Festival Republic chief Melvin Benn may have revised his somewhat downbeat view of this UK festival season, after his Reading and Leeds festivals pulled 160,000 per day between them Aug. 24-26.
Benn had given a somewhat pessimistic description of the state of the British outdoor market in an article published in The Observer Aug. 26. He blamed the economy, competition from the Olympic Games, and – of course – the uncertainty of the weather.
Pouring rain and muddy sites did cause big problems for Live Nation’s summer season in Hyde Park, Isle Of Wight Festival and also washed out the final day of Creamfields altogether, but other factors caused Sonisphere and Festival Republic’s Big Chill to be axed well ahead of time.
It was a summer when many of the UK’s festivals struggled to keep their heads above water, in one way or another.
“Most people are on limited budgets at the moment – people have less money to spend – but I don’t think it’s a matter of the amount of festival-goers diminishing; it’s just that a few years ago many people would easily go to two or three festivals throughout the summer, and those same festival-goers have reduced the amount of festivals they go to now,” Benn told the Observer.
However, by the end of the weekend he was hailing Reading and Leeds as “one of the best years yet for the festivals,” while applauding the performances from such top acts as Foo Fighters, Kasabian and The Cure.
The August Bank Holiday weekend indicated that the festival fans – even if they are cutting down on the number of fests they attend – still have Reading and Leeds high on their priority list.
The Reading leg of the twinned festivals sold out its 90,000 capacity, while Leeds came in around 5,000 short of its 75,000 capacity. The fact the same lineup played both events may provide some ammunition for those who think it’s always tougher in the north.
Overall sales for the two festivals were 1 percent up on last year, which left Benn in a seemingly better position than his former Mean Fiddler boss Vince Power, whose Hop Farm Festival and Spain’s Benicassim suffered from weak ticket sales, forcing his newly stock-listed company to put out a profit warning.
Benn also told the Observer that he was confident that 2013 will be better for the UK festival market.
“You can’t underestimate the fact that a million Olympic tickets were sold this year, and I’d like to think that at least 10 percent of those ticket buyers will be heading to festivals again next year,” he said.
Other acts helping to close the UK outdoor season at Reading and Leeds included Green Day, who made a surprise appearance at Reading, Kaiser Chiefs, The Gaslight Anthem, The Black Keys, Paramore, Florence & The Machine, and The Vaccines.