By Neil Wedd
This week has been a huge week in the festival market.
Harvest, which to my mind is the best festival I have been to in years, has been cancelled. The venue at Werribee is wonderful, and Melbourne has taken to the festival, but the capacity is too small. In Sydney and Brisbane it is either the bill, the venue or the economy? Brisbane had huge problems with storms last year and Sydney has moved venue. Is it just that Melbourne is cooler?
Then AJ Maddah has bought into the Big Day Out. This brings a generational change to the Big Day Out, with Viv Lees bowing out 2 years ago and now Ken West seemingly taking a step back.
Booking festivals is a highwire exercise. Prices have risen for talent, but maybe with two competing festivals now having the same bookers/owners and Future looking at being more of a dance festival again, big bands won't have the same power to demand high fees. Festivals need to mark out their territory to succeed.
Soundwave is metal and punk heaven.
They are really in the place where the Big Day Out started, an alternative event where all the tribes of that universe inhabited. Last year they had a stellar lineup that made it go mental. Bigger than the Big Day Out. This year it still has a very strong lineup, that delivers to its core supporters. They know they will get enough bands in the music they like to entertain them.
The Big Day Out has become just that. A huge event that caters to lots of people. As alternative became mainstream, the BDO widened its appeal, but kept it real. But how do you keep everybody happy, when they have such wide tastes. And what promoter can read fashion properly all the time?
The Big Day Out is still the yardstick, but how do you keep the tribes all happy?
And how do promoters read the tea leaves. In the past, promoters could discover things and if the timing was right (think Nirvana at first BDO) you have a sensation. But now everybody is in the know and its harder to wow people. So people have an idea of what they will see, now its about the experience they (and their friends) will have. That is why niche festivals do so well.
Festivals seem to be ping like flies at present, but the problems come from last year, where bad results impacted on viability. Maybe people have tired of the experience, or feel that they are not being offered an experience they want, ticket prices are too high, or myriad other reasons. You can say that the people have spoken.
Also tickets have gone on sale very early this year, and with the election people are putting not putting their hands in their wallets.
With the election out of the way lets see what happens. It's a new world out there, in all senses of the word.