“Bad mics, in-ear monitor situations, drowned out vocals”: Who or what was to blame for the Glastonbury sound problems?

Cyndi Lauper Glastonbury
(Image credit: Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Both punters who were there in person and those who watched on TV at home had the same question: what was the deal with the poor sound at Glastonbury this weekend?

Sound issues seemed to plague several high-profile acts. At several points during Cyndi Lauper’s set on Saturday afternoon the music seemed to be going faster than her own vocals. Likewise during Shania Twain’s Sunday afternoon ‘legends’ set. It seemed that the vocalist was having problems with her pitch and timing and could be seen fiddling with an earpiece.

Meanwhile, SZA’s Sunday evening performance on the Pyramid stage was beset by problems. Her vocals were so muffled it sounded like she was singing into tissue paper half the time.

Cyndi Lauper's Glastonbury Set Disaster: Fans Outraged Over 'Awful' Sound Problems! - YouTube Cyndi Lauper's Glastonbury Set Disaster: Fans Outraged Over 'Awful' Sound Problems! - YouTube
Watch On

Decades ago such travails would have been kept to conversations by those who were there in person, but with wall-to-wall TV coverage of the festival courtesy of the BBC, and social media, word soon got round.

Twitter/X comments included: “Glastonbury is one of the biggest music festivals in the world, yet their sound engineers can't seem to get much right this year? Bad mics, in-ear monitor situations, drowned out vocals. Or is this just the TV coverage from the BBC?”

Then there were the conspiracists who seemed to think that Dua Lipa, Camila Cabello and even Coldplay were miming. Comments ranged from ‘Does anyone actually sing at festivals anymore? It’s all miming I swear’ to ‘Is it me, or are a lot of these artists miming to backing tracks’

Dua Lipa quickly came out and denied the charge; in truth, whilst some artists may use backing tracks in addition to live vocals to help ‘thicken’ their sound, few would risk their reputation by miming.

Shania Twain - Man! I Feel Like a Woman! (Glastonbury 2024) - YouTube Shania Twain - Man! I Feel Like a Woman! (Glastonbury 2024) - YouTube
Watch On

Elsewhere, it seemed that there wasn’t one overall problem to blame. Lauper and Twain’s glitches would suggest that their ear monitors weren’t functioning properly. Meanwhile, SZA’s problems in all probability were a result of a faulty mic setup. When hers was replaced after 30 minutes the sound quality audibly improved.

But live music has never and never will be perfect. It isn’t a total replication of what you hear on record. Nor should it be. With more and more tech now a part of a touring act’s production, there’s more to go wrong. Plus, outdoor gigs have notoriously always been at the mercy of the elements – who hasn’t been at a festival when the sound quality has suffered because of the wind?

The problem with Glastonbury isn’t faulty equipment or the tech guys not doing their job. Or the BBC. It’s its immense size and the intense focus there is on this one festival each year. There’s more to go wrong. Equipment sometimes doesn’t work. Mistakes happen. Live music (and life) isn’t perfect - we just have to deal with it and move on.

Will Simpson
News and features writer

Will Simpson is a freelance music expert whose work has appeared in Classic Rock, Classic Pop, Guitarist and Total Guitar magazine. He is the author of 'Freedom Through Football: Inside Britain's Most Intrepid Sports Club' and his second book 'An American Cricket Odyssey' is due out in 2025