Rock music has long had a monopoly over music festivals. Whether it’s Jimi Hendrix doing extravagant guitar solos with his teeth, or the Rolling Stones frolicking in Lycra, these are the sounds and images that have dominated Britain’s summer stages.
However, in the words of Bob Dylan, the times they are a-changin’. Analysis of UK festivals by The Times shows that the genre’s power has waned over the past decade — 62 per cent of acts on the main stages of festivals such as Glastonbury, Latitude and Bestival could be classed as rock in 2008, but last year that figure was down to 40 per cent.
Pop music was among the biggest winners at the expense of rock, increasing as a proportion of festival acts from 14 per cent in 2007 to 21 per cent in 2016. Folk music was the third most popular genre on festival stages, making up about 12 per cent of acts over the decade.
Other genres also gained more air time. Hip-hop acts made up only 2.6 per cent of main-stage line-ups in 2008, but by 2015 this had risen to 7.3 per cent. Meanwhile, world music acts have become more popular since 2007 and represented 5 per cent of the total number of acts last year.
Keith Harris, the chairman of the UK Music Diversity Taskforce, told that the idea that male rock bands are “the only appropriate festival act” is “a very lazy approach” — and the UK festival scene’s increased musical diversity has arguably paid off. The value of the UK live music industry grew by almost 50 per cent between 2010 and 2015, according to the market research firm Mintel.
The number of festivals listed on eFestivals, meanwhile, surged from 496 in 2007 to 1,124 last year — with the growth fuelled largely by smaller festivals. And last year only one rock act appeared in the Top 40 singles chart, suggesting that there is further capacity for change, and that rock music may yet be over-represented in Britain’s festivals.
Festivals vary in their mix of musical genres. Rock acts made up 87 per cent of the total at the joint Reading and Leeds Festivals between 2007 and 2016, with limited space given to pop, folk, hip-hop and the like. However, Bestival is at the other end of the spectrum and is the most diverse when it comes to genres. It has a varied selection — 21 per cent rock, 21 per cent electronic, 18 per cent pop and 14 per cent hip-hop.
V Festival has the highest proportion of pop music, at 40 per cent, while Green Man has the highest proportion of folk music, also at 40 per cent, and Field Day leads the field in electronic music, at 28 per cent.