Geoff Ellis exclusive eFestivals interview

T in The Park organiser talks about this summer's event

published: Wed 23rd Feb 2011

around the festival site

Friday 8th to Sunday 10th July 2011
Balado, nr Kinross. Scotland, KY13 0NJ, Scotland MAP
£195 full weekend with Thursday camping - sold out
daily capacity: 80000
last updated: Thu 30th Jun 2011

eFestivals interviewed T in the Park organiser Geoff Ellis yesterday and we talked about the headliners, the line-up, the site, ticket touts, and even the BP Pipeline.

Well done on the headliners, how long have you been trying to get them as headliners?
It's a long process we've been talking to Foos for quite a long time, and with Coldplay we were actually talking to them about headlining last year. Sometimes, people's plans change and they say that they're not going to be available one year but the year before instead, and that was the case with the Foos. So, we've been talking to them for a long time, but with headliners you tend to do that, and you start to become aware of who's going to be around for the following year when you're booking the current year's line-up.

You've had to keep them under your hat for a while then.
Yeah, (laughs), it's the same with the rest of the bill. It's a bit of a relief today to come out with it, and obviously when any band has been in Scotland, like for instance My Chemical Romance were playing recently, and said from the stage, "See you all in the summer." But, they didn't didn't actually say they were playing T in the Park. You have to try and keep everything under wraps for as long as you can really. We've announced 50 or so bands today. We have around 200 acts playing T over the course of the weekend, there's still plenty more to be announced, including the newer cutting edge bands who tend to get announced a bit nearer the time.

Do you have a time penciled in for the next one?
Probably in a couple of weeks, we'll have a few more announcements. The T-Break bands and the BBC Introducing Stage tend to get announced around May time. I think you'll see a steady stream of bands announced between now and mid-May.

And who is headlining which day?
Arctics Friday, Coldplay Saturday, and Foos on Sunday.

Can T goers expect any changes on site?
Yeah, we'll be looking at it. The site evolves each year, so there will be some changes. There'll be nothing disappearing, but you might find that there's more than one entrance between the campsite and the arena. That's something that we're working on at the moment that we think may be an enhancement to the audience experience. So, we're looking at improving the site, having more art installations, a lot from last year, and probably more than we had last year as well.

Healthy T will be back, and be the source of the best food around I think, at any of the festivals, and that's been really well received. The Citizen T initiative, will be taken forward this year. That's a three initiative to try and get people to take more responsibility for themselves and their fellow campers. People use the bins more, and we had a Citizen T campsite where everybody agreed to the 'Citizen T manifesto' and obviously that area will become bigger this year.

Last year was mainly to publicise it, and this year we'll expand the field, and hopefully in three years time the whole will be the Citizen T campsite with nobody dropping any litter. I think the more people look after the site, themselves, and anything else, the better the environment is. People are living there for the whole weekend so why not have a nicer environment to stay in. Peer pressure is a very good thing. When we started the cup recycling suddenly people bought into it straight away and kept on doing that. I see no reason why people won't do that with litter, or anything else. If people see people doing things then they tend to follow suit, and then the more antisocial behavior becomes more unacceptable. We have a good set of fans that come to T so I'm sure they'll embrace the initiative.

How long do you think it will be before tickets sell out on Friday?
I've got a figure of 40 minutes in my head, but I never like to tempt fate. It's the lowest amount of tickets we've ever had to put out in February, because we've done our pre-sale after the event, and they all sold, about 35,000, and we sold some more before Christmas in a one day 'Beat The VAT Increas' thing without knowing who was on the bill, and now we're going up with just under 30,000 tickets on Friday, so I expect them to go very quickly now that we've announced the bands.

Are that figure separate to the number available to Vodafone on pre-sale?
That's in addition to that. There's a limit to the number available on the Vodafone pre-sale as well, but it does give people an opportunity to buy ahead of everybody. Again T in the Parkers have already had that opportunity to buy tickets through the two pre-sales that were done so far, anyway.

They're clearly going to sell out, have you given any thought to putting protections in place to prevent the secondary market and tickets being sold at inflated prices?
I don't think we can put that genie back in the bottle. I went in front of the Parliamentary Committee to try and stop ticket touting, but the Government just wouldn't introduce legislation. So, our biggest concern, not just us but the whole industry is all these fake websites that purport to have tickets that don't even deliver on the ticket. It's one thing paying over the odds for a ticket, but it's another paying over the odds and you don't even get a ticket. That's even worse, and very damaging.

That can be stopped if internet service providers, search engines, and publications were all a bit more careful about who they gave facilities to, and who they took advertising from. If you go onto any search engine and put in T in The Park tickets, or Reading tickets, or V tickets, Glastonbury, or anywhere there will be some of these sites that come up. We do our best to get them closed down, but they just pop again with or something like that. Then somebody will get duped by it, it will get closed down, and then they'll open up again. They register in places like Hungary, or Canada, places where they can't be detected by UK police. It's the same people doing the scams for all the festivals and all the major tours, and if the credit card companies didn't give them merchant facilities then they wouldn't be able to rip off the people as they are doing.

It's frustrating and that's the thing that we've got to tackle now. These people are hiding behind the touts effectively. All we can do is tell people to beware of these sites. We can only close them down if they're using our IP, if they call themselves TinthePark or use our logo because the law is on our side. However, I don't know if you've ever tried to get a bogus site taken down, but internet service providers are very slow to do it, and you have to think that maybe they're profiting from it. We have to get the police involved more often than not these days, a legal letter is not enough these days, and the police have to make the demands. But, as soon as they take them down, they then set them up with a different name again. If it doesn't have T in the Park in the title we can't close it down, the police have to. But, this is an industry wide problem and not just a T in the Park specific one, particularly events that are in high demand.

If ticket touting had been made illegal then they wouldn't be able to operate because they wouldn't be able to dupe people, but because ticket touting is legal, you've now got a lot of big American companies coming in to the UK to operate secondary sites. I don't think that can be changed, it's now part of life. The chance was there for Tessa Jowell and co. to deal with it, and we sat in front of a Select Committee which was as far as we could take it as an industry, and we weren't successful unfortunately.

Talking of high demand, do you think T in the Park would sell out even if it didn't announce the big acts?
Well, we've sold nearly 60,000 tickets without announcing any bands, so I think the answer is yes. But, you can't short change your audience and we have to deliver a great line-up. People have now come to expect not only the three headliners, but something I saw mentioned on your site today, are 'sub headliners'. A phrase I've never heard of before. Last year, because we had Jay-Z, The Prodigy, and Black Eyed Peas none of which remained stage headliners but were capable of headlining the festival, people were saying "Who are going to be the equivalent this year?" And, people have seen it with Blink 182, Pulp, and acts we haven't announced yet. I saw one comment which said, "If you'd told me that Pulp, Blink 182, and My Chemical Romance would all be playing T in the Park this year, but none of them would headline, I would have laughed at you." And there you go, none of them are headlining, and yet they're all playing. To me the festival is all about strength and depth. It's about having your Brandon Flowers, Hurts, Deadmau5, Beady Eye, Tinie Tempah, The Script, Plan B...

And I know you're looking forward to Tom Jones.
I think it'll be the 'Green, Green Grass of Balado'. I think it will be a fantastic moment. I think the tent will be packed. Many of those a T in the Park will nave have had the opportunity to see Tom Jones, and I think they'll have a bit of fun, and he's approached it with the right attitude, and I think it will be a great moment. But, there's plenty of contemporary acts, and plenty of leftfield acts as well, like Bright Eyes, Eels, Stornoway, Everything Everything, Miles Kane, Hurts, The Vaccines, there's all of these acts. If you're not a big fan of mainstream music, well there's plenty still there for you.

Have you got any of these on festival exclusives?
Errr good question. We ended up with Eminem last year on an exclusive and that wasn't the plan. I'm not sure, it's the only place in Scotland they'll be playing but whether they'll be doing other festivals. I guess for none of them it's going to be their only UK appearance, but it is going to be the only time you can see all of these acts in the UK. Certainly there's no other festival that's going to have the same headliners, and sub headliners if you like.

I read about the Health and Safety Executive recommendation with regard to the BP Forties oil pipeline, it comes around every year, is it likely to be a real issue?
It comes around every ten years because there's one part of the land that we use is subject to planning permission, and the HSE are consulted because of the pipeline. We have conversations with them and Perth and Kinross Council who are the licensing authority, and the people who give planning permission. They had given the planning permission, they've taken note of HSE's comments, and experts independently that they have taken advice from as well. This is the same pipeline that runs through Scotland, there's lots of developments on it. Aberdeen Airport runway is on top of it, there's a Primary School on top of it, if it wasn't safe, then it wouldn't be happening.

T in the Park is completely safe, and we're going ahead as planned, it sounds as though it's a bit of a storm in a tea cup. The main thing for a festival is the Entertainments License and if it wasn't safe, we wouldn't get one. We've had one granted every year without any issues, and we currently have a three year license, so there's no threat to I in the Park, and I'd like to reassure people on that score.

The final batch of tickets for T in the Park 2011 will go on general on sale at 9am this Friday (25th February) and eFestivals will have links to buy them then.

Tickets for T in the Park 2011 will be priced as follows:

A full weekend camping ticket (Fri-Sun arena access) £185
A full weekend with Thursday camping (Thurs - Sun) £195
A weekend (Fri-Sun) with no camping £175
A Saturday or Sunday day ticket £77.50
Saturday and Sunday combined ticket £155
Parking tickets which must be bought in advance £18.50
Campervan ticket £110
Lockers (with phone chargers) £15

No under 5s. Under 16s must be accompanied by an adult 21+ with a full priced ticket. Tickets for this year's T in the Park have already sold out.
interview by: Scott Johnson

Friday 8th to Sunday 10th July 2011
Balado, nr Kinross. Scotland, KY13 0NJ, Scotland MAP
£195 full weekend with Thursday camping - sold out
daily capacity: 80000
last updated: Thu 30th Jun 2011

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