With another summer of music on the horizon, Andy Welch tackles the first part of the season, highlighting the best outdoor events in June and July, and issues some handy survival tips too.
It goes without saying festivals are a big business.
Once upon a time, only dyed-in-the-wool music fans ventured to Glastonbury, Reading, Leeds and T In The Park, and there weren't many gatherings to choose from.
It's a very different story in 2012, a time when festivals enjoy a prime focus each summer. For the past 10 years or so, they've occupied a place on the social calendars of people who previously wouldn't have dreamed of camping out in a field, unable to wash for four days at a time with only over-priced beer and food served from a van for company.
That means festivals have had to up their game as well, with many now offering different tiers of camping facilities, showers, phone charging, wi-fi access, child-friendly areas and gourmet food as part of the experience.
However, with such flooding of the market, it was inevitable the bubble would burst. At the festival high point in 2007, there were more than 450 registered gatherings in the UK. With the average ticket price around £150, that obviously wasn't sustainable and several fell by the wayside. Sonisphere and The Big Chill, scheduled to take place in July and early August respectively, are this year's casualties, both citing the knock-on effects of the Olympics as reasons for not selling enough tickets.
Nevertheless, even with the folding and cancellations, there are still in excess of 350 festivals this summer.
So which one to choose? Of course, it all depends on what you want from a festival: small and exclusive with great facilities, the biggest music names in the world and giant scale, or a balance between the two?
:: Download Now in its 10th year, Download is the first big event on the calendar. Taking place between Friday, June 8 and Sunday, June 10 at Donington Park, the home of rock, organisers have managed to put together an incredible bill.
Prodigy, Metallica - performing their seminal 'Black album' in its entirety - and a reformed Black Sabbath are headlining, while Biffy Clyro, Megadeth, Soundgarden, Black Veil Brides, You Me At Six and Slash are among the line-up highlights.
It's a big event, and traditionally among the most friendly festivals out there. Tickets are selling fast, but there are still some remaining. Go to www.downloadfestival.co.uk for more information.
:: Rockness North of the border on Clune Farm, Dores, on Saturday, June 9 and Sunday, June 10 is RockNess, where this year Kasabian, The Chemical Brothers and Paolo Nutini are among the acts performing. As it's on the banks of Loch Lomond, Nessie might also make a special appearance (www.rockness.co.uk).
:: Isle of Wight As Glastonbury is having a year off - Michael Eavis likes to let his farmland recover every four or five years - the Isle of Wight Festival is stepping in to the Somerset event's traditional slot in the third weekend of June.
Main-stage headliners this year are Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam and, playing his first major UK show in 20 years, Tom Petty, with Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds, Elbow, Tinie Tempah, Noah And The Whale, Example, Professor Green, The Charlatans and Lana Del Rey featuring elsewhere over the weekend of Friday, June 22 to Sunday, June 24. Tickets are available from www.isleofwightfestival.com.
:: Blissfields If you're looking for something a little smaller, head to Blissfields in Hampshire during the last weekend of June, where you can see Frank Turner, Gold Panda, Andy Burrows and Man Like Me. Not the biggest names in the world, granted, but all well worth seeing and with organisers boasting the friendliest campsite of the summer, together with four stages of music and comedy, DJs and great food, you're bound to have a great time (www.blissfields.co.uk).
:: T In The Park Moving into July, and it's back up to Scotland again for T In The Park. The Stone Roses' reunion is undoubtedly the biggest story of the summer, and they'll be here headlining the middle Saturday, sandwiched between Snow Patrol on the Friday and Kasabian on the Sunday. Basically, it's going to go off up there, with Florence + The Machine, Noel Gallagher, The Vaccines, Keane, Bombay Bicycle Club, Nicki Minaj, Calvin Harris, New Order and Elbow also on the bill (www.tinthepark.com).
:: Latitude The following week, from Thursday, July 12 to Sunday, July 15, is an altogether more sedate occasion in Suffolk in the shape of Latitude.
Boasting one of the best line-ups of the year, Bon Iver, Elbow and Paul Weller are headlining, ably backed up by Metronomy, Laura Marling, Richard Hawley, Ben Howard, Janelle Monae, Michael Kiwanuka, Rufus Wainwright, The Horrors and Wild Beasts.
Latitude also has a reputation for great comedy, and this year welcomes Jack Dee, Reginald D Hunter, Tim Minchin, Josie Long, Greg Davies and Rich Hall among many others (www.latitudefestival.co.uk).
:: Tramlines If you don't like the countryside, preferring to take your breaks in the city, there are metropolitan festivals to consider, and they don't come more highly recommended than Sheffield's Tramlines.
It begins on July 20, it's free, and this year will feature Roots Manuva, We Are Scientists, Field Music, 65 Days Of Static, Beth Jeans Houghton, The Heartbreaks and Ms Dynamite among many others (www.tramlines.org.uk).
:: WOMAD WOMAD celebrates its 30th anniversary this summer, and organisers have pulled out all the stops to attract artists such as Jimmy Cliff, Hugh Masekela, Ane Brun, Raghu Dixit and Robert Plant, and new band Sensational Shape Shifters, featuring musicians from the UK, the US and Gambia.
The key with WOMAD, however, is not to see acts you've heard of, but let your legs take you where your ears want to go. It takes place from July 26, and tickets can be found at www.womad.org.