New research from Pirate has found that major UK festivals are booking fewer emerging artists each year, with line-ups becoming increasingly “homogenous”.
As some continue to criticise the all-male Glastonbury headliners announced last week, the new research takes a broader look at the last decade of line-ups among 32 of the UK’s largest festivals (excluding Glasto).
It shows that these festivals, which have a capacity of over 50,000, tend to repeatedly book the same artists, with the percentage of new acts on lineups dropping steadily year-on-year.
In 2016, for instance, these large festivals had 80% of new artists booked, compared to 2021, when it dropped to 60%.
Some artists were found to be playing at up to 7 of 32 of the large festivals analysed in the study (more than a fifth), such as Loyle Carner in 2017 and Self Esteem in 2022.
Of course, there’s nothing inherently wrong with such acts playing. Still, in doing so, the study concludes, “not only are festivals booking legacy acts to play year after year, popular artists are being booked at multiple UK festivals each year, making lineups look homogenous.”
What’s more, with a plethora of new talent available, festival curation of this sort can create an unnecessary bottleneck where such emerging artists aren’t given the opportunity to play at these festivals.
That said, Pirate’s study has also found that small and medium festivals – those with a capacity of under 20,000 and 50,000, respectively – consistently book new artists yearly.
The study has also identified the best ten festivals to catch new acts, all of which achieved a rate of having more than 85% of new versus returning acts across their active years. These were found to be:
- Love Supreme
- Secret Garden Party
- Cross The Tracks
- All Points East
- The Great Escape
- El Dorado
- Mighty Hoopla
As one representative from jazz, funk and soul festival Cross The Tracks has commented for the report: “There’s so much music out there, it’s not hard to keep things fresh if you love music and keep listening to new music, old music, good music.”
In response to the findings, Pirate announced a new summer residency scheme in collaboration with Cross The Tracks, El Dorado, Festival People, Truck Festival, and other industry partners to provide more performance opportunities for emerging acts.