Isle of Wight boss talks festival saturation, headliners, BBC

The Isle of Wight Festival operations director John Giddings has discussed headliners, festival saturation and BBC coverage.

On the back of remarks made by promoter veteran Harvey Goldsmith to Access and subsequently the Hay Festival, about there being too many big music festivals and not enough big acts to sustain them, Giddings agreed.

Talking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he said: “We’re not developing enough acts for the future. We grew up in golden era of rock ‘n roll with the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, The Who and Pink Floyd when record companies would stand with artists for five albums, but now that won’t happen because of the money involved in creating an act. You’ll never get another Simple Minds or U2. Now if something doesn’t happen in the first two albums, it won’t happen.”

He added that there was some truth to Goldsmith’s remark that there were too many festivals, but said that entertainment outside of the music scene was sustaining the explosion of the festival circuit.

”There are more people going [to festivals] than ever before, but there’s always something down the road every weekend. People want entertainment in a field, which is why you get car festivals and food festivals,” he continued.

Giddings also commented on the need to curate new ideas at his festival. “We keep coming up with ideas – this year we’ll have a whole crowd wearing Jimi Hendrix masks. It’s about thinking of the whole environment,” he added.

Other interview highlights included an anecdote about the element of ‘gambling’ in the events industry. “It’s a big, big risk. I asked a friend why he gambles on horse racing, and he replied that you bet on people with two legs everyday. However, it’s the best thing you can do if it works.”

Giddings also touched on another topic recently covered by Access: the BBC’s Glastonbury festival coverage.

“The BBC makes unfair competition. I pay my license fee and the BBC advertise Glastonbury. I resent that. We [the Isle of Wight Festival] have a broadcasting deal, but the BBC is much better.”

Asked if he has tried to broker a deal with the broadcaster, he replied: “Believe me, we’ve asked repeatedly,” adding that he does like the individuals he deals with at the BBC.

Elsewhere, on the subject of Fleetwood Mac, he said that the band didn’t want to do an open-air gig until they talked to Kings of Leon and Tom Petty about the possibility.

Read Access’ exclusive interview with Giddings in our January issue (p14), or online here.