Glastonbury Festival – staying relevant through smart PR

Glastonbury featured some of the world’s biggest artists from the past and the present. It spanned generations and genres from the Arctic Monkeys to The Rolling Stones, and Mumford and Sons to Dizzee Rascal.


Just one, among the city of Glastonbury – courtesy festival website uploads

The festival was yet again a sell out, which begged the question how after over 40 years is Glastonbury still able to generate such a buzz?

Arguably the festival generates its own PR but over the years would have employed a number of different PR methods to generate fan engagement. Glastonbury likely hired an agency to use an array of PR tools such as running online promotions and drip-feeding information to the mainstream press to ensure there was maximum interest in the event.

A “British Staple”

Glastonbury has become a staple of the British summer now with over a hundred thousand music lovers camping in Pilton Farm from Wednesday till Monday. Additionally, with over 2000 acts spread over 5 days there is something to suit everyone’s tastes.  Following its absence in 2012, there has been an even greater interest in the festival this year, with tickets selling out in under two hours in October.

However the question must be posed; how has Glastonbury remained so popular? Arguably, its success derives from the fact that it represents something entirely different from most people’s day to day life. There’s camping, walking in the mud, socializing and obviously listening to music.

It could be argued that Glastonbury inspires feelings of freedom and instils the idea of an experience everyone should have a some point in their life. Celebrity and fashion PR also goes hand in hand with Glastonbury, with papers and magazines taking a keen interest in the styles worn by trend-setting celebrities.

Organizer’s Strategy

The organizers will have been prepared for various crises relating to arrests over thefts and violence, and therefore have been ready to use PR to negate worries. However, it is unlikely they would have been expecting one of the acts to cause such a stir, with hip hop musician Wiley going on a Twitter tirade upon arriving at the festival.

His criticism was aimed at all manners of things, from his agent, to the weather and finally to the venue itself. As a result, Glastonbury event organizers had to do some crisis management following Wiley’s rant and his ultimate withdrawal from the festival. Ironically, however in the long term, it will probably be Wiley who will require reputation management and may have received some PR advice already having apologized for one comment he made in particular.

An Endearing Legacy

The success of Glastonbury perhaps stems from the fact that it has adapted so well to the changes in popular music trends.

The festival has remained loyal to its carefree, hippy vibe, despite the changes in price and the nature of the festival. In 1970 Marc Bolan of T-Rex was one of the headline acts at the event, then known as the Pilton Festival when tickets were £1 and free milk from the farm was included in the price. Jump forward to 2008 and global superstar Jay Z performed at Glastonbury, with his wife Beyoncé doing so a few years later as well.

Moreover, the festival’s ability to convince bands now considered legends, such as The Rolling Stones this year; to return has also created a buzz amongst the general public. Booking acts like these have made the festival what it is.

Moreover, in line with the boom in social media in the 21st century there has been a significant digital PR presence with the @GlastoFest page allowing fans to ask questions, and giving fans a backstage look at the festival as well as providing commentary for those who were unable to get a ticket.

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