LONDON–All devoted parents have problems letting go of their offspring. Ask pioneering British music-festival organizer Michael Eavis.
His baby is the world-famous, U.K.-based hedonistic Glastonbury Festival, which turns 32 years old in June. The festival’s headliners have included such big names as David Bowie, Lenny Kravitz, and Tom Jones. But recently, it has faced potential closure as a result of crowd-control problems.
On Feb. 13, Eavis agreed to reduce his 100% interest in the festival and hand over a 20% stake to the Mean Fiddler Group (MPG), the U.K. music festival! promoter owned by British entrepreneur Vince Power.
In exchange, according to a joint statement, MPG will “take on the operational management role,” including security, to protect Glastonbury Festival’s future.
But a few days later, Eavis was having second thoughts. He admits to Billboard that the deal, which gave MPG management and operational control, as well as the option to increase its stake to 40% after three years, meant he would lose artistic control.
His reaction was “an emotional sort of thing,” he says. “Glastonbury [Festival] is a very English affair. It’s not just a music festival–it’s part of the youth culture in this country and in the U.S. I wanted to hang on as tightly as possible after more than 30 years. It’s all been resolved now.”
Effectively, MPG has taken a 16% stake in the festival, while the Workers Beer Co., a fundraising organization that operates beer tents at festivals, has taken a 4% share. Profits will be divvied up in those proportions after the festival has made its traditional donations to various charities, such as Oxfam and Greenpeace.
MPG managing director and former Glastonbury Festival employee Melvin Benn will take on the additional role of the festival’s new operations director.
MFG will now handle security and licensing compliance, Eavis explains. “We will still do all the entertainment bits. [Benn’s] involvement is essential and will add value. We can trust him, and that’s why it’s going to work very well.”
Industry observers consider the move an astute one. MPG, an established publicly quoted company that promotes such. major brands as the Reading and Leeds Festivals and the Fleadh in the U.S., will bring much-needed experience.
In 2000, Glastonbury Festival was fined [pounds sterling]6,000 ($8,700) and asked to pay [pounds sterling]9,000 ($13,000) in costs after an estimated 100,000 non-ticket-h gate-crashed an event that already had 140,000 legitimate spectators.
The resulting havoc became a serious crowd-safety issue, as fans without tickets entered by breaking down the seven-mile fence surrounding the venue on Eavis’ 1,000-acre Worthy Farm in Somerset, Southwest England.
It was also the same year that nine people were tragically crushed to death at the Roskilde Festival in Denmark (Billboard Bullatin, July 6,2000).
The local Avon & Somerset police force and Mendip District. Council–the local authority that granted the required public-entertainment license–threatened to put a stop to the festival unless security facilities were vastly improved.
Last year’s event was canceled amid ongoing concern from the police and local authorities about audience safety. Eavis instead held a virtual version that was Webcast on the Internet in a joint venture with Play-louder, a U.K. online technology company and a former Glastonbury sponsor.
Eavis has since Spent more than $2 million on a 20-foot-high impenetrable steel barrier designed to keep out non-ticket-holders. By Feb. 26, he says, more than 30,000 tickets had already been sold of the 100,000 available at [pounds sterling]100 ($145) each for this year’s three-day event, to be held June 28-30.