What Does Glastonbury’s Cancellation Signal for Live Music in 2021?

Will other festivals follow suit and focus instead on 2022?

The crowd at Glastonbury 2019.
PA Images via Getty Images

Earlier this year, we predicted that even with a vaccine, music festivals likely won’t return until 2022, and today we have our first big indication that we may have been right: the UK’s Glastonbury Festival has announced that it is officially canceled for 2021.

“With great regret, we must announce that this year’s Glastonbury Festival will not take place, and that this will be another enforced fallow year for us,” organizers Michael and Emily Eavis said in a statement. “In spite of our efforts to move Heaven & Earth, it has become clear that we simply will not be able to make the Festival happen this year. We are so sorry to let you all down.”

“As with last year, we would like to offer all those who secured a ticket in October 2019 the opportunity to roll their £50 deposit over to next year, and guarantee the chance to buy a ticket for Glastonbury 2022,” the statement continued. “We are very appreciative of the faith and trust placed in us by those of you with deposits, and we are very confident we can deliver something really special for us all in 2022! We thank you for your incredible continued support and let’s look forward to better times ahead.”

Glastonbury is the first major music festival to officially announce that it’s canceled for 2021, though it seems likely that more will follow suit as organizers must decide whether to invest all the time and money that goes into planning their event and just hope that it doesn’t have to be scrapped at the last minute or cut their losses now and focus instead on 2022. It makes complete sense that a festival as large as Glastonbury — which has a capacity of 210,000 — would opt for the latter; there’s absolutely no way an event on its scale can be thrown together at the last minute.

Still, there are a few reasons to be more optimistic about smaller festivals’ chances of returning this year. As Paul Reed, CEO of the Association of Independent Festivals, told The Guardian, smaller festivals have more time to decide whether or not they need to pull the plug. “There are 975 festivals in the UK,” he said. “Though some of the larger events will be making decisions this month as to whether they go ahead, for many of the smaller ones the cut-off will be later.”

It’s also worth noting that Glastonbury is based in the UK, which is currently being hit hard by a new, more contagious strain of COVID-19. That presumably factored in to their decision to cancel as well, and while the pandemic is still raging here in the States, the situation is different than it is across the pond. (California remains a hotspot, however, and it seems virtually impossible for the Indio, California-based Coachella to go on as planned in April. The festival has not yet announced any plans to cancel or postpone, but it also has not announced a lineup.)

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