There was considerable eyebrow raising when the Oxegen line-up announcement was made yesterday evening, revealing a new dance-oriented approach for the event which brands itself as 'Europe's Greatest Music Festival'.
Even the most enthusiastic fans of Calvin Harris and David Guetta, this year's Oxegen headliners, would struggle to suggest that they have the same name recognition of acts that have topped the bill at Oxegen's past.
Reaction, especially in the anonymous landscape of Twitter and Facebook, was particularly scathing. Reader's comments on our Facebook page complained that it was a "terrible line-up", and "to think, this is the festival where I saw The Who and James fucking Brown in one night".
What some punters seem to be missing, though, is that the model that Oxegen ran on over the past few years was simply unsustainable. As well as that, this year's festival was long mooted to be a more dance and hip-hop oriented festival and to see that reflected in yesterday's line-up announcement didn't come as much of a surprise to those in the know.
The main issue with the negative reaction, it seems, was MCD and Festival Republic's failure to communicate this change of tack to their audience, the majority of who seem to have been completely taken by surprise by the list of acts they read yesterday evening.
The fact of the matter is that Oxegen is being downgraded. The 2011 version of Oxegen, with all its pomp and celebrity headliners, ended up making a loss. This led to the event's cancellation in 2012 and the inevitable adjustment of future festivals to a more cost-effective model - that model being a more targeted audience of purely dance and hip-hop fans, of which there is a huge market in this country.
The downgrading of Oxegen from an 80,000 per day, three day event to a 50,000 per day over two days ultimately means that the bookers don't have as much money to play with when considering their line-up. As well as that, Ireland's summer festival and live concert market is already massively stretched this summer. There are dozens of festivals and large scale outdoor concerts competing for the various sections of what is already a pretty small market of live music-going teens and twenty-somethings and this summer will be the making and breaking of many a concert promoter.
And where does Longitude fit into all of this? It's obvious that MCD and Festival Republic have identified two very distinct elements of their audience. Some like EDM and some like rock and indie. Whereas in the past all of the acts would be shoehorned into Punchestown, now it's split between there and Marlay Park which allows for the potential of separate revenue streams. If one underperforms, perhaps profits can mitigate the losses.
Still, we don't think that anyone who was behind the Oxegen line-up would have predicted the overwhelmingly negative reception but I suspect that many aren't aware of the frankly massive range of options available to festival-goers this summer. It's a tired phrase to use, but there really is something out there for everybody this year but you might just have to put a little extra thought into where you spend your money.
Oxegen is dead. Long live the new Oxegen.
Words by John Balfe