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Festival Fatigue Among Small and Large Events Alike

From Faster Louder yesterday:

Late last year, FasterLouder’s parent company Sound Alliance ran an online survey to find out your take on a range of topics. 5,000 respondents aged between 18-30 years old from Sound Alliance websites responded, making it the most comprehensive survey of its kind in Australia.

Well, the results are in, and they have some telling answers about that ‘fatigue’ question. While some punters are tiring of festivals, the good news is that the festival industry still has plenty of life in it yet.

“About a third of respondents agreed that they enjoy festivals less than they used to, which is natural as early adopters move on and get that bit older,” says Sound Alliance Managing Director Neil Ackland. “But the vast majority, 76%, disagreed with that statement.”

“When a festival like Big Day Out sells 200,000+ tickets a year, it’s hardly underground anymore, and this is reflected in the survey results where 74% agreed that festivals have become very mainstream, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.”

“Whilst the festival scene has most definitely tipped, prices of tickets are still seen by most, to represent good value for money,” says Ackland. “Just 15% thought otherwise.” Big Day Out in particular fared well with 71% stating that they intended to buy a ticket next year.

So the industry is still going strong despite "about a third" of survey participants stating less enjoyment at festivals than previously. Almost three quarters are still very much enjoying festivals, although they acknowledge festivals becoming "very mainstream."

A comment from Faster Louder user, ThatDude123, on the Sound Alliance survey, caught my eye:

Were any questions asked about overcrowding on the festival market? When I filled it out I don't remember any, and that seems to be the big issue when I talk to people. It isn't that festivals are better/worse (in fact I personally find them to be better due to our strong dollar bringing in top acts and better understanding of the logistics involved), it's just that you can only take so much time off work and spend so much money before you are eventually fired/broke.

Really the biggest success story of the festival season so far, I'd say, is the Laneway Festival. In less than five years it's sold out two major markets and brought a crowd who usually find festivals "disgusting" and "mainstream" back to festivals.

As opposed, Big Day Out promoter Ken West said to Faster Louder last year that the festival has had numerous reasons and opportunities to skip a year. Glastonbury is taking 2012 off according to Faster Louder in the same article.

Last year, Katherine Feeney of The Brisbane Times wrote about the sheer quantity of festivals in Australia and reasons why the public might be sick of them. The comments confirm the idea that festivals are no longer about music, but an overcrowded, wasteful experience of drug taking (me thinks I'll address the extortionate drink prices at festivals another day), ridiculous sunglasses and fluoro t-shirts.

In the article, Jan Skubiszewski of Melbourne band Jackson Jackson states his view that festivals are "mass populated" and that niche events are starting to emerge, much to the preference of musicians and other creative types looking for differing, improved gig experiences.

However, the more these niche events come up, the more I see of these mini-festivals fail. There was BAM! Festival and Lost Weekend at the same Queensland venue last year, and Blueprint which lost $500,000 in Victoria, late 2009. Trailer Trash, as mentioned by Skubiszewski, has turned to the Woodford festivals calendar to run its programme, opting to cater to a captive audience inside the Planting, Woodford Folk and other festivals held at the venue.

Another result is the constant barging of club events at bars. Is there now just too much of the same stuff happening, that punters are too busy with pubs and clubs to fork out for festivals? Gossip, 299 or whatever the heck that place is, constantly finds a way to invite me via Facebook to every event at the venue. Rosie's Tavern is another in Brisbane that does a similar job. I don't even like DJs or care for any of the unknown bands they promote.

I would definitely like to do more exploration as to the reasons of Australian mini-festival success rates in comparison to larger events. What are your experiences at larger versus smaller festivals?

Woodford Folk Festival and the myFestivals App

In August I went to a fantastic conference for festival organisers by Folk Alliance Australia, called Ausfolk. Unfortunately I got busy with uni and didn't write about it, which is a major mistake on my part, but it was the best damned conference I've ever attended. (I do have notes from it, so I should do that soon, because it's better than never.)

At this event I met many awesome people in the industry I am working towards, and the very first person I met, at the train station, was Pedro Plowman. He drove the transfers van, you see.

Anyway, even before we get into the van for Woodfordia, he tells me about this app he's working on for festivals. "Awesome!" I'm thinking, "mobile technology and events! The best!" He says he wants to have it ready in time for Woodford.

Months down the track and he requests my details so I can test the program for him. I've had the app on my iPhone for a few days and I love the capabilities. All artists, shows, ceremonies, discussions, workshops, etc that are on at this year's Woodford Folk Festival are categorised, listed and described in the app. All you need to do is check off the shows or programs you don't want to miss and your schedule is made for you! Brilliant!

There's also a festival grounds map and vital contact numbers (poisons line, taxis, admin, security, RACQ) in case of emergency at the festival.

myFestivals App just came into the Apple Store last night, and I'm proud to say that I can't wait to use it at Woodford Folk Festival (while I'm volunteering as a venue manager! Yay!)  in a few days.

You can nab it from the Apple store for free here.

19 Die at Love Parade, Germany. Festival Ends.

BERLIN — Crowds of people streaming into a techno music festival surged through an already jammed entry tunnel on Saturday, setting off a panic that killed 19 people and injured 342 at an event meant to celebrate love and peace.

SBS World News Australia claims the reason behind the Love Parade disaster is police closing the parade grounds due to overcrowding, and instructing punters in the tunnel to turn around.

Authorities also suggested that some of the people killed or injured might have attempted to flee the crowd by jumping over a barrier and falling several metres. Witnesses described a desperate scene, as people piled up on each other or scrambled over others who had fallen in the crush.

So why? How could this happen? That tunnel was the sole entrance to the grounds. The Love Parade is one that hosts 1.4 million people and the venue could only hold 500,000. There's yer problem!

This was my first thought. If an event is a repeat or regular one, you would believe adequate health and safety measures and procedures to be in place. With 1.4 million people reportedly through the gates and a claim of being the largest techno music festival in the world, the Love Parade should have had access points to the grounds to reflect this.

My second thought went to overcrowding (hence police refusing entry to over 300 people in the tunnel) and control of this. Why didn't they have this covered? An eye-witness account reports (translated by Google from German to English):

Although many security controls were in place that would monitor compliance with the "Love Rules", but the way to the controls was extremely narrow, began pushing the first and it lasted for only a few metres close to 90 minutes.

On the right side even more dramatic scenes. There was a small emergency stairs, each of which could escape from one person upwards. Here, too, now appeared more and more police officers... In those seeking help were people who had already lost consciousness. It was a bad experience of having to watch the rescue operation with, for now all we feared that we might be the next crushed.

Next to me I suddenly saw a policeman with a young man forced his way to the stairs. "Can't you go or should I pay them?" Actually, the man gave me an even better shape right impression, then I saw his hand he held up convulsively. I had not looked closely, but his fingertips were covered with blood. Maybe he was overthrown in the crowd and accidentally had a lot of shoes shredded his hand.

They also mention that last year's Love Parade closed due to overcrowding. Why, then, hasn't something been done about it? If it is known that the venue is maxed out at 500,000, why are 1.4 million people permitted to attend, even when they expected 800,000?

The founder of the Love Parade, Matthias Roeingh, known as Dr. Motte, blasted the planning for the event, saying "one single entrance through a tunnel lends itself to disaster. I am very sad."

Me too, Dr. Motte. And it sounds like current management isn't too keen to run again after this catastrophe.

Love Parade reported close

(Sources:, SBS World News Australia, @BreakingNews, images here on Flickr,  BBC News)

Sounds of Spring, Volunteer Team Leader

Next Saturday I will be giving up my day to lead a team of 10 volunteers at the Brisbane music festival Sounds of Spring. Pretty cool, huh? I'll be starting early in the morning and going until midnight, but it will be worth it. Acts such as Little Birdy, I Heart Hiroshima, The Living End, Tim Rogers, Hungry Kids of Hungary, The Beautiful Girls, Drawn From Bees, Shihad... and stacks more. Shall be fun seeing what goes down there behind the scenes. Rad!

Parklife Dates Announced, Internships Due

A few days ago the 2009 dates for the music festival tour Parklife were released by Sydney events company Fuzzy. Hurrah!  So the dates for this winning festival are:

  • Saturday 26th September – Brisbane
  • Sunday 27th September – Perth
  • Saturday 3rd October – Melbourne
  • Sunday 4th October – Sydney
  • Monday 5th October – Adelaide

You can find more info on each on and their retrospective Facebook event pages (of course) here. As far as the acts are concerned; there has been some comment around the place that Canadian electro duo MSTRKRFT and the UK's Lady Sovereign will be touring. I'll report back with an official list when it arises.

Also, if you're a Sydney student looking to get some hours up on your degree, why not apply for a Parklife Internship? There are roles available in event management, PR, marketing, touring, HR and production. I would apply immediately, but I'm neither in Sydney or a student. Shame! You'd best hurry along though; applications are due this coming Monday, 25th of May.