Industry Figures Delve Into The Future Of Australian Music Festivals

14 June 2024 | 4:19 pm | Mary Varvaris

"What we are facing now, it's no different to 10 years ago when we had festivals like Stereosonic and Big Day Out that collapsed…"

Variety Australia Breakfast Awards

Variety Australia Breakfast Awards (Credit: Jack Moran)

Yesterday (13 June), The Brag Media launched Variety Australia and Twilio’s inaugural Live Business Breakfast in Sydney, hosting an award ceremony and panel discussion on the future of Australian music festivals.

During the event, Bluesfest was crowned Festival of the Year. Evelyn Richardson, the Chief Executive for Live Performance Australia, remarked that she feels “optimistic” about “new types of festivals and new ideas” that are emerging.

Richardson continued, “What we do know about audiences is that they are changing, and this reflects a new emerging experience economy. The industry is full of entrepreneurs and creative risk-takers. I'm optimistic that new types of festivals and new ideas will emerge, genre-specific.”

Untitled Group’s co-founder, Michael Christidis, stressed the importance of building a “core audience” and the vitality of a captive audience.

Going on to say that selling festival tickets is expensive and complicated, Christidis said, “If you have a core audience and you're putting up a strong product, you can be successful. You need to know who that core audience is. That's why you hear a lot about the death of multi-genre festivals.”

Dr Christen Cornell, a Research Fellow and Manager of Research Partnerships for Creative Australia, commented on punters’ changing ticket-buying habits, particularly “people buying later,” which is placing more risk on promoters.

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Linda Scott, Eventbrite's Commercial Director of APAC, concurred with Cornell’s thoughts on the matter while stating that the on-sale date remains important to ticket sellers and event creators.

Christidis, uninterested in getting sucked into doom and gloom, added that Perth and other markets that are often skipped on tour posters are “more important than ever,” with electronic music having a huge boost in popularity since COVID.

Christidis added that Australia has seen what’s happening to music festivals before and has not given up hope. “What we are facing now, it's no different to 10 years ago when we had festivals like Stereosonic and Big Day Out that collapsed… but festivals like Meredith that knew their core audience remained,” he said.

Also understanding punters’ decisions to drink less alcohol at festivals, Christidis said, “The next generation is more informed about a lot of topics. Beers at single-day festivals are $14, and the cost of living is a real issue... We have to be more dynamic with our revenue sources.”

Richardson acknowledged the increased insurance costs, saying it’s “clearly market failure”.

“Insurance is a major issue; there is clearly market failure there, and it needs to be addressed at a federal level. Eventually, outdoor festivals simply won't be able to get insurance,” Richardson said.

“The government has established Music Australia, which is an important step. LPA would like to see all the parts of the industry brought together to address the key issues to help sustainability over the next few years.

Christidis and Scott concluded that “innovation is driven through scarcity,” “key festivals and key events will see new audiences flourish,” and “Single-day festivals will grow. It's exciting, and we'll see new things emerge.”