Bluesfest On Cancellations, Ticket Sales & Why They're Not Struggling

9 April 2014 | 2:04 pm | Dan Condon

"If you book the right acts who have a reputation for showing up, then chances are they’ll show up..."

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Bluesfest director Peter Noble wants to share some good news; the festival market is not necessarily as gloomy as some people are making it out to be. On the eve of the 25th anniversary of his renowned Northern New South Wales festival, Noble wants people to know that his event is doing well, and that others' are too.

“We've done pretty well pretty much every year since we moved to the new site,” Noble says. Bluesfest moved from Byron Bay to a site the festival owns in Tyagarah, 11 kilometres north. “It has really, really been a good few years for us and, from what I can hear, it's been a pretty good few years for a few festivals.

“So many festivals are doing well but people don't write that, do they? Falls just expanded and sold out, Woodford just did their biggest festival ever and Bluesfest looks like it could have its biggest ever – people always want to concentrate on the negative ones but it's not balanced by talking about the other ones too.”

When it comes to the struggling events, Noble believes programming is the major issue, as some festivals try and book line ups too similar to their peers.

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“It's generally that you're putting on the same artists that somebody else is putting on,” he says. “Events have got to have their own artists and there've got to be a certain amount of them that you're introducing to the market or that hasn't been in the market for a while.

“I know AJ [Maddah – Soundwave and Big Day Out boss] said he doesn't book much Australian acts because they over tour the market and mess up the dressing room, or something like that, but there's an awful lot of truth to what he said. A lot of Australian artists want to play every festival and they want top dollar for it – there's no bang for your buck.”

Late cancellations is another hot issue when talking about the Australia festival landscape and Noble is pleased to report that there are no artists on the Bluesfest bill who have pulled out of the event at this late stage. 

“All the artists so far are coming,” Noble says. “No one has contacted us to say they have an illness or the myriad of reasons why people haven't showed up. There's been an awful lot of that this year, from Splendour to Big Day Out to Soundwave, then again I wouldn't know if someone doesn't show up for Stereosonic or Future…

“I'm touring 38 acts alone and then there are artists that other promoters are touring, and they're all coming. I think it's big news in our industry, we always print when the artists aren't coming, what about when the artists are coming? I know that saying something that's supposed to happen is happening isn't normally a story, but this year it is.”

So how does one book a festival with minimal risk of having artists cancel?

“All I know is, if you book the right acts who have a reputation for showing up, then chances are they'll show up,” Noble says.

There are mere handfuls of tickets left for the festival's Friday and Saturday and Noble predicts they'll be sold out early next week.

“Friday is gonna go, sometime between this Friday and Monday, though you just can't tell. I can't see us having Friday tickets beyond Monday at the latest,” Noble informs. “Saturday tickets are much the same, they'll [sell out] a day or two later.”

If you can't get one before they sell out, Noble has revealed to us that those who arrive at the event early will be able to buy tickets from the box office, a measure the festival introduced years ago to thwart scalpers.

“We always hold a few tickets at the gate to discourage scalpers,” Noble says. “We've been doing that for years. We may sell out, but we still have a few at the gate. I know that sounds crazy, but you have to.”