Page last updated at 16:50 GMT, Friday, 20 March 2009

Festivals spend despite recession

By Rodrigo Davies
6 Music News reporter

Glastonbury festival-goers
Michael Eavis first staged a festival at his Somerset farm in 1970

Despite the economic slump, some of the UK's music festivals are spending even more this year.

Bestival organisers have paid for some exclusive sets while Glastonbury has spent 400,000 on a new reservoir.

"We are spending more. In order to keep ahead of everyone else we try to do everything a bit better," said Glastonbury's Michael Eavis.

In recent months, festivals from Scotland to the Isle of Wight have been cancelled due to the economic slowdown.

The teams behind Inverary's Hydro Connect, Reading's Heavenly Planet and the Isle of Wight Jazz Festival said the recession was the reason they decided to call off their events this year.

Bestival organiser Rob Da Bank, who also chairs the Association of Independent Festivals, told 6 Music: "Budget-wise we're going up. There are two ways of looking at it, either you go for the best line-up you can and hope you sell at least as many tickets as last year, or you scale back, cut your budgets and try and scrape through."

Da Bank said he thinks more festival cancellations are likely this year. "Sadly it's a busy market already. We thought last year was going to be the crunch year with the amount of festivals that were around.

"People didn't seem to see the recession coming."

It's becoming increasingly tricky to make your line-up stand out
Rob Da Bank, Bestival organiser

Some people are more optimistic. Freddie Fellowes, founder of the Secret Garden Party - a boutique festival in Huntingdon, said ticket sales are the strongest ever this year: "Maybe this will be a substitute for ten days in the sun for people. You can escape and relax in the English countryside for half the price it would cost you to go abroad for a weekend.

"And obviously have better music."

Exclusive line-up

Organisers agree that the key to staying afloat is a unique event with an exclusive line-up, although that's not an easy proposition in cash-strapped times.

Even Da Bank, who has secured the only outdoor UK appearances from German electronic pioneers Kraftwerk and Massive Attack for his event, said it's difficult differentiate one's musical line-up from other events.

"For the middle sized festivals, it's becoming increasingly tricky to make your line-up stand out," said Da Bank.

Even Glastonbury, still the most prestigious event for most bands to play on the British festival circuit, doesn't have an exclusive hold over some of its headliners.

Neil Young, for instance, is also playing at the Isle of Wight Festival and London's Hyde Park Calling.

But Eavis isn't worried, and said he was delighted to have the veteran rocker on the bill.

"I've been after Neil Young for thirty five years," he explained. "We don't pay them the same money, because they support what we're doing.

"They know that we can't afford proper rates, so I don't mind them doing elsewhere. They have to."

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