Shockwaves were sent around the student population of Britain on Thursday 25th February when Reading and Leeds Festivals sold out in record time, just hours after organiser Melvin Benn had confirmed they would go ahead following the government’s roadmap to exit lockdown.
Those lucky 100,000 or so will be hit with a different shockwave in late August, specifically the Liam Gallagher single of the same name, as he is set to headline the Friday of Leeds Festival – armed with a mighty back catalogue of Oasis material.
Yet while the line-up, also topped by the likes of Stormzy and Queens of the Stone Age, is perhaps fairly predictable for the festival, the sharp increase in demand for tickets is unprecedented in modern times.
Whilst Boris’ roadmap is purely conditional and subject to reversal, as we have seen throughout 2020, the kids have decided that the time for caution and negativity is over: the end is in sight.
There was no time for deliberation and risk assessment, and rapid decisions were taken across the student population to secure a spot at the party of the summer.
Why, all of a sudden, did students pursue this approach with such finality after just a sentence or two from the PM? The certainty of a full refund will have definitely been a factor. Similar to last year, all major festivals have pledged to offer a full refund or a rollover to 2022 should they have to pull the plug.
Glastonbury and Download are the two giant-killings that have fallen victim to COVID-19 two years running, and with all these ticket holders left waiting over a year, it was only natural that some turned to Reading and Leeds for the only viable large-scale option.
Peer pressure, as always, no doubt played a part – with many student households buying in bulk and sharing confirmation emails to social media to alert their other friends to purchase a ticket.
Leeds Festival has not sold out this century and Reading usually doesn’t till at least June – it is truly an incredible feat to witness the mass mobilisation of students and teenagers in spending such a large sum of money.
As Thursday evening approached, the alarm bells were ringing with regard to a sell-out, and at one point there were over 90,000 people in the Ticketmaster queue panicking to buy tickets. With only a lucky few able to grab the last batch, students turned to festivals they had barely considered before – with the likes of Boardmasters, Sundown and Truck now either sold out or on their final tier of tickets before line-ups have even been released.
Is this perhaps a sign of our generation’s inability to hold back from our desires, or rather desperation manifesting itself in a different way after months of misery?
Prior to the government’s announcement, no-one could have predicted how quickly things escalated in the festival industry. Only time will tell if this is a trend that continues into 2022 and beyond, as the rapidity of sales will still be fresh in people’s minds in a year’s time, particularly for those who missed out.
With what surely will be a guaranteed audience at full capacity, will Reading and Leeds organisers risk lowering the calibre of their headliners and booking cheaper artists to make a little bit extra profit? (Definitely) Maybe Liam Gallagher will have the answers for us.
Image: Cai Dixon, The Festivals