre-registration scheme entirely.


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