Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Glastonbury 2009 - bands, brands and fans*

Yes it really really really did happen - Glastonbury was the best party on the planet for me and the other 170,000 lovely people there.

Everything and anything appeared to happen: sun, rain, thunder and lightening, celebrity rumour and confirmation, beers, tears, freaks, green police, police on bikes.

What was very interesting is how this little community existed for 5 days. Well I say little, I heard/read somewhere that the Glastonbury site becomes the 2nd biggest city in the South West of England for 1 week every year. That gives an idea of the scale of the thing. Its immense but never completely overwhelming - feeling more like 6 villages linked by paths in varying states of mud. To get a real sense of it, a walk to the Stone Circle and up to the fence is perfect.

Anyway in between having an all round great time, I tried to occasionally engage brain to think about the communication possibilities Glasto offers and could offer brands.

The first thing to say is the Evis' - father and daugther - just about seem to have got the balance of a going commercial concern and a legendary ethically based festival just about spot on - no mean feat.

So who's involved? Well here's a good thing to do - after any event like this, try a bit of spontaneous awareness. I remember the Guardian, BBC (presenters everywhere you looked), Orange, Q, Gaymers/Calsberg, and of course the supported charity brands - Greenpeace, WaterAid, Oxfam and Million Mums.

In no particular order then, some thoughts:

I suppose the BBC is the dominant player for me and for everyone watching the round the clock coverage over the weekend and everyone who'll now want to watch Blur's triumphant closing set on I-Player. I geared for the festival listening to BBC 6 music the week prior and now I'm getting all my post-fest reviews from the same place. I thought we'd done quite well seeing as much as we did - sounds like we only scratched the surface. The fantastic BBC coverage also helped to highlight the power and value of the live music market, apparently bands who featured on the TV coverage saw huge surges in i-tunes sales across the weekend, I heard 200% for Pendulum and 800% for Status Quo (clearly coming from a low base)....

...seeing as much as we did across the weekend was certainly aided and facilitated by the Guardian Guide. Firstly I have to say I was a guest of the Guardian - even so, the mini Guide each festival goer was handed on entry was genius. The full line up, some basic maps and some lovely editorial touches - 10 top Glasto facts etc. This was my key media for the 4 days - especially given my phone had little reception all weekend and ran out of juice by Sat am (more of Orange in a sec). So we all went a bit analogue, and the Guide was perfect.

If I had an iphone, some battery and coverage - then this interactive festival maps would have been my app of choice - still it a great way of looking back.


...Q Daily - a 16 page festival newspaper printed and distributed every morning, was also a delicious read - a great place to read about all the secret gigs I missed...

...so to Orange. Ah its tough being a Telco sponsor at big events isn't it? When more than 40,000 gather in one place, your phone is simply a camera again. This despite all the infrastructure Orange put in place. That said, Orange seem to have created a nice utility in the Charge and Chill bars, they looked very inviting but queue deterred me (bands to see and all that). Orange also created a decent app on their Glastonbury site. Looks handy but as I said, impossible to download at the festival. They did draw my attention to it by using each and every Gaymers cider pint cup - so i guess it had an OTS of 40 with me.

But to be frank, the corporate sponsors biggest input is two-fold. Firstly to allow Glastonbury to be so much more than any other festival given the level of content; there is just so much stuff going on - 50 stages, 100s of acts and countless more 'entertainers'. Areas like Thrash City and other late night areas are a case in point - a full size helicopter, demolished buildings, flame throwers, dancers and freak shows, post-apocalyptic burlesque and decedent hideaways. I was staggered by the level of detail.

The other side is a interesting value exchange - the big corporates support (indirectly I should add) the not-for-profits. Meaning the Evis keep the festival rooted and Greenpeace et al get a very decent payday - not least driven by some very hard hitting video content played out between bands on the bigger stages.
All in all - a simply unbeatable event, superbly executed and I'm sure pretty memorable for all bands, brands and fans involved

* - bands, brands and fans - a term I got from the very excellent music marketing newsletter http://www.brandsbandsfans.com/

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