So, over a week after Glastonbury tickets went on sale, and the event still isn’t a sell out. Whereas on the one hand this makes for a nice change, buying tickets for any of the other majors is at best described as a stressful pain in the arse, however, and without kneejerking in anyway or getting caught up in the vast amount of column inches devoted to this subject, you can’t help but wonder if there is a problem here?

The latest story to come out surrounding the on-going Glastonbury ticket sale issue, according to Music Week magazine, is that Michael Eavis might be considering a rethink regarding the registration process for 2009. A simultaneous register and buy system was brought in after the initial sale failed to shift all the tickets, and this would take away the extra faff of having to fill in a form six weeks in advance, were it to be repeated.

One of the suggestions put forward for the slow sale in 2008, is that if you put one too many barriers in punters way, they simply can’t be bothered. BBC 6Music is quoting longtime live music promoter Vince Power, who has had this to say on the matter:

"Michael came back with his own way and created this hugely complicated entry system which kills the spirit of a festival in my opinion.”

Power is of course promoting his own event, Hop Farm, where every press release talks of how it’s putting the music fan at the forefront, having no VIP area and no registration, hence why he’ll have been asked to comment on the Glastonbury situation.

His view, which he is not alone in holding, does on the face of it seem odd, since if you want something badly enough, you’ll put the effort in - just ask those who go through the annual Reading and Leeds stress, especially those who queue outside record stores from the early hours to ensure they don’t miss out. Sure some will have been put off by the registration system, and there are enough festivals now to cater for everyone, (Latitude and Bestival spring to mind as cheaper alternatives for the Glastonbury demographic), but as with all the other suggestions as to why Glastonbury hasn’t sold as fast, it won’t be down to one factor alone and is ultimately a combination of many reasons.

Let’s consider another headline grabber, one that even previous Glastonbury bill topper Noel Gallagher has voiced his opinion on: Jay-Z as Saturday night headliner.

“I'm sorry, but Jay-Z? Fucking no chance. Glastonbury has a tradition of guitar music and even when they throw the odd curve ball in on a Sunday night you go 'Kylie Minogue?' I don't know about it. But I'm not having hip-hop at Glastonbury, no way man. It's wrong.”

Let’s just pause for a moment and consider how this is getting a little out of hand. Cyprus Hill have played Glastonbury before, as have De La Soul. On the other hand, an article on the Guardian website has chosen to highlight how the BNP’s messageboard are delighted by this rant, and Emily Eavis writing in the Independent this week says “there is also an interesting undercurrent in the suggestion that a black, US hip-hop artist shouldn't be playing in front of what many perceive to be a white, middle-class audience. I'm not sure what to call it, at least not in public, but this is something that causes me some disquiet.”

To quote a rather infamous advert, “calm down dear” it’s only a festival, right?

Plenty have said they haven’t bought a ticket for Glastonbury because the rapper is playing, but let’s be fair here, we’re not dealing with the Isle of Wight Festival, where up until this year the one stage set up meant that, in the case of 2007, if Muse or Wolfmother fans didn’t want to watch Amy Winehouse or James Morrison, they had very little else to do. Glastonbury’s real selling point has always been the vast amount of stages, meaning if you don’t like one act, you’re not short of things to do elsewhere. Plus, isn’t Glastonbury meant to be the festival you go to regardless of who is on? If we’re looking at entertainment putting people off, surely the lack of Lost Vagueness should be the absentee bugging the regulars, rather than one hip-hop superstar?

That said, the stubborn refusal of the Eavis family to reveal much of their line up until the tickets have sold, even when bands confirm their own appearances, might be starting to backfire on them. Michael has recently been saying how, come May 1, he’ll be announcing a brilliant line up which will make people sit up and think “wow!”. Music being what it is though, that will be open to personal taste. To one person Rage Against the Machine will be who they want to see at Reading, whereas for others it’ll be the Killers, and for another set of punters, T in the Park wins because they’ve got REM with Rage, rather than Metallica. It’s all very well to say your line up is brilliant, and hope people will trust you, but it’s another thing altogether to expect people to save their 150 quid for Glastonbury, rather than Reading, T or V which announced their major acts before tickets went on sale. All three of those, plus the Isle of Wight, were long since sold out before the Glasto tickets went on sale with a mere handful of artists known.

And now we’re talking money, the value for it issue comes hard on the heels. In the past couple of years, we’ve brought you coverage of event’s in Spain, Holland and France, and it seems the European festival market is booming. As well as the chance to see bands that don’t often play in the UK (more of an issue for metal fans than Glastonbury-goers), there’s the greater chance of decent weather and a cheaper ticket to get in. Throw in your budget airline and there’s the summer holiday and festival trip dealt with in one go. Radio 1 did a story on European festivals last week, with the station’s listeners getting in touch in their vast numbers, Benicassim and Exit coming out among the most popular destinations for us Brits.

Glastonbury should be commended for the amount of money it gives to charity, but in doing this, by their own admission, this drives the ticket price up. It could be argued as selfish on the part of the consumer to look elsewhere for their value for money festival fix, putting who they want to see ahead of providing a better water supply for an African village, but for the younger punter that Glastonbury tried to reatract with extra phonelines, and in the opinion of some, by including Jay-Z, the main issue is line up when deciding what they pay for. Sad though it may seem to some, peace, love and harmony doesn’t come into the equation.

The better weather abroad cannot be under estimated either. For many a festival regular over the past decade, a weekend wallowing in mud goes with the territory and is considered character building, and something to laugh about the following year when the sun is out. However, even I, who’ve seen my share of muddy fields in the past, have looked at the Glastonbury site on TV in the last couple of years and thought it didn’t look an enormous amount of fun.

And on the subject of TV, to the wider public and mainstream media who don’t do festivals, the slow sale of Glastonbury tickets is considered a much bigger problem than it actually is, because the BBC cover the festival as if it were the music equivalent of the Olympics, Radio 4’s morning news programme even had someone there last year, that wouldn’t happen at Reading or T in the Park. To many people, plenty of those reading this very article in fact, the biggest question regarding Glastonbury is simply, what’s all the fuss about? Event history and significance isn’t an issue, just look at the rise of the Leeds festival to be just as important as it’s older brother at Reading, or the bagging of the biggest names on the planet turning the reincarnated Isle of Wight Festival into the massive event it has become, Muse, Foo Fighters and the Stones have made that the event it is now, not Hendrix in the sixties.

The registration process might be putting people off, but with the government doing their best sitting on their hands and umming and aahing routine with regard to nailing the touting issue one way or tother once and for all, we did need somebody like Michael Eavis to chance their arm and try something radical, and for that he should be credited. Although his form filling in and picture submission method might have put some people off, were more of the line up known the festival would certainly have sold out quicker. We’d also know who else could be watched at the same time as Jay-Z, giving less ammunition for those wingeing about the Saturday night headliner.

There’s nowt that can be done about the rain, Glastonbury and Wimbledon happening the same weekend seems to make it a given that it’ll piss down, but the mud of the last couple of years is an understandable factor which, added to everything else, does mean it’s not unreasonable to want to head to Benicassim in the South of Spain, or wait for the more reliable end of August in the UK for Reading and Leeds.
The current perceived struggle at Worthy Farm is a nice headline grabber, but even if it takes a little longer than usual, Glastonbury will sell out this year, next year too, and is likely to for some time. If or when it doesn’t is when the real story breaks.

Message to those working themselves into a state over this issue: breathe deeply...deeper...hold...and relax.