Sex, drugs - and pre-loaded credit cards

Festivals may go cashless from next year. Not very rock'n'roll, is it?

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

They might have started as anarchic gatherings aimed at celebrating peace and love and bringing down The Man, but these days festivals are big business. Even Glastonbury is now majority-owned by an international events company.

So it’s not really particularly surprising that someone at Festival HQ has come up with the bright idea of creating the ‘cashless festival’, issuing fans with pre-loaded credit cards and banning cash. It seems the spirit of anti-capitalism has finally deserted the British music scene …

If festivals do adopt the technology, it’s likely to take the form of a chip embedded in a wristband that could then just be swiped over payment points, says the BBC. Some festivals, including Wireless and Download, have already carried out small-scale trials. The Hove festival in Norway has even run an entirely cashless event. Was there a revolt from fans keen to show their anarchic heritage? ‘It was very straightforward, there was no opposition at all,’ managing director Melvin Benn told the Beeb. Hmm.

Festivals point to the fact that without cash, sites will be safer. Having millions of pounds  of cash onsite with a load of drug-addled rock fans isn’t exactly secure, and if the wristbands are stolen, festival-goers will be able to de-activate them, which will keep their money safe.

Marketing types say they could use the figures to track fans’ habits. If a fan goes to a bar near a stage at a certain time, says one Barclaycard honcho, there’s a good chance they’re going to see a particular band. ‘Then the organisers could send you information about upcoming tours,’ enthuses said exec. Although MT isn’t sure that sort of marketing would go down particularly well with the less conventional factions of festival-goers.

One of the challenges, though, is persuading traders at the festivals to adopt the technology. It’s all well and good for the likes of Millets (which has at least one obligatory outlet at every festival), but for the local market traders who also frequent festivals and for whom turning on a computer is an obstacle in itself, new-fangled swipe machines are unlikely to be welcomed. It could even herald the demise of the ‘unofficial’ traders who wander Glastonbury’s stone circle peddling their, er, special truffles. And what about those other peddlers of mind-altering substances, without whose wares it is impossible to survive an entire festival weekend, especially if it rains? We can’t imagine them carrying around a swipe machine. Although the more business-minded ones might consider offering a loyalty card system...

That said, MT still isn’t convinced. It may be safer, easier, more secure and more marketable – but we’re still uncomfortable with it. The problem is, it just isn’t very rock’n’roll.

In today's bulletin:
Banker bashing back on the menu at G8?
Sex, drugs - and pre-loaded credit cards
Editor's blog: why content creators shouldn't lose out    
Never mind Oxbridge - go to Harrods
The Parent Project: What not to do when you're pregnant

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