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SMH article on the future of music festivals Options
sydneyDMBfan
Posted: Sunday, February 14, 2010 9:46:16 AM
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Play it again
Sacha Molitorisz and Tayissa Barone
12 February 2010
The Sydney Morning Herald

Music festivals are no longer once-a-year events for punters who can't get enough, writes Sacha Molitorisz.

'It's insane," says the co-founder of the Big Day Out, Ken West, apropos the proliferation of music festivals. "I keep wondering what's going on."

In 1992, Ken West and Viv Lees staged the first Big Day Out at Moore Park's showgrounds. The event was a hit but, let's be honest, back then, there wasn't much competition. Eighteen years on, however, the Big Day Out has just celebrated its 100th show and summer music festivals are threatening to outnumber flies.

In Sydney and beyond, this spring and summer have already seen the staging of Parklife, Harbourlife, Homebake, Peats Ridge, Field Day, the Big Day Out and the St Jerome's Laneway Festival. Still to come are Good Vibrations (Saturday), Playground Weekender (Thursday to February 21), Soundwave (February 21), Future Music (March 6) and Blue Mountains Music Festival (March 12-14), before Bluesfest hits Byron at Easter and Groovin' the Moo in Maitland in May.

Add more for anyone prepared to travel - including Splendour in the Grass, Falls, Woodford Folk Festival and Golden Plains - and barely a weekend passes without some acoustic orgy or other.

"Definitely," says Andy Rigby, the co-organiser of Playground Weekender at Wisemans Ferry.

"And I think that's following on from international trends. Throughout Europe, and especially in Britain, festivals have gone berserk. I think what's happened there, and it's happened here also, is that there's a trend where, instead of going out every week to clubs or music venues, people go to bars or restaurants, then once a month or a couple of times a summer they go to these major events."

Rigby says it is amazing how many festival-goers attend without a true understanding of who's on the line-up. "We've often asked punters: 'Who are you going to see?' And they say: 'I don't know.' We sold 25 per cent of our capacity prior to the announcement of the line-up."

So what's the appeal of these festivals? Well, there's the thrill of discovering a band you never knew existed. There's the collective spirit, which can be euphoric. There's also the value. A festival ticket can cost about $150, which usually offers a packed line-up of artists plus attractions such as movies, market stalls and carnival rides.

For Lorraine Walsh, 23, music festivals offer value by presenting a large number of acts at one time and a special audience experience. She has already been to Splendour and Falls Festival and has tickets for Good Vibrations and Playground Weekender.

"I suppose it's quite the common thing now but I go because the music festival experience is quite unique because you're getting to see a whole range of music over one or two days. I'm lucky that a lot of my friends are interested and they all come along as well," she says.

For Walsh's friend Nick Burdekin - who has five events on the calendar, including Playground Weekender and Good Vibrations - being a festival regular is expensive.

"There's such a run of them in a row and it's always a bit hard to say no," the 22-year-old says. "If you go to a few, you can go through a grand pretty quickly. [But] it's worth it."

When the Big Day Out started, West assumed punters would only rarely attend festivals.

"I always thought that if you had one festival ticket in your pocket you wouldn't buy another," he says.

"In fact, we built the the Big Day Out on the basis that you might go every second year. That's why the shows change so much from one year to the next."

It turns out, however, that today's music fans - some of them born after the 1992 Big Day Out attracted 9500 punters with acts including headliners Nirvana - will double-dip, triple-dip and more.

As Rigby says: "If you look at music forums, it's unusual to hear someone say: 'I'm only going to see one.' They'll do at least two or three."

With different festivals attracting different crowds, the Big Day Out audience is young and excitable.

"The Big Day Out is almost like a rite of passage for 16-year-olds," says singer Bernard Fanning, of BDO regulars Powderfinger.

Sadly, the rise of the festival has been accompanied by the closure of venues including the Hopetoun and the Abercrombie and a corresponding downturn in clubland culture.

"Good existing venues are struggling," Rigby says.

By contrast, this year's Big Day Out sold its 55,000 tickets in about 10 minutes. A second Sydney date then sold out in a day. Other festival tickets are equally hot and West can't explain why.

"The idea that there are something like 50 festivals in Sydney over summer is mind-boggling," he says.

"I'm waiting for people to wake up one morning and go: 'Why do I do it? It costs me a fortune and it takes me a week to recover.' It's gotta be like the stockmarket crash or the dot-com bust."

Rigby is more positive.

"This number of festivals can be sustained," he says. "But there's not much room for new ones."
TheLoneRanger
Posted: Sunday, February 14, 2010 10:47:10 AM
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Good article.

It reinforces the fact that Festivals are good value for money.

It also emphasises why people should not complain about the odd artist in the "elsewhere" category that is booked at Bluesfest.

The world of Festivals is very competitive and for the promoter it is a fine line between solvency and insolvency.

"An artist never really chooses when and where they will play.It is for promoters to make offers.It comes down as to whether tours are financially viable." Quote John Mayall.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qbEHzqildp8
ScottM
Posted: Sunday, February 14, 2010 11:18:24 AM
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I was really frustrated by this article - I thought it was typical column filling stuff from the kind of "journalistic" layabouts that tend to populate mainstream media entertainment pages.

For starters, the "rise of the festival" article is about 2 or 3 years late, and had already been run back then.

This article conveniently omits the fact that the V Festival has been canned due to 3 straight years in the red, the ATP festival isn't back in Australia for 2010, rumours continue to swirl about the financial viability of Playground Weekender, the Big Day Out festival lineup for 2010 was arguably it's most creatively thin yet (basically no larger act that hadn't appeared before at a BDO), and perhaps THE best read of 2009 in Aus music - the debacle "Blueprint" Festival in Victoria (The Age article here and google for more details).

On the flip side, it starts to talk about patrons who attend festivals with no knowledge of line-up etc. Why not dig more into the motivations of these attendees? That's a good angle, but skimmed.

Anyway, the festival scene is still in it's purple patch by and large, but as it cools and contracts (as everything does), it will be back to the core, grassroots supporters of each festival to keep it alive. The Bluesfest seems in a good position, due to a longstanding, loyal base of attendees who are generally well served by the lineup each year (talking about the Crossroads and Jambalaya crowd), the Meredith Festival has grown organically for 20 years, so the fanbase are loyal, Big Day Out is pretty much a self-perpetuating juggernaut, and I know I've missed others (Woodford for one). But for some of the more "pop" festivals, it will be interesting to see how long before attendance wanes, how quickly it does, and how many can adjust to cope with the shifting preferences of their largely restless target markets.
oldbilly1
Posted: Sunday, February 14, 2010 2:48:13 PM
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I didn't mind the article, but I would love it if someone eventually cobbles together something more detailed on the topic, like a book or doco .I've found the whole evolution of the festival scene from the late eighties and early 1990's a wild and pretty interesting trip. for me, the issues seem to centre around the longevity of the big juggernauts like the bdo and the development of the more niche events catering to specific tastes. as I get older, I find myself looking for that niche, a little bit more comfort, ease of moving between stages, etc having said that, the stooges did tempt me out of a bdo retirement a few years back...
TheLoneRanger
Posted: Sunday, February 14, 2010 3:36:03 PM
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And weren't they great.

That was and will be my only ever trip to BDO.

Since buying the 1991 DVD I have watched it every day this week.

Such energy.




"An artist never really chooses when and where they will play.It is for promoters to make offers.It comes down as to whether tours are financially viable." Quote John Mayall.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qbEHzqildp8
oldbilly1
Posted: Sunday, February 14, 2010 9:25:30 PM
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TheLoneRanger wrote:
And weren't they great.

That was and will be my only ever trip to BDO.

Since buying the 1991 DVD I have watched it every day this week.

Such energy.




awesome - one of those moments that are just a level above everything else really. crowd knew it, iggy knew it, band knew it, saw a coouple of other bands on the bill watching with open mouths - just a pity we won't see em again
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