It goes without saying that festivals these days are vastly different in comparison to when they were first put on. Social media runs rampant with old posters, for example Reading Festival in 1977 where the tickets were priced at £7.95. It’s not just inflation that’s taken its toll on the festival scene though— the fact of the matter is, audiences have changed and so festivals have to follow suit. It’s now more important than ever to stay afloat and stay relevant, otherwise a festival may meet it’s demise as we’ve seen happen in recent years with the likes of T In The Park and Sonisphere.
To go to Reading or Leeds Festival these days, you may have to take out a small loan. For many teenagers, it becomes a rite of passage following the completion of their GCSE or A-Level exams and therefore the ticket is likely a gift from the Bank of Mum or Dad. Gone are the days where festival tickets were even remotely affordable, as just one weekend pass is about the equivalent of what a teenager will earn in two weeks or even a month at their part-time job. Day tickets are becoming more and more of a hot commodity, with festival goers picking the day they like best and then heading home without having to deal with all the mud… or drunk guys falling on their tents.
Without a doubt, one of the biggest changes in modern festivals is the line-ups. In the latter part of the last century, festivals like Reading & Leeds were dominated by rock bands, and so the clientele that headed along was what you’d expect if headliners were, for example, the Beastie Boys, like they were in 1998. Then the millennium came and so did the golden age of emo. Line-ups at major festivals all over the country were swimming with bands like My Chemical Romance, Fall Out Boy and their protégées, which meant that no matter how hot it was, most of the crowd was clad head to toe in black with the most dramatic swooping fringes you can imagine.
When it comes to the commercial market, there’s no denying rock has fizzled out. Pop is sitting pretty like it always had, but the underdog now appears to be the indie music scene which has also managed to commandeer many festival stages. Foals, The 1975 and Catfish & The Bottlemen have all seen such incredible success that it would be silly for festival promoters not to include them as a way to draw in the masses. Teenagers these days are more likely to be found in a bucket hand screaming along to The Stone Roses than they are painting their fingernails black and crying about emotional pain, and as a result rock bands at Reading and Leeds are often now restricted to the genre-specific Lock Up Stage.
This year’s line-up boasts some pretty incredible rock talent, such as While She Sleeps, Neck Deep and the up-and-coming Fizzy Blood, but the fact of the matter is that rock fans have stopped going to Reading & Leeds in favour of festivals like Download for metal, and Slam Dunk for pop punk. It may seem like the very end is near, but keep in mind that music trends and fads come in waves— so who knows, in ten years’ time rock could be back on top… but you’ll need to be a millionaire to afford a ticket.