iTunes Festival 2011: What have Apple got left to gain?

What two things do Arctic Monkeys, Kasabian, Foo Fighters, Coldplay and My Chemical Romance all have in common?

Time’s up. The answer is, they are all headlining major UK music festivals this summer and they are all due to play the ridiculously star-studded iTunes Festival next month.

itunes festival 2011 logo

While the iTunes fest has hardly ever been a humble affair (Amy Winehouse and Paul McCartney played in its inaugural year), this year’s line-up is a who’s who of the most popular bands touring in 2011.

Adele, Paul Simon, Linkin Park – it’s like an arms race to outdo all the other festivals and, most ridiculously of all, the whole thing is free.

Not one fan will pay not one penny to see all 62 bands playing for a whole month.

It would be beyond churlish of me to suggest that this is a bad thing, although with the heightened profile of the festival (ITV2 coverage every week etc. etc.), and only 4,000 tickets available each night, it will surely become more and more unlikely to actually win any tickets.

At first, it was clear to see what was in it for Apple. They get their name out there in a massive way, they associate their brand with the biggest and best bands, and each punter is given a lanyard enticing them to download iTunes in exchange for 10 free tracks. But how much longer can they justify laying on such a lavish festival?

Is this year’s line-up a final hurrah? Or will they be back next year with Prince, U2, David Bowie and the Beatles (wouldn’t bet against it!)? Fair play to them for finding space for a few more obscure acts, like Raphael Saadiq, Lang Lang and Swedish House Mafia, but one thing’s for sure – festival organisers up and down the land will be grinding their teeth with envy at this year’s stellar line-up:

July 1st – Paul Simon

July 2nd – Seasick Steve

July 3rd – Manic Street Preachers + Dry the River

July 4th – Linkin Park + Neon Trees

July 5th – Beady Eye

July 6th – Arctic Monkeys + Miles Kane

July 7th – Adele

July 8th – Bruno Mars + Ed Sheeran

July 9th – My Chemical Romance

July 10th – Glasvegas

July 11th – Foo Fighters + Jimmy Eat World

July 12th – The Script + Loick Essien

July 13th – White Lies + The Naked and Famous + Alice Gold

July 15th – Friendly Fires + SBTRKT

July 16th – Jessie J

July 17th – Duran Duran + Ben L’Oncle Soul

July 18th – Raphael Saadiq

July 19th – Rumer + Caitlin Rose

July 20th – Katy B + Jamie Woon

July 21st – The Wanted

July 22nd – Swedish House Mafia

July 23rd – Coldplay

July 24th – Mogwai + Errors

July 25th – Noah & The Whale + Fixers

July 26th – Lang Lang + 2CELLOS

July 27th – Magnetic Man + Alex Clare

July 28th – Chase & Status + Nero

July 29th – Kasabian

July 30th – James Morrison

July 31st – Moby

To throw your hat in the ring for any of these gigs, just head over to the iTunes Festival website. I’ve entered for the past two years and each time I’ve won at least one pair of tickets. Not sure I fancy my chances this year though…

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Reading Festival leads the way with deposit scheme

Biffy Clyro on the Main Stage, Reading Festival 2010Exactly one month after being embarrassed by a line-up leak, Reading Festival has launched a deposit scheme to help shift the last of its day and weekend tickets. 

The way the system works is you can reserve your ticket now for a £7 booking fee, with only 25 per cent of the ticket price paid up-front. The remaining balance is then paid in three equal instalments over the next three months.

Some may say they’re just copying Glastonbury, but the key difference is that most of the line-up has been revealed before you commit to pay and the monthly chunks of £48.12 are much more affordable than the £150 lump sum Glastonbury asked for earlier this month.

Also, Reading has a much younger target audience, so it makes sense to offer a staggered way to pay. With the price of festivals going up across the board and punters budgets being stretched tight, this could be the way forward for many UK music fests.

This year’s Reading and Leeds Festivals, just in case you haven’t already heard, will be headlined by My Chemical Romance, The Stokes, Pulp and Muse.

Has the leaked Reading line up proved a point?

Reading Festival 2011 line-up
Erm... whoops!

Reading Festival organisers and Zane Lowe have egg well and truly on their faces today after an unnamed Kerrang! insider leaked the full line-up yesterday lunchtime, more than five hours before it was due to be announced.

As a result, this year is the first time in at least four years that Reading weekend tickets have not sold out in a matter of hours. I checked 23 hours later and Seetickets was still selling them.

The line-up itself was the subject of a fierce Twitter backlash, with many voicing their disapproval. But in all honesty it’s the same every year. Those with the most vociferously negative opinions will always be heard the loudest in the social media echo chamber. Although that said, the Official Reading Facebook page’s attempt to delete spoiler comments was hilariously naive and just proof that they had something to hide.

Is the line-up worse than in previous years? That’s hard to judge objectively, true there’s less metal, but that trend has been ongoing since 2008. The Strokes and My Chemical Romance are both massive bands, whether you like them or not and Muse’s only festival appearance this year is sure to be something rather special.

Zane lowe bbc radio one dj
Zane ain't happy...

The main difference this year is that the power appears to have been at least partially taken out of the organisers’ hands. Zane Lowe in particular was left looking more than a little bit foolish last night after his grandstanding annual line-up announcement live on BBC Radio One was well and truly gazumped by the power of the internet. As he struggled to maintain his trademark Kiwi cool, he let slip “this was meant to be a celebration and now I’m trending with hate.”

Maybe fans are a bit sick of being treated like unquestioning saps by the organisers, who are pushing towards getting the tickets on sale before anyone knows for sure who’s playing.

They may argue that they’re following Glastonbury’s lead, so they are justified. But this is only partially true, as the Pilton farm mega-fest only asks for a £50 deposit in good faith and they then only demand the rest once the first 20 or so bands are announced.

At the end of the day, I can’t help wondering whether this whole embarrassing debacle will maybe make Festival Republic think twice about their approach to announcing the line-up and selling tickets next year…

In the meantime for those of you that are going and are excited (like me), I humbly present my Reading Festival 2011 Spotify playlist and Neat Little Rows from the splendiferously magnificent new Elbow album: