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Oz festival woes deepen with SITG cancellation

Australia’s festival crisis has deepened following the cancellation of the long-running Splendour in the Grass (SITG).

The festival, held at the North Byron Parklands in Yelgun, New South Wales, was due to take place from 19-21 July, topped by Kylie Minogue, Future and Arcade Fire.

But just two weeks after unveiling the bill, Live Nation-backed organiser Secret Sounds today confirmed that it has called off the 2024 edition, blaming “unexpected events”.

“We know there were many fans excited for this year’s line-up and all the great artists planning to join us, but due to unexpected events, we’ll be taking the year off,” says a statement posted on social media.

“Ticket-holders will be refunded automatically by Moshtix. We thank you for your understanding and will be working hard to be back in future years.”

The likes of Groovin the Moo, Coastal Jam, Summerground, Vintage Vibes, Tent Pole: A Musical Jamboree and ValleyWays have also been cancelled

It follows a difficult couple of years for SITG. Co-producer Jessica Ducrou reported a 30% drop in sales from 50,000 tickets to 35,000 in 2023, while the previous edition was hit with the worst weather in the festival’s 20-plus-year history, resulting in the cancellation of its first day.

SITG, which was launched in 2001, has become the highest-profile casualty yet on Australia’s 2024 festival circuit, joining the likes of Coastal Jam, Summerground, Vintage Vibes, Tent Pole: A Musical Jamboree and ValleyWays, all of which referenced financial difficulties amid the cost-of-living crisis, plus Groovin the Moo, which cited slow ticket sales.

In addition, New Year’s Eve’s Falls Festival, which is also organised by Secret Sounds, fell by the wayside for 2023 in order for promoters to “allow space to reimagine how the festival will look in the future”.

Speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald earlier this year, Music Victoria CEO Simone Schinkel suggested the challenges were a legacy of the pandemic.

“There is a generation who missed out on those coming-of-age, life-affirming moments,” she said. “We’ve had a really fundamental shift. If you grew up in a pandemic, going into an enclosed space that’s small and meant to hold lots of hot sweaty bodies just might not be the same vibe you’re calling for. It’s also really hard when we have a cost-of-living crisis, when tickets are going up.”

“The Australian music festival industry is currently facing a crisis”

SITG had received a A$100,000 (€60,000) in funding via the Live Music Australia programme to assist with organising this year’s festival.

“The cancellation of Splendour in the Grass is devastating news,” says NSW government’s minister for music John Graham. “The festival industry is under extreme pressure, and I am deeply worried about the health of the festival scene here in NSW. The NSW government offered financial support to help the event proceed this year. We will continue to work with them and hope to see them return next year.”

Australian Festival Association MD Mitch Wilson says he is “devastated” by the event’s predicament.

“The Australian music festival industry is currently facing a crisis, and the flow-on effects will be felt across the local communities, suppliers and contractors that sustain our festivals and rely on them to support their livelihoods,” he says. “We need government at the table to help us through this period and assist in stabilising our industry to sustainable levels. This needs a national approach.”

More than 40 Australian music festivals have also been cancelled, postponed, or evacuated due to heat, fires, rain or floods over the past decade, including more than 20 in 2022 alone, amid record rainfall in the eastern states.

Rabbits Eat Lettuce Festival, where two people died in 2019, is set to become the first in Queensland to introduce pill testing

This year’s cancellations follow a patchy 2023 season in which Bluesfest lost 30,000 punters and Dark Mofo (Tasmania) and Goomfest (Victoria) took a year off. Several festivals also called it quits for good, including Newtown Festival in Sydney, Play On The Plains in Deniliquin, and Wangaratta Jazz & Blues, Music In The Vines and Goldfields Gothic in Victoria.

In addition, the parent companies of Now & Again, Grass Is Greener and Lunar Electric, went into voluntary administration or put in liquidation.

Meanwhile, ABC reports that Rabbits Eat Lettuce Festival, where two people died in 2019, is set to become the first in Queensland to introduce pill testing. Health minister Shannon Fentiman says the state government would invest almost $1 million to fund the the scheme over the next two years.

Festival organiser Eric Lamir describes the move as a “step in the right direction in reducing drug-related harm”.

Last week’s announcement followed a study which analysed drug-related deaths at Australian festivals over almost a decade, which showed that most could potentially have been prevented through harm reduction strategies such as pill testing.

The study, published in the International Journal of Drug Policy, and led by Associate Professor Jennifer Schumann, from Monash University’s Department of Forensic Medicine, looked at drug-related deaths at music festivals throughout the country between 1 July 2000 and 31 December 2019.

 


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Slovenia’s MetalDays cancelled for 2024

Slovenia’s MetalDays will not take place in 2024 following the “unprecedented difficulties” of last year’s edition, it has been announced.

Although MetalDays 2023 was cut short due to Slovenia’s worst-ever floods, the 25,000-cap event was due to return Lake Velenje between 28 July-3 August with a lineup featuring acts such as Accept, Blind Guardian, Emperor, God is an Astronaut, The Amity Affliction, Caliban, Legion of the Damned, Tiamat, Unleashed and Rage.

However, “with a mix of emotions”, have opted to shift their focus to next year’s event, earmarked for 27 July-2 August 2025.

“After extensive discussions, we have made the difficult decision to postpone MetalDays 2024,” says a statement. “While this decision was not made lightly, we believe it is the most reasonable and in the best interest of everyone involved.

“MetalDays 2023 encountered unprecedented difficulties due to severe flooding, leading to the cancellation of the last two festival days. The aftermath, coupled with the financial setbacks, has made it challenging for us to deliver the experience you all deserve.”

“We see this as an opportunity to take a hiatus, regroup, and dedicate ourselves to ensuring the success of the next edition”

The heavy metal festival began life in 2004 as Metalcamp and has been called MetalDays since 2013 and has attracted bands including Megadeth, Slayer, Amon Amarth, Volbeat and Sabaton. Last month, it was announced the festival was partnering with the UK’s Bloodstock to offer rising bands the chance to perform at the corresponding event in 2025.

“At MetalDays, our mission from the very beginning has been to organise the best possible event,” adds the statement. “We set the bar very high… Given the circumstances, taking a break and redirecting our efforts to ensure a stellar next edition feels like the right step forward.

“Rather than rushing into another planning cycle with financial challenges, we see this as an opportunity to take a hiatus, regroup, and dedicate ourselves to ensuring the success of the next edition.”

Tickets purchased for 2024 will still be valid for 2025, and ticketholders are invited to attend Croatia’s GoatHell Festival, set for 25-27 July in Pula, Istria, Croatia, free of charge.

Last week, two of the UK’s best-loved independent festivals, Barn On The Farm and Splendour, were called off for 2024, while Scotland’s Doonhame Festival, held in Dumfries, has also been called off.

 


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UK festival cancelled due to cost of living crisis

Organisers of Plymouth’s 1 Big Summer festival have cancelled the event’s 2023 edition, citing the cost of living crisis.

The two-day event, which debuted last year over the Jubilee Bank Holiday Weekend with acts such as Example, The Libertines, Years & Years and Supergrass, had been set to return to Hoe Park from 25-26 August.

But despite tickets already going on sale, promoters say a “perfect storm” of factors have persuaded them to pull the plug on their plans.

“The 1 Big Summer Music Festival have decided to cancel the 2023 event due to the cost of living crisis”

“The 1 Big Summer Music Festival have decided to cancel the 2023 event due to the cost of living crisis,” says a statement posted on the festival’s website. “A perfect storm of rising costs, reduction in sponsorship income, an end of support for tourism and hospitality such as VAT reductions and an unprecedented strain on people’s disposable income have sadly left the event untenable for this year.

“All ticket holders will be refunded automatically within 21 days. We apologise for any inconvenience caused. We hope to return in the future.”

The festival was originally due to launch in 2021 but was postponed due to the pandemic. The Ibiza Orchestra Experience was the only act to have been announced for this year’s line-up.


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