April 13, 2008 / 12:59 AM / 10 years ago

Ticket sales soggy for UK's Glastonbury festival

LONDON (Billboard) - Every morning, the head of Britain’s Glastonbury Festival swims 40 laps of a chilly pool. But sales of tickets for this year’s show aren’t performing quite so swimmingly.

<p>Revellers walk through a muddy field during the Glastonbury music festival in Somerset, south-west England, June 24, 2007. Every morning, the head of Britain's Glastonbury Festival swims 40 laps of a chilly pool. But sales of tickets for this year's show aren't performing quite so swimmingly. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez</p>

The team behind the June 27-29 festival has taken the unprecedented step of restarting the ticket-registration process, after stubs failed to sell out.

Festival chief Michael Eavis is mystified by the lethargic sales. In February, roughly 225,000 people registered for tickets. Last year, the corresponding registration -- a prerequisite to buying tickets -- was 400,000.

After tickets went public April 6, only 100,000 were snapped up, prompting Eavis to reopen registration two days later. Last year, the entire allocation of 137,500 tickets sold out in about two hours.

“Why did all those people preregister then?” Eavis asks. “Something is happening somewhere.”

England is known for many things, but good weather isn’t one of them. The previous two editions were drenched, transforming the Worth Farm site in Somerset in southwest England into a giant mud bath. The weather, Eavis says, “is taking its toll.”

And with the ground capacity pushed to 177,500, up from 150,000, overcrowding has become a regular gripe. To combat congestion, the site has reclaimed another 40-50 acres.

The British press, Eavis says, has been “a bit hostile” toward Glastonbury this year, directing blame on competition from other festivals and rapper Jay-Z’s booking as a headliner.

“The point is we’ve got a fantastic lineup ready to go on May 1. It knocks all the other shows into a cocked hat,” Eavis says. “If we haven’t sold out by then, we’ll just keep the lines open.”

Rival festivals aren’t reporting a broader malaise. With a bill featuring headliners the Verve, Rage Against the Machine and R.E.M., the July 11-13 T in the Park in Balado sold out its 40,000 tickets in less than an hour, promoter Geoff Ellis says.

The Reading and Leeds festivals, featuring Rage Against the Machine, the Killers and Metallica, also boast sellouts, with organizer Festival Republic claiming 200,000 ticket sales in 24 hours.

Among the acts expected to play Glastonbury are the Verve, Kings of Leon, Hot Chip, Leonard Cohen and Neil Diamond. Last year’s lineup included the Arctic Monkeys, Bjork, the Who and Shirley Bassey.

Reuters/Billboard

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