Let's Talk about Headliners

I was thinking about this quite a bit this weekend. Consider that a good headliner needs to do all the following:

1) Be enough of a "name" to sell tickets.

2) Not be too expensive to book.

3) Be accessible to the festival-goers who don't really know your stuff

4) Make it a show- put some effort in (how much time and effort had PJH and her band put into that set on Sunday? Brilliant!)

5) Have enough strong material to keep it going for an hour and a half- in most cases this probably means having been around for long enough to release 3 or 4 good albums. This is a real stumbling block for a lot of potential headliners.

6) Be in line with the sort of thing people can expect from a festival (probably best not have a metal band at the top of the poster)

For Green Man, this limits you to maybe 15-20 acts, of which most won't be available any given year. Tough, isn't it?

I did see Future Islands and while they weren't *that* bad as a band they clearly didn't work as a headline act. PJ Harvey very comfortably ticked every box. Past headliners who have fitted the bill best have been the Flaming Lips and Super Furry Animals.

I only saw a bit of the Shins' set but from what I saw they'd have been an inspired choice for Friday headliners. British Sea Power could also have worked, I reckon. 

I'm wondering now that the festival is easily selling out each year (as opposed to selling out a week or so in advance) whether we could expect point 1) to be less important and we could have the potential for some really inspired more leftfield choices. Not sure who, but if you're selling the tickets anyway you don't need to spend huge amounts on a big name for the sake of the name.

I was saying yesterday that the days of having bands like Kings of Convenience and Neutral Milk Hotel headline the Mountain Stage are probably over and we'll see more big names there in the future, the bar's been set now. I also think that since V took a more pop direction people are looking for something else that weekend and Green Man fits the bill.

I only watched a little bit of PJ Harvey before heading off to Saint Etienne but the Mountain Stage seemed absolutely rammed right up to the food stalls at the top of the hill. I'm not a huge fan but it was obvious just how big a deal her booking was. In many ways I feel getting her was ultimately a victim of its own success. Whilst it's great getting a huge name should it be at the expense of the rest of the festival? Saint Etienne had a criminally small crowd which was a shame as they were superb and I've read elsewhere Methyl Ethel also played to a similar sized audience. The whole point of having several stages is that people are spread out quite evenly at all times.



For me it's never been about the headliners. I've only seen a few over the years - Robert Plant, Flaming Lips and Animal Collective (who were crap) spring to mind. For all of those I'd estimate the crowd was a third of PJ Harvey's but there again the capacity was about half the current size back then.

On the whole I'd like to see Green Man go for more leftfield, less mainstream headliners. We might end up with a more even number of people at each of the stages and fewer people who come for the big headliner and think it's fine to yack away through all the other sets (yeah I know I'm a music snob).

My idea of the perfect three headliners would be something like: Richard Thompson, the Felice Brothers and Ezra Furman.

But maybe the reason the festival sells out is the big names?

Interesting points bc.

I've always reckoned the audience to be split fairly evenly between those who care not a jot about the headliners and those who are only there because of a headliner. Certainly I think most first-timers will have been enticed by a headliner (as I was). I spoke to a number of people over the weekend who were there only because of FI or PJ in particular.

I can see the difficulty of identifying suitable candidates that will keep the new folk coming in, and the ticket sales up, without busting the budget and leaving too little for the undercard.

Exclusivity deals with other festivals will also cut down available options.

If Krasnyi were doing the booking I think we'd actually have Wave Pictures, British Sea Power, & Field Music as headliners and I would be deliriously happy. I bet we wouldn't have any problems with crowded stages however ... or a festival to go back to the following year.

It will be interesting to see how it goes now that there must be a few bob extra available for bookings.

PJ Harvey was the only main stage headliner I saw this year, but I think those headliners are important when it comes to selling tickets, and ensuring they remain financially healthy in a busy marketplace. Despite the fact there was little love for Future Islands or Doves here, they probably helped shift a few tickets. I'd settle for Neil Young, Bjork, Beck and Nick Cave next year. 

I don't think you can expect a left field band used to playing small venues to take on the responsibility of headling a 20k sell out festival. Its not fair on them. I thought gm picked good acts this year, each being totally different from each other.  I only watched Future Islands and thought they fully justified their Friday night headline spot with an excellent performance. Of the 3 they were maybe the least known but held a big crowd with quality songs and a charismatic front man.

Next year I would like leftfield or massive attack, nick cave and the pixies


The only reason I'm going to 'the other place that dares not speak it's name' this year is because Bill Callahan is one of their headliners.

I can't imagine him being a mainstream lure to the legions of folk with their chairs and picnic blankets, cluttering up the performance spaces and talking.

He seems to me to be a natural GM headliner as do BPB, HGM, Nick Cave and Mark Kozelek.

Maybe it's the way forward. 

But GM rules ok.

I think there's some merit to pushing the boat out for someone like the Decemberists for example and then a couple for the Green Man purist. Tickets seem to have gone fastest in 2017 and 2015 though when the headliners were the biggest names across the board (that might be a misperception but certainly were late to sell out last year and I think in 2015 it was early June).

As a newbie, only attending GM fr the last 4 years, I dont think that there are many festivals that would have Ryan Adams and Future Islands as headliners, and I certainly didnt see them as a big draw.

PJ Harvey on the other hand, I would have paid for tickets just for this. Add in Kate Tempest and Ride as 2nd stage headliners, plus Sleaford Mods, then they are some pretty big hitters, likely to sell tickets.

For me, Mercury Rev headlining in 2013 was my sole reason for coming to GM. 

I have been back every year since, each time buying early bird tickets before the line up is announced, because I trust GM, and I enjoy the whole festival, spoken word and comedy (and beer festival) included.

Having good headliners helps for sure though.