Top festivals unsold tickets as smaller events boom

Festivals such as T in the Park have been left with thousands of unsold tickets this year. Picture: Greg Macvean
Festivals such as T in the Park have been left with thousands of unsold tickets this year. Picture: Greg Macvean
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BIG-name Scottish festivals such as T in the Park and Rockness have been left with thousands of unsold tickets this year – but Scotland’s smaller and boutique-style events appear to be booming.

Despite a huge expansion in the number of events over the past decade, smaller festivals and events are expanding and reporting their fastest sales yet, The Scotsman has learned.

Experts believe more people than before are likely to attend a festival or major concert in Scotland over the next few months.

But the boom may have come at the expense of the bigger events in the festivals calendar.

The Rockness site was said to have been dramatically scaled back last week, while T in the Park’s organisers have had to post out promotional mailshots after the slowest advance sales for years.

Relative newcomers which have continued to sell out in recent years ­include Belladrum, near Inverness, Loopallu, in ­Ullapool, Insider, near Aviemore and Tiree’s musical festival.

None of them existed a decade ago. One of the older festivals, Wickerman, in Dumfriesshire, is said to be 20 per cent up on last year’s record ticket sales.

Glasgow’s summer calendar is also much busier than a decade ago, with the growth of the Piping Live festival in August – set up ten years ago – leading to a second day being added to the World Bagpipe Championships on Glasgow Green.

Eminem and Kings of Leon are also headlining the first series of outdoor shows at Bellahouston Park, with a third high-profile “summer sessions” gig still to be announced. wFurther competition has come from stadium gigs like Robbie Williams, Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen, as well as The Stone Roses, who staged a big open-air gig on Glasgow Green on Saturday night.

Geoff Ellis, T in the Park’s promoter, admits the festival is spending much more to sell tickets this summer, but insists he is still hoping for a sell-out.

“You have to remember how T in the Park has grown from when it first started,” he said. “We will have more people on the campsite on the Thursday night this year than went to the first three festivals.

“There are a number of factors out there, but the main thing is the economy. People don’t have the same money that they did four or five years ago, when we were selling out months in ­advance.”

Music industry insiders said Rockness, which was held ­earlier this month, had a “much smaller” site than before.

One source told The Scotsman: “Anyone that was there in previous years would have noticed a big difference.”

A spokeswoman for the festival admitted the site was “reconfigured” and said selling tickets had been a challenge. She added: “We have been up front with the issue of there being less money about and took a number of steps to keep our customers happy, including making tickets £10 cheaper than last year.”

Joe Gibbs, organiser of ­Belladrum, which has a capacity of 15,000, said the event was on track to be a sell-out for the fifth successive year.

He said: “The key thing for us is we’ve grown very slowly and organically over the last decade and we can’t really get any bigger now as the site would just be too crowded.”

Rob Hicks, Loopallu’s promoter, said: “I think the main thing these days is to give people value for money. It’s not just about booking big bands, it’s the whole experience people care about.”

Wickerman’s co-ordinator Helen Chalmers added: “Our tickets are also under £100 for the weekend, which is a lot cheaper than many other festivals. People are looking at what they can afford to do.”

Daniel Gillespie, Tiree Music Festival’s artistic director, said: “We’ve really benefited from word of mouth since starting the event in 2010. It’s so much more than just a musical festival you get coming here.”