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News May 18, 2022

Bluesfest Tops Global Chart, Muses International Expansion (EXCLUSIVE)

Bluesfest Tops Global Chart, Muses International Expansion (EXCLUSIVE)
Bluesfest boss Peter Noble
Image: Kurt Petersen

Bluesfest’s triumphant return in Easter after two years of cancellations has received global ratification.

In Pollstar’s latest Global Live Box Office Report, Bluesfest sits at No. 1 for the highest-grossing festival, raking in US$11.5 million (AU$16.39 million).

The Australian festival drew 101,024 patrons. It budgeted for 85,000 through the gates, but enjoyed a 10-15% spike in ticket sales in the week prior to the event.

It is not the first time Bluesfest topped global box office rankings in Pollstar and Billboard.

Last year Pollstar listed the Byron event in the Top 10 festivals of the decade alongside Coachella, Glastonbury and Rock in Rio.

But the difference was that the 2022 triumph was achieved with a mostly Australian bill.

Ninety of the 100 acts were domestic, with Midnight Oil, Jimmy Barnes and the Teskey Brothers playing to massive crowds.

Australasian entry Crowded House drew 28,000, one of the biggest turnouts for an individual act in the festival’s history.

“This is a big achievement, it proves that Australian talent can sell tickets to be #1 in the world,” festival director Peter Noble told TIO.

The timing couldn’t be better. With six A-List international names already confirmed for 2023, Noble is assured that the Pollstar profile will see major agents eager to finish off deals and artist managers pitching their rosters.

“You can never have enough headliners, that’s the bottom line for any successful live event,” Noble said.

This week, Noble was in Jakarta and Singapore for preliminary discussions with entrepreneurs about staging a local version in the market.

Bluesfest has had a presence in Singapore. Ten years ago Rock’n’Roots drew 9,000 with Robert Plant, Paul Simon, Jimmy Cliff and Bonnie Raitt.

Jakarta is regarded as an interesting opportunity.

“It’s a great market, it has changed so much,” he said. “What used to be obstacles are no longer there. It’s a city full of people who love music.”

There are also regular discussions about expanding to New Zealand.

Noble is interested in local satellite events after an experiment in Fremantle, WA, was successful.

An event in Victoria, tied to tourism, was almost an eventuality. It’s something he said that he wants to chase up. “Melbourne sells 25,000 tickets to Byron Bay, which constitutes an event in itself.”

In early May Noble told TIO he was open to talks with Queensland developer Comiskey Group, which has offered to lease its 150-hectare Coochin Fields on the Sunshine Coast to festivals.

“I’m always happy to talk to anyone about giving Bluesfest’s $270 million annual economic contributions to Queensland than to NSW, which gives us fuck-all,” he said at the time.

Anger remains over Bluesfest’s last-minute cancellations by the NSW government.

In fact right to the opening o the gates for the 2022 edition there was anxiety that authorities would still pull the plug citing safety concerns following flash flooding at the site.

Noble remains angered at how the April 2021 festival was axed one day out because a visitor to the region showed COVID symptoms.

“There could have been respectful discussions, and a look at options.

“Rather than being told ‘You guys are over. Finished. Done’, we could have been allowed to keep going until there were any transmissions. In fact, there weren’t any transmissions.

“Except for one (in the Byron region), which is not a good enough number, and that person had no intention of coming to Bluesfest because they had not purchased a ticket.

“Bluesfest was the one that suffered from that decision.

“But really, our whole industry suffered because we all got the message—‘You’re not a priority, you’re not a sporting event, you’re not the Royal Easter Show.

“They had every right to take place. But so did we.”

The first announcement for 2023 will be made in a few weeks with 20 big-name acts.

This article originally appeared on The Industry Observer, which is now part of The Music Network.

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