I’m pretty sure that people have been saying that things aren’t what they used to be since the dawn of time. I’m confident that even the discovery of fire was greeted by some malcontent moaning about food being cooked and harking back to the good old days when everything was raw and a bit of cold in the cave never did anyone any harm, did it? The caveman of today is little more than a mollycoddled nancy… In much the same way, for all that it is traditional for Michael Eavis to hail each successive Glastonbury Festival as “the best ever”, there are always the naysayers loudly telling the world that the World’s Greatest Festival™ isn’t as good as it used to be. Eavis gave away milk at the first festival in 1971, and for some people it’s probably been all downhill since then.
Tickets went onsale for the 2008 Glastonbury Festival at 9am on Sunday morning, and it seems that the knives are out. In 2007, all 137,500 tickets sold out inside two hours. This year, 40,000 tickets were left after the first 24 hours, and they still seem to be on sale now. This, coupled with an apparent decline in the number of people registering to purchase tickets in the first place (you have to be registered with the festival in advance to buy a ticket), indicates that the festival is in decline. Explanations for this apparent decline vary: some blame the choice of Jay Z as headliner, some blame the fact that the last three festivals in a row have been muddy, some just say that the original spirit of the festival is now dead…. There’s no Lost Vagueness this year, for starters….
Me, I think a lot of that is cobblers and Glastonbury is probably a victim of its own success. Yeah, alright, so they haven’t sold out yet, but the festival certainly will sell out and 100,000 tickets in a single day? That’s still not too bad for a single day, is it? It still seemed pretty damn busy to me when I logged on a little before 9am. Last year I was down in Oxford and I didn’t get any further than a “page busy” message. We were lucky that Sarah was able to get a “magic connection” that kept bringing up the ticket page and was able to get everyone’s tickets. In an attempt to make sure that we get all the tickets that we need, we try to get a bit organised. This isn’t really too much effort, and really just involves making sure that we all have a list of everyone’s registration numbers and stay in close contact on the phone. This means that if someone does keep getting through, they have all the information they need to buy everyone’s tickets. This year, a few of our usual gang were out of the country (in places as far apart as Thailand, Australia and Egypt) and so we were looking a bit short-handed. As the internet still represents your best chance of getting tickets, I decided that using the fastest connection I could find probably wouldn’t do any harm, and made my way into the office and it’s superfast, industrial sized connection. It worked: nobody else on our little list actually made it as far as getting any tickets, and C. and I ended up buying them for everyone. 14 in all. We had a slight problem, ironically, with our own order, where we got an error message after the card details had been entered. When we tried again though, our registration numbers were coming up as being “used”, so I was reasonably confident it had all gone through, and before too long my confirmation email arrived. Job done.
It was only when I got home that I started hearing that sales were slow. It had seemed busy to me, but apparently only 100,000 tickets were sold on Sunday, and when I had a look out of curiosity at about 6pm, I got straight through. To be honest, this annoyed me. Glastonbury has something of a long history of technical failure. Every year they trumpet how efficient their system is, and every year it seems to fall over under the load. The worst year was 2004, when I spent all night trying to get through and in the end managed to get tickets via the international ticket line at about 7pm the following day. Even in a year when demand was apparently well down, it seems that the demand was still comfortably outstripping their ability to sell. You do wonder why we pay a booking fee sometimes (£5 on the ticket and £4 on the transaction itself, that’s £1.25m in booking fees alone. How much would a few more servers be?). Having said that, I think you do have to take your hat off to Eavis for at least trying to stamp out touting. The registration system, introduced in 2007, effectively makes it impossible to pass a ticket on to someone else, and so when you actually come to buy a ticket, at least you are only competing against other people who actually want to go to the festival themselves, and not an army of touts and ebay profiteers.
Mind you, back in 1993 I was able to walk into an actual shop a couple of weeks before the festival and hand over £65 for my ticket. It’s now £160 and a whole lot of hassle. Still, don’t tell me it’s not going to be worth it. Even a muddy Glastonbury is better than no Glastonbury at all…. And I’m not too worried about the bill. Sure, I’m not going to be rushing to see Jay Z, but sometimes the real joy of Glastonbury is in what you can find away from the main stages – something that I’ve actually only discovered in the last couple of years. Where before I seemed to be drawn like a magnet to the Pyramid to watch the headline act, now I’m much more likely to be at Jazz World or in the Left Field. All this fuss about Jay Z (who may be about to cancel anyway) seems a bit odd to me, when in the good old days we didn’t see any kind of a bill at all until long after we had all bought our tickets. What’s the big deal?
So, yeah, it was a bit of a hassle to get tickets… and surprisingly stressful too, with the magic connection leading to a self-imposed feeling of responsibility for getting everyone else's tickets too....but not so much that I’m not already really looking forward to my annual trip down to the farm. After 3 years of torrential rain and the inevitable trench-like conditions, a bit of sun would be nice this year please….
It was always sunny in the good old days, you know.
They're re-opening registration today (Tuesday) at 4pm. Apparently they've heard from loads of people who wanted tickets but didn't bother registering first time around. That's the initial 4 week registration period that was subsequently extended by a couple of weeks. Boy, they must really be keen to go.
(to be fair, a lot of people are probably put off by the scrum for tickets, and now tickets are available have perhaps changed their minds. Good luck to them.)