Tuesday 19 August 2008

Edinburgh International Festival to the V Festival...

Back from Hylands Park near Chelmsford. Last weekend the Edinburgh International Festival, and this weekend the V Festival, a rite-of-passage to teenager-hood for my younger son, and an eye- and ear-opener for me. Eighteen or so different bands and singers and over 20 hours of live music across the two days of which at least 80% was hugely enjoyable: Amy Macdonald (see photo) and the Kings of Leon were my highlights, but the Pigeon Detectives, the Stranglers and The Feelings were also amazing, as were Duffy (brilliant backing group) and the unique Amy Winehouse (you have to hear her live to understand why she is simultaneously so immensely popular yet derided); and – dangerous as it is to admit in public – Girls Aloud. Their material might be thin, but their stage performance is incredible: classy, highly produced, unashamedly overpowering.
I need to think more about this, but I had time to start reflecting on what are the deeper differences between V Festival and the conventional classical music model. V Festival seems expensive until you divide the ticket price by the 100+ bands you can choose from to hear; and the ticket-price is way below top prices at the Royal Opera House for a single evening; classical audiences outside London complain if they are charged more than a few pounds for a concert programme (often as meaty as a short paperback), yet hundreds of thousands of people over the two days of V Festival are happy to part with £10 for a magazine-style booklet and a set of laminated cards to hang around their necks with the running-order. There is much for Britten Sinfonia to learn, both from the economic model, the scale, the sophistication of the presentation, and the audience demographic. Examining all this could be a useful project to look at in our on-going collaboration with MBA students at the Judge Business School. Food for thought, anyway.

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