Isle of Wight Festival promoter John Giddings says “business is booming” ahead of one of the UK’s biggest live music weekends of the year.
The 210,000-cap Glastonbury welcomes headliners Arctic Monkeys, Guns N’ Roses and Elton John from tomorrow to Sunday, while AEG’s British Summer Time Hyde Park (cap. 65,000) kicks off in London tomorrow with All Things Orchestral, followed by two shows by Pink.
Solo Agency boss Giddings has worked on Beyoncé’s recent Renaissance stadium dates and Madonna’s upcoming Celebration tour for Live Nation. With Festival Republic, meanwhile, Solo is staging Dog Day Afternoon, a one-off outdoor show at Crystal Palace Park on 1 July, featuring Iggy Pop, Blondie and punk supergroup Generation Sex.
“I WAS REALLY WORRIED AT CHRISTMAS ABOUT THE COST OF LIVING CRISIS, BUT IT DOESN’T SEEM TO BE EVIDENT – PEOPLE WANT TO GO OUT AND HAVE A GOOD TIME”
“Beyoncé sold out to the rafters, we’ve sold out Madonna in the autumn, we’ve got Iggy Pop and Blondie at Crystal Palace Park a week on Saturday and we’ve obviously got some acts at Glastonbury, so there’s a lot knocking around,” Giddings tells IQ. “Business is booming – booming. I was really worried at Christmas about the cost of living crisis, but it doesn’t seem to be evident – people want to go out and have a good time and enjoy themselves.”
Giddings is also basking in the glory of last weekend’s sellout Isle of Wight. The 55,000-cap event was headlined by Pulp, George Ezra, the Chemical Brothers and – for the first time in his career – Robbie Williams.
“It was incredible,” says Giddings. “You always wake up on Monday morning and think, ‘How the fuck am I going to beat that?’ I mean, Robbie Williams was a different level, he was absolutely extraordinary. He told his whole life story, warts and all, and played the songs to go with it. He’s such a showman.”
“WE’VE DEFINITELY ESTABLISHED ISLE OF WIGHT AS ONE OF THE PREMIER LEAGUE FESTIVALS”
More than 22,000 tickets for this IoW 2023 were sold in the week after last year’s festival.
“That’s better than usual,” he says. “Early birds [for 2024] go on sale this Friday. And it’s interesting that as soon as we sell out, I get a million emails and phone calls saying, ‘I haven’t bought a ticket yet.’ So I said to everyone, ‘Buy one early this time!'”
He adds: “I think half the audience come because they love the event and the other half come because of the lineup. We’ve definitely established it as one of the Premier League festivals. You can’t compare Glastonbury because that’s in its own league, but we’re up there with Leeds-Reading, etc.”
“YOU CAN’T DO THE SAME THING YEAR IN, YEAR OUT. IT’S LIKE A FORMULA ONE CAR – YOU HAVE TO DEVELOP IT AS IT EVOLVES”
Giddings revived the legendary festival in 2002 after a 32-year hiatus and has continued in his leadership role since Live Nation acquired a controlling stake in 2017. Other acts on the bill this year included Courteeners, Blondie, OneRepublic, Sugababes, Anne-Marie, Sam Ryder, N-Dubz, Niall Horan and Manic Street Preachers.
“It’s just making it better for the general public because they pay us to come, and we pay the artists to come, so in a sense the audience are more important than the artists and you have to create different areas for them to be entertained,” says Giddings. “We’ve got 15 stages and I discovered things that I didn’t even know existed. There’s a special Cabaret Club at the back of the Intoxicated Tea Rooms, and we develop new things every year.
“This year we had a drone show, which came all the way from Australia because I used it with The Corrs last November, and it had an image of the Isle of Wight Festival evolving into the needles and stuff like that. It just makes it more interesting for people.
“You have to just keep doing things to keep everybody interested and you can’t do the same thing year in, year out. It’s like a Formula One car – you have to develop it as it evolves.”
Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.
We think you'll like these related articles.