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Is T in the Park’s safe line-up actually a risk?

Geoff Ellis

Geoff Ellis

The announcement of the T in the Park line-up has been greeted with disappointment from most quarters, with festival head honcho Geoff Ellis accused of playing it safe after last year’s event failed to sell out for the first time in recent memory. On the face of it, it looks a sensible enough move from a strictly business point of view. But does the unimaginative bill actually represent a much bigger risk for the event than the organisers might realise?

Announcing headliners Arctic Monkeys and the homegrown trio Biffy Clyro, Calvin Harris and Paulo Nutini, Ellis spoke of new features T will be launching this year in an attempt to give festival-goers more bang for their buck. This includes commencing at 12pm on the Friday (rather than 5pm as before), a later ending on Saturday (allowing the double headline of Nutini/Harris) and a price freeze from last year. This last aspect was played up as act of altruism. Ellis said: “We’re keeping our weekend ticket prices at the same level as 2013 this year as a reflection of the economic situation. Obviously our costs go up every year, but we felt it would be wrong to put the prices up.”

Cynicism is boring, but it would take the kindest of souls not to roll their eyes at DF Promotions suddenly developing a social conscience and doing it for the kids. This is a festival with a beer manufacturer in its name. It treats attempts to bring outside food or drink onto the site with the same visceral contempt that most of us reserve for paedophiles. It exists to make money – and there’s nothing wrong with that. But spare us the faux-Michael Eavis act. T in the Park froze prices because supply outstripped demand last year, and a price rise was unlikely to change that.

Secondly, the argument that costs may rise – many will look at those headliners and simply wonder ‘aye, but how?‘ Ellis has often attempted to sell Scottish headliners at a Scottish festival as  part of some sort of emotional connection between stage and audience. While that might justifiably be true with Biffy Clyro – a band who rose from bottom of the bill by sheer hard graft – the same can’t be said of Nutini. He’s well past his commercial peak and isn’t even an arena-level touring draw. The idea of him as a headliner, in 2014, is laughable. He’s been booked because he’s cheap and Ellis can get away with it thanks to his country of birth. That’s it.

Indeed, while you can argue about the merits of any festival headliners, the fact is none of those playing are a stadium-level act of the sort Glastonbury routinely target. You will not be experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime event by shelling out for any of these. That’s disappointing, especially after the same criticism was levelled at DF last year.

The rest of the line-up sees a mixture of current, somewhat bland pop indie-leaning acts such as Rudimental, Disclosure, Bastille, Tinie Tempah, Jake Bugg, Passenger, Ed Sheeran and Ellie Goulding. For the oldies, you can relive your youth to Pixies, Manic Street Preachers, Elbow, Kaiser Chiefs and James. Genuine excitement may be provided by Pharrell, but it’s hard to see who else is likely to do anything they haven’t done a hundred times before. T in the Park appears to have settled on a line-up that will encourage those who were always going to go, but those who were on the fence may choose to skip.

And that’s the problem, one we wrote about on ELM years ago. A dull line-up at a hot festival does not result in an instant drop in popularity. This comes over a period of time. Last year’s falling sales was a result of a series of boring, interchangeable bills from 2008 onwards. You see, festival-goers are intensely loyal. It’s hard to get them to stop going. But once they DO stop, it’s very difficult to get them to change their mind. They feel burned.

Nothing in the 2014 line-up screams ‘must-see’ and that’s likely to translate at the gate again this summer. We’ve written this before, but at some point DF will have to look at their booking philosophy. Radio 1’s Big Weekend takes place in Scotland this year, for free, in May. It’s hard to imagine someone on the fence about T won’t look at that as a far better option. In the long-term, T in the Park may find reaching for the safe option was actually far more risky than they first thought.

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5 Responses

  1. Great article. And bang on. Pixies and The Twilight Sad excite the most. With Pearl Jam and Neil Young playing down South on the 11th and 12th of July, respectively, how did Ellis not push the boat out for one of they powerhouses???

    • Good point. I think the bill is close, it does what a lot of the punters will want. But I think they’ve maybe surrendered the pop element they’ve had the last few years (which is a mistake with Big Weekend coming up) and that one massive, different act that turns someone who is a ‘maybe’ into a ‘fuck it, I’m going.’

  2. I attended every TITP up until 2007 , I looked at what was on offer and thought “balls to it ” and sat in the house . Didn`t regret it for one solitary minute .

    I`ve been once since then and that was 2 years ago because I wanted to see The Stone Roses and The Vigo Thieves were playing BBC Introducing stage. I can`t see myself going back unless he pulls a real
    rabbit out of the hat .

  3. I like the Vigo Thieves, even though the singer tried to touch me in a gents toilet once.

  4. I let him . It means I can get backstage at gigs from time to time

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