The music industry is crumbling by the day as coronavirus continues to spread worldwide, with festivals such as Coachella and South By SouthWest, and acts like Madonna, Stormzy, Mariah Carey and Miley Cyrus being forced to cancel shows and events.
But the UK’s very own Glastonbury – the biggest music festival in Europe – has refused to pull the plug just yet.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is holding an emergency Cobra meeting today to decide whether to move the UK into the ‘delay’ stage of the response to the coronavirus outbreak.
This could mean cancelling high-profile events with particularly large gatherings – like Glastonbury, which attracts around 200,000 festival-goers each year.
Many have called for organisers to postpone the summer event, taking place in June, but the festival has so far stated they are ‘planning and preparing’ for any event.
So basically, it’s all up in the air. However, a big question mark also looms on how much Glasto could lose if the event is postponed or cancelled.
‘Cancelling Glastonbury could mean lost revenue of at least £100 million,’ Mark Halstead, partner at financial risk and business intelligence firm Red Flag Alert told Metro.co.uk.
According to Halstead, this takes into account money generated from tickets, food and drink, as well as spend in the local area of Worthy Farm, Somerset.
Halstead explained: ‘Losses associated with a cancellation because of coronavirus would rise further and impact retailers nationwide through loss of sales of festival essentials like tents and picnic equipment.
‘The big challenge for festival organisers and artists is containing losses this year. There’s only so many available venues and dates in the calendar, meaning it’ll become massively competitive to rearrange events to take place later this year.’
Toby Heelis, CEO of events company Eventopedia, believes that postponing will actually ‘temporarily raise costs’ as staff will need to be kept on longer and artists may need to rearrange.
‘The costs of cancelling Glastonbury are estimated to be in excess of £60 million once the running costs and refunds are taken into account,’ Heelis estimates.
‘This said, Glastonbury will lose more money if they cancel the festival altogether.’
Scrapping this year’s Glasto isn’t just a detriment to the festival itself – it can seriously impact an artist’s career trajectory this year if they were banking on the Pyramid Stage to propel sales of their new album or single.
Tony Rigg, lecturer in music industry management at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), argues: ‘Glastonbury and other popular festivals present an amazing opportunity to connect talent with audiences.
‘Being denied such an opportunity at a tipping point could stall or even damage careers.’
Halstead agrees and said: ‘Artists who have already cancelled concerts because of coronavirus will be facing losses of tens and hundreds of millions of pounds, depending on their popularity. Top performing artists tend to gross millions of pounds in ticket sales per tour.
‘For example, artists who have already cancelled shows due to coronavirus include Mariah Carey, who generated around £10 million in ticket sales from 28 shows last year, while BTS earned about £35 million from six shows in 2019.
‘There’s then the impact of millions of pounds in lost revenue from show merchandise and the associated sales of music downloads.’
Ultimately, it likely comes down to the insurance plan Glastonbury has in place for these types of scenarios.
Events manager Heelis explained: ‘The total cost to Glastonbury for cancelling the festival will ultimately depend on the type of insurance they have, as well as their contract terms with the performing artists, suppliers and ticket holders.’
Rigg agreed: ‘It’s highly likely that a high-profile event such as Glastonbury would have insurance that would cover the losses caused by cancellation.’
Fans with tickets for Glastonbury 2020 will either be disappointed if the event is cancelled or relieved that they’ll avoid a situation potentially hazardous to their health.
Holly Duncan-Quinn, 22, is a first-time Glastonbury ticket-buyer and was hoping to get stuck in the mud at Worthy Farm this year.
And she’s more than happy to miss out this year if it means health and safety.
‘Postponing is definitely better than a refund because Glastonbury tickets are hard to get your hands on. Even if it is postponed until the distant future, that’s still better than cancelling and a refund,’ she told us.
‘Glastonbury needs to put the people first. They are known for always being on the forefront for making the festival a safe place to be for everyone attending.
So this is just the same, they need to make sure there’s higher hygiene provisions – even when the festival does go ahead.’
* The costs predicted by Eventopedia are estimated from public data and may fluctuate from the exact costs experienced by the festival.
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