The Brag Media
News April 11, 2024

Buy Early, Buy Often: ‘Soundcheck’ Report Sheds Light on Festivals Crisis

Senior Journalist, B2B
Buy Early, Buy Often: ‘Soundcheck’ Report Sheds Light on Festivals Crisis

Winter is coming, Splendour in the Grass is not. Mona Foma has been axed after 16 years, and Groovin The Moo 2024 has been scrapped, with organisers of both events pointing to slow ticket sales.

After the bushfires, the floods, the onerous licensing regime, and the pandemic, a new gloom is casting its shadow over festival-land.

A new report sheds some light.

Published this week by Creative Australia, Soundcheck provides insights into Australia’s music festival sector, ticket-buying trends, demographics and, importantly, what’s going wrong.

The first of its kind, the document was presented Tuesday (April 9) by reps from Creative Australia — Georgie McClean, Cristen Cornell and Belinda Balhatchet — plus Music Australia’s founding director Millie Millgate, with the purpose of tooling-up Australia’s music festival organisers to help inform decision making.

The climate for operating a festival is a “highly complex” one, notes Creative Australia, flanked by rapidly increasing costs and changing ticket buying behaviour.

Among the key findings of the report, operational costs were one of the most significant barriers to running a music festival, with almost half organisers (47%) putting their hand up.

Others issues included lack of funding and grants available (39% of festivals say this has a severe or major impact on their event), insurance costs (31%) and extreme weather events (22%).

“Resulting recent cancellations have generated a growing sense of crisis around what has been a vibrant part of Australia’s arts and cultural landscape,” McClean, executive director at Creative Australia, said at the top of the virtual presentation, “so it is very timely and useful to have this research that helps us to better evidence the impacts and value of the music festival sector.”

Researchers mapped 535 festivals in 2022-2023. Victoria and New South Wales presented the highest number of festivals (149 each) — almost 1.5 music festivals for every day of the year.

Electronic dance music was king, accounting for almost one in four music festivals in Australia (23% of festivals), ahead of rock (21%), country (19%) and indie (17%).

The average festival cost $3.9 million to run. Half of all events produced a profit, one-third reported a deficit (the remainder was somewhere in-between).

In good news, ticket sales were up during the reporting period, indicating a recovery from the health crisis (9,506 tickets per festival were sold on average, up from 8,116 tickets in 2018–19).

Though researchers found patterns of later ticket buying, a habit which is turning the general ticket on-sale into a white-knuckle ride for promoters.

Most festivals were newbies, having started in the last 13 years. And a good chunk of the staff on site – roughly 25% — were unpaid, researchers found.

How can audiences help? “If you’ve got any remote interest in going to a festival, please buy early and please buy often,” Millgate said during the Soundcheck presentation.

“For organisers to get those sales up front just helps with their decision making.”

Also, support Australian music, always.

“The more Australians listening to, subscribing to, purchasing merchandise at all levels is going to be valuable,” said Millgate.

As an audience, she continued, “if you can really commit to those events, maybe choose fewer events, commit to them upfront, that would help.”

The report is said to be a starting point, and it comes at a fever-pitch point for the festivals sector.

Separately, on Monday afternoon (April 8), Music Australia started a series of “Sector Sessions” with the industry to discuss key issues, this time focusing on Australian music festivals, where the Soundcheck document was circulated to stakeholders.

There is no silver bullet or quick fix, Millgate said ahead of the wider launch. But there will be ongoing engagement with the industry and with state and territory government colleagues.

“We will undertake further research to build a more complete understanding of the ecosystem that underpins live music including festivals, discovery, consumption, and audience engagement,” says Millgate, “so that we can look to the future with confidence.”

Creative Australia was tasked with undertaking the research as part of the Federal Government’s National Cultural Policy: Revive, and conducted in collaboration with the Australian Festivals Association.

With its rollout, a dashboard which Creative Australia pitches as an interactive tool with data on the location and characteristics of music festivals held in Australia during the 2022-23 financial year.

View Soundcheck: Insights into Australia’s music festival sector here.


Powered by
Looking to hire? List your vacancy today!

Related articles