By Howard Monk, University of Southampton

Glastonbury festival is not the only major musical event happening in the UK this year. Plenty of others will be staged in parks and fields and beaches over the summer, but none will be as well attended – or receive anywhere near the same amount of attention.

And while other events struggle, with estimates that as many as 100 are likely to call it a day this year, Glastonbury thrives. Tickets (£355) sell out at warp speed (before lineups are even announced), no one seems deterred about the price of food and drink, and thousands turn up before the gates even open.

So Glastonbury is clearly a big business, a totemic symbol perhaps, of the commercialisation of rock festivals. And one of the reasons for its continued success could be the enormous amount of television coverage it receives.

The BBC has covered Glastonbury since 1997, offering live feeds from around the event. For the 2024 edition, it is offering viewers over 90 hours of footage across its various platforms.

Few events – let alone music festivals – get anything like this level of media support. And support is what the wider British live music sector needs.

For while the spotlight shines on sell-out tours by the likes of Taylor Swift or the saga of opening massive arenas, grassroots music venues face huge challenges.

Smaller independent festivals are in a parlous state, with the Towersey festival in Buckinghamshire, which predates Glastonbury, announcing that its 60th event will be its last.

Unlike Glastonbury, they don’t tend to enjoy sponsorship deals with Land Rover or Vodafone. Nor do many other festivals have such sway that artists agree to perform for less than the normal going rate.

So Glastonbury continues to attract millions of applicants for tickets, most of whom will be disappointed. (Many of my students writing essays about the event will probably never experience it for themselves.)


Yet for all its dominance and rude health, Glastonbury can still boast significant support of the grassroots music sector. Hundreds of new and emerging artists play at the event, even though many of them will never reach the dizzy heights of the larger stages – or even a sustainable career as a full-time artist.

More realistic success stories might be in store for the freelance workers on site (stage managers, volunteers, crew members) who can add the word Glastonbury to their CVs in the hope that it will lead to more work elsewhere.

The event has also long been associated with celebrating acts from all over the world. This year sees the first K-pop act, marking the success of a policy by the South Korean government, and Indonesian all female Muslim heavy metal group Voice of Baceprot gets its debut.

The global impact of this British festival is also seen through the amount of work the festival does for charitable causes, raising millions of pounds for local charities alongside the likes of Water Aid, Oxfam and Greenpeace.

And unlike comparable mega festivals like Coachella, Tomorrowland and Reading, which seem to radiate commercialism from the outset, Glastonbury still maintains connections with pagan rituals, druids and hippy culture. Its progressive stance has a trickle-down effect to smaller festivals and contributes hugely to the UK’s festival culture.

All of these aspects no doubt contribute to Glastonbury’s continued popularity – and explain the extensive coverage it receives. If there are boxes to be ticked by BBC schedulers, Glastonbury has been ticking them for decades. It is international, charitable, ecological, cultural and exciting.

Since 1970, the festival has evolved to become a perfect broadcasting and branding opportunity. It is hardly surprising then, that it has become such a magnet for sponsorships and deals.

With that financial success and a conscientious approach, the muddy fields of Glastonbury can still be fertile ground for the UK’s music industry. Away from the sounds of Coldplay or Elton John playing on the main stages, festival-goers will still be able to find new and exciting artists who have bagged a spot under a smaller spotlight.

For them – and their record labels – it could be a major opportunity, boosted by the BBC’s wall-to-wall coverage. The next British government would do well to follow Glastonbury’s lead and find ways of doing more – much more – to support the grassroots music sector in the UK.The Conversation

Howard Monk, Senior Teaching Fellow, Music Management, University of Southampton

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.