‘It’s two hit songs then off’ – Artists Fight Festivals’ Shorter Sets
Festivals are all about packing the big names into the lineup, but at a certain point, will headliners no longer want to perform shorter and shorter sets?This article originally appeared on The Guardian
Music festivals are facing an “enormous backlash” as the emerging trend to cram in more bands playing shorter sets is infuriating some musicians, industry experts warn.
In the past, what seemed like a nation of fans would tune into Radio 1 to hear festival lineups announced and there was a panicked scramble when tickets went on sale. Now with sets as short as 20 minutes, performers are asking themselves if it is worth the bother.
“With the exception of the headliners, 45 minutes is now normal. If they [the artists] get offered 40- or even 30-minute sets, they do question if it’s really worth it. There’s definitely a limit and we’re heading for an enormous backlash if it’s going to become just a two- or three-song live piece to camera. If it continues to shrink, I think some could refuse to play.”
Tom Paine, who directs Love Saves The Day in Bristol, and works on Glastonbury, Love International and Simple Things, said artists are already beginning to reject offers. “The pressure is on to have the biggest and best lineups, and to fit as many acts in as possible. With the artists we tend to book, if you offer them a short slot they will just turn it down,” he says.
Some think this more-bands-less-time approach is letting down the crowd. One artist who did not wish to be named says that shorter sets are increasingly unpopular with musicians because they do not let them showcase their work. “You get paid the same, yeah sure, but you just have to play the most simplified version of whatever it is you do. There’s no time for progression and you can’t give a more nuanced performance. In 20 minutes all you have time for is the hits.””
Festivals, the artist added, just book as many acts as possible to sell tickets, then have problems scheduling them all: “It’s a stack ’em high philosophy. Punters would probably rather buy a ticket to a festival where there are five acts that they like rather than to see two acts playing for three times as long. It’s hard to find festivals that will give artists the right setting to perform how they want.”
Cover photo courtesy of Alamy