Glastonbury and Woodstock to Mic Drops

1969 Woodstock poster.

It’s by no means a new craze, in fact to limit the term ‘festival’ to mean solely the likes of Glastonbury and Boomtown would be entirely ignorant. But what is new, or rather, what has changed the most is the commercial nature of such an event. There was once a time when people would go to music festivals for the love, man. To be at peace, be carefree and shut off from the outside world. Our grandparents, in the 60’s, were all about the sex, drugs and rock and roll as a way of removing themselves from their own lives. Finding freedom and so on and so on. But not anymore, no, no. The modern festival goer is all about the selfie, glamping and the bigger your bank account the more, bigger and the better festivals you will attend and more high profile the performer you’ll pay to see. Back in the day there was a level of discrepancy around festivals, created for the hippies and the lovvies celebrating folk and rock music in a low maintenance, so would argue a bit dirty, sort of way. Personally, I can’t imagine Kanye West at Newport folk festival, can you? But over the last 60 years festivals have changed, brands now support festivals and artist’s dream of headlining the biggest festival of the assigned genre.

Take Glastonbury as a prime example, 1971, the day after the legend Jimi Hendrix passed away, Glastonbury festival was born, coincidence? I think not. A modest price of £1 per ticket with the inclusion of free milk from Worthy Farm itself saw 1500 people enjoy the latest Pop, folk and blues festival on the UK scene.

2019 then saw 135,000 Glasto tickets at £248 a pop sell out in half an hour with Headliners yet to be announced. It is fair to say that Glastonbury, now the largest greenfield festival in the world, has (metaphorically) blown up. As a result, the audiences are less carefree and more careless, with environmental damages becoming so bad that Glastonbury 2018 was called off to allow Worthy farm to recover. Making tickets more sort-after and hard to get.

Festivals, as we know them today are great, that I cannot deny. The thrill of sitting in a muddy field listening the best of the best, under the sun with a cold one in each hand. The epitome of summer bliss it must be said. But with 1 in 5 millennials admitting to attending festivals to share their experience on social media or as a result of FOMO (fear of missing out (for those of you who don’t use Instagram every second of the day)) has the entire identity of music festivals been lost to social media and millennials? The answer, is yes, it most probably has but that doesn’t make what music festivals have become a bad thing. Festivals boost the music industry, bringing awareness to new artists and still creates an open space for people express themselves beyond their music tastes. The 60’s didn’t see The Beatles or Queen at a festival surrounded by other artists, whereas now, Eminem and Liam Gallagher shared the same stage at Reading and Leeds. Commercialisation has made festivals an ‘experience’ from the camping to the artists to the lights and Tech. It’s easy to see Woodstock as the ‘glory’ days of music festivals, but harder to see how festivals are now a privilege to attend (perhaps because of the £200 price tag, but that is inflation, my friend, and to put on such a sceptical is not cheap).

And the Instagram thing, while slightly frustrating, being able so share your experience is what we love. And as someone guilty of bragging about my festival attendance with social media posts, who am I to judge? There is so much diversity within festivals now, catering for all genres from DnB to Indie Rock and everything in-between. Though the price and status may make the modern #festi seem more exclusive, there is in fact more diversity and choice than ever before. Festivals are for the music lovers and the 1 in 5 insta postee’s but who’s to say your grandma wouldn’t have uploaded a cute selfie of her and ‘the gals’ at her favourite folk festival if she’d have had the opportunity. The point is that now social media is used to promote, celebrate and further Music festival, and whilst it has changed the scene, it may not have damaged it as much as pessimism would encourage us to think.

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1969 Woodstock poster. Glastonbury posters can be found on the website.