Live from AIF’s Festival Congress – 2000trees founder James Scarlett has accused big festivals of trying to “kill” smaller festivals via unfair artist exclusivity deals.
Speaking on a panel that included Rob da Bank (Bestival / BBC6 Music), Kate Hewett (Tramlines), Andy Inglis (Five Thousand Management), and Darius Van Arman (Secretly Group), Scarlett was uncompromising in his criticism of festivals including Reading Festival.
Scarlett claimed that an upcoming band cancelled their appearance at this year’s 2000trees because of a request from Reading Festival.
“We’d drawn up the [2000trees] artwork ready for release when I get a call from an upcoming band’s agent saying they can’t play 2000trees because they’re booked to play Reading,” Scarlett said. “I said, ‘Aren’t [the upcoming band] already confirmed to play at five other festivals?’ And he said, ‘Yes but Reading has said that this is where they draw the line.'”
He added that he wanted the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) to address whether bigger festivals are trying to kill the smaller festivals.
“In five years time, some or maybe all of us will be out of business,” he said. “Which might be too much of a doomsday scenario, I don’t know, but we need to look at – are we being squashed by the big guys?”
AIF founder Rob da Bank said that he was concerned by the artist exclusivity issue but said he saw both sides of the argument. “I think artists under a certain size – those costing around £5,000 – should be free to play where they like within reason.”
Scarlett went on to address the issue of big festivals booking acts too close to the summer period, which he said left little time for other smaller festivals to book their acts. “Too often the big festivals book acts in February or March and so smaller festivals are sat there waiting for the big festivals’ [headliner] announcements before they can book their [own] headliners.”
Elsewhere, Tramlines’ Kate Hewett said that big festivals are protective of “locking in” artists because people “aren’t there for the quality of the food stores.”