From rap to rock, Glastonbury offers live playlist in digital age

Thu Jun 25, 2015 7:37am EDT
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By Paul Sandle

GLASTONBURY, England (Reuters) - In a digital world that is destroying the value of recorded music, the most analogue part of the industry - playing live to thousands in a muddy field - is more popular, and more lucrative, than ever.

Glastonbury, Britain's biggest green field festival and held on a dairy farm in south-west England, sold 135,000 tickets priced at 225 pounds ($350) in a record 26 minutes in October, months before any of the main acts were announced.

U.S. rapper, songwriter and producer Kanye West tops the bill on Saturday, a choice that generated familiar howls of outrage from some who said who say he does not fit the festival's rock ethos.

But it is a calculated risk that will likely pay off, both in keeping Glastonbury relevant and winning West new fans. And there are plenty of alternatives, including Deadmaus, Jon Hopkins and for 1990s indie holdouts, Suede - all performing at the same time as West.

Music industry analyst Mark Mulligan at MIDiA Research said the growth trajectory in live music was almost the mirror opposite of the decline in recordings.

"Live remains a scarce experience; you can only get the experience of being there by being there," he said. "Whereas a music track is available across legal and illegal platforms for free."

Live music in Britain was worth 789 million pounds in 2013, up 28 percent on the year before - skewed by the London Olympics occupying venues in 2012 - whereas the value of recorded music fell 3 percent to 618 million, according to industry body UK Music.

Mulligan said big established artists, such as Sunday night headliner The Who, now saw touring as being the end game.   Continued...

Revellers take selfies watch as the sun sets during the Glastonbury Festival at Worthy Farm in Somerset, Britain, June 24, 2015. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez