June 24, 2008 / 6:51 PM / 9 years ago

UK's Glastonbury music festival hit by slow sales

LONDON (Reuters) - With three days to go before Glastonbury there are still tickets available, an unusual situation for the annual celebration of pop music and mud which many people blame on this year’s controversial line up.

Armed with wellington boots and enough toilet paper to last four days, 134,000 fans will pitch tents and share 3,000 temporary toilets on a 400-acre dairy farm in southwest England.

There they will hope to catch performances from the likes of Amy Winehouse, Leonard Cohen and Jay-Z over the three-day event.

“I would think in the 1990s there were occasions when it got to the point that tickets were still on sale at this moment,” said festival spokesman Crispin Aubrey.

“Certainly since 2001, when we introduced a new impenetrable fence it has sold out every year since then until now,” he added. “It’s been rather slow selling the last twenty thousand.”

The usual excitement that surrounds the festival, which started in 1970 when entry cost just one pound, has been overshadowed by U.S. rapper Jay-Z’s headline appearance.

“(Jay-Z) has caused a lot of discussion but we’ve had a lot of people who’ve said it’s a brilliant, brave decision to do something different,” Aubrey said.

“We often try to have relatively mainstream people at the top of the bill, like Paul McCartney, and I think it was thought this year ‘let’s go for something different’, like a solo black performer,” Aubrey said.

The festival’s cause was not helped when British rock royalty in the form of Oasis’ Noel Gallagher weighed into the debate saying that a hip-hop act was wrong for a festival whose roots are in guitar music.

EMBRACE WHAT IS NEW

Jay-Z responded earlier this month by dismissing the debate as “ridiculous.”

“If we don’t embrace what is new, then how do we progress?” he told BBC Radio.

Some traditional Glastonbury-goers are happy about the choice of Jay-Z, saying the backlash against him is unnecessary.

“Loads of people are talking about the line-up, but I don’t think there’s anything that radical about it ... It’s going to be a lot better than hanging around to see The Verve on Sunday,” regular festival-goer, Ayden Peach, said.

“Jay-Z is a good call ... I think people have got festival overload ... May be the festival-going market has reached saturation,” Peach added.

Music festivals have become increasingly popular across Britain and Europe in recent years, and a survey by a bank this week showed how English fans were increasingly looking abroad where events tended to be cheaper.

Tickets to Glastonbury this year cost 160 pounds ($314) including booking fee.

Of course, there is also the weather.

Glastonbury is as famous for its knee-deep mud baths as it is for the music, and Britain’s Met Office which forecasts the weather predicts rain at the festival on Friday when it starts.

Reuters/Nielsen

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