Gen-Z don't care about music at festivals like Glastonbury anymore

Gen-Z don't care about music at festivals like Glastonbury anymore
Dua Lipa, Coldplay and SZA to headline Glastonbury 2024
Cover Media / VideoElephant

“Pick your top three acts to see and let the rest happen”, a friend warned me, weeks away from my first time at Glastonbury Festival in 2023. “What? That’s insane. What am I meant to do all day?”, I thought to myself, four years into my quest to secure the coveted golden ticket, anxious that it wasn’t going to live up to the hype.

As someone who spent the majority of my teen years rushing stage-to-stage chasing my favourite bands at the likes of Reading and Leeds, the proposal of not caring about the music I’d paid £350 to hear seemed almost laughable - but it transpires that festivals are becoming so much more than just that for Gen-Z - and I was about to become a convert myself.

In the weeks after the lineup for Glastonbury Festival 2024 was released, social media was awash with punters threatening to never try for tickets again (having never got them in the first place), furious that ‘chart’ music was dominating the all-important headline slots.

What was once the place for Blur, Adele, and David Bowie to blow music lovers away, will this year play home to Dua Lipa, SZA, and Coldplay.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t be critical of this year’s admittedly lacklustre offering, however, someone who has never graced the fields of Worthy Farm may not know that Glastonbury actually has over 150 stages and areas outside of the iconic Pyramid Stage, including, but not limited to: Cinemas, circuses, healing fields, political debates, nightclubs, art lessons, installations, dance classes, run clubs, and a full-scale seaside complete with its own pier. That’s without the time spent sitting around the tents, laughing at your friend who just realised they forgot their wellies.

With 900 acres of festival at your disposal, it’s highly unlikely you’ll be dragging yourself to see the pop princesses of today against your will. You could spend an entire day touring the 400 food vendors and take a nap for the rest of the evening if you really wanted - Glastonbury is truly your oyster, and that’s why punters travel from every corner of the globe for the final weekend of June each year.

2024 will mark Coldplay’s fifth time as headliners, and yet, despite the controversy over their worthiness, tickets still sold out within 22 minutes of going on sale. Boss, Emily Eavis, even claims that this year had the least number of tickets released back into resale in the event’s history.

“The headliners do not define Glastonbury… it has eight or nine areas that could be festivals within themselves”, says SJ Smallpage, founder of 58,000-strong community, Glastonbury Festival Fans.

“Glastonbury is unique because of the amount of genres it has, the amount of people it caters for - and it has people that will come back year after year regardless of who’s headlining. If we did lose the Pyramid Stage, it would still be sold out, and I’d still be on the farm dancing whether we had Coldplay, The Who, or even some of the big pop bands.”

As a new generation of festival-goers emerge, it’s worth noting that priorities have noticeably shifted over time for veterans of the fields. In the age of my first experiences circa 10 years ago (that I didn’t lose to post-booze amnesia), festival culture was very much about who could drink the most, rumours of the most inventive ways people had snuck illegal goods in, and who could get muddiest.

The Healing Field at Glastonbury 2022Getty

Now, with glamping as widely-available as sleeping in the semi-waterproof tent you’ve had in the garage for 20 years, and Gen-Z more health-conscious than generations prior, it’s unsurprising that wellness and immersive experiences are taking centre stage.

Wellness tourism is booming, and the industry is set to be worth more than £1trillion globally by 2027, according to a recent report by the Global Wellness Institute.

Other festivals including Wilderness, Love Trails, and The Soul Circus are just some of the events happening this year that have put music on the same pedestal as other craft and relaxation activities.

But this isn’t a new thing - it’s simply gaining more prominence. As far back as 2019, Ticketmaster’s Festival State Of Play report suggested that the most important thing to people when choosing a festival now was gender representation and sustainability.

Having started out as a small, family-run business in 1970 with tickets for just £1, it’s unsurprising Glastonbury has become the go-to option for do-gooders, with the festival giving back millions to charity each year, supporting worthy causes and emerging artists with every event.

Speaking of the future of festivals, SJ adds: “We have a generation now that expects festivals to be a part of their summer - a younger generation now that’s very in tune with their health, their mental wellbeing, and also the environment, which I think absolutely aligns with the ethos of a festival like Glastonbury.”

Now on my second year of attending the five-day Somerset extravaganza, I know that this year will be different to last, and I’ve definitely become more open-minded to the weird and wonderful excursions it has to offer (you can replay missed sets on BBC iPlayer, you can’t re-live stumbling across a group of naturists painting in a field).

Benji, aged 24, will attend Glastonbury for the first time this year, and says although the lineup is important, he’s looking forward to some of the acts gracing smaller stages over the headliners.

“The lineup is a bit of a step down from previous years”, he tells us. “I’m excited by certain acts, especially the likes of Jungle, Disclosure, and Jamie XX.”

He adds: “I’m looking forward to stumbling upon pieces of art, comedy, and talks.

“Mainly, I've just heard great things about the general vibe of being there. Hundreds of thousands of people all in this specific place to just have fun.”

Music festivals are fundamentally and will always be built on just that: Music. But just as kids of the sixties accepted The Rolling Stones replacing The Beatles, and Elvis passing the crown to Barbara Streisand, perhaps it’s time for us to embrace the next generation of what they’re becoming.

So, whether you’re practicing mindfulness among like-minded wellness champions, or can be found dancing at 5am in the embrace of strangers, one thing remains unchanged: It’ll be the best weekend of your year.

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