Secret Sounds axes festival leg due to supply issues
Australia’s Secret Sounds has cancelled the Brisbane leg of its Heaps Good festival due to “supply chain and event equipment issues”.
The Live Nation-owned promoter behind Australian festivals Splendour in the Grass and Falls Festival yesterday (15 November) shared the “not so good news” about the 2 January 2024 show at Sandstone Point.
The festival will still take place in Melbourne and Adelaide in December 2023 and January 2024 with performances from Flume, Foals, The Avalanches and more.
“We are working on two replacement shows in Brisbane city, stay tuned”
“We are having some supply chain and event equipment issues resulting in us not being able to deliver the best possible show for Brisbane,” reads a statement from Secret Sounds.
“We are incredibly sorry, please expect full refunds for your Brisbane tickets to the purchasing credit card in the next week or do.
“We are working on two replacement shows in Brisbane city, stay tuned. Once again, we are so sorry for any disappointment and inconvenience caused.”
Secret Sounds’ festival portfolio also includes Harvest Rock, Spilt Milk and Spin Off. The latter was added when Secret Sounds acquired event management company Kicks Entertainment in 2022.
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Live Nation launches Chinese festival first
Live Nation has teamed up with Chinese entertainment company Twenty Eight Group to launch the world’s first multi-city contemporary Chinese music and arts festival.
CCURRENTT will take place in London, Los Angeles and Sydney this October and November to showcase top talent from genres such as C-pop, Chinese hip-hop and Chinese rock, including headliners Jolin Tsai, BEAUZ, Digi Ghetto (Mac Ova Seas, Mula Sakee, Thomeboydontkill), DXX, GALI and The Life Journey.
The festival is the brainchild of Twenty Eight Group and Live Nation Electronic Asia MD Jim Wong, and will stop at London’s OVO Arena Wembley (15 October), Los Angeles’ The Torch (28 October) and Sydney Showground in Olympic Park (26 November).
Wong was previously responsible for bringing Creamfields and international DJs to China, and is stepping up his efforts to drive the expansion of the Chinese music scene internationally.
“CCURRENTT is a chance for Chinese-music fans to immerse themselves in China’s trending music scene abroad”
“CCURRENTT is a chance for Chinese-music fans to immerse themselves in China’s trending music scene abroad in a world-first event spanning both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres,” he says. “As the global leader in live entertainment, no one is better positioned than Live Nation to drive the growth of Asian artists both domestically and on global stages.”
Elsewhere, Live Nation and its Queensland-based joint venture partner Secret Sounds have secured a new partnership with Vodafone to give customers presale access to select live music shows in Australia.
First up, Vodafone customers will get exclusive presale access for tickets to see The Weeknd touring Australia in November 2023, with more local and international superstar artists to be announced. Live Nation and Secret Sounds have recently toured artists including Harry Styles, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Dua Lipa, Billie Eilish, Gorillaz, The 1975 and Kendrick Lamar.
“It’s a great time for Vodafone to establish a major partnership in music with the demand for concerts and festivals at record levels”
Vodafone customers will also have the chance to win curated live music experiences, such as a backstage pass, “rockstar treatment” or meeting their favourite artists.
“Our research tells us that music is the leading passion point for many Australians,” says Greg Segal, president brand & marketing partnerships ANZ, Live Nation. “Through our partnership, Vodafone will provide unrivalled experiences for its customers by offering them exclusive access to Australia’s most anticipated live acts. It’s a great time for Vodafone to establish a major partnership in music with the demand for concerts and festivals at record levels.”
As part of the new partnership, Vodafone will also support the next generation of Australian musicians as the presenting partner of Ones to Watch, Live Nation’s discovery platform for emerging artists, which has played a role in the careers of Dua Lipa, Halsey, LANY, and LÉON, among others.
“We’re thrilled to partner with Live Nation and bring our customers closer to the music acts they love,” adds Kieren Cooney, group executive, TPG Telecom. “With live events and experiences in huge demand, and fans eager to see their favourite artists more than ever before, we’re offering Vodafone customers first access to tickets and unforgettable experiences with the musicians that they love.”
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Aussie rules! Australia market report
With a population approaching just 26 million, Australia punches way above its weight in terms of ticket sales for live music tours and events. And bouncing back from the Covid pandemic with a new culturally savvy government, the demand from fans only seems to be increasing. Lars Brandle reports.
Floods, bushfires, Covid-19 – Australia’s live music industry has felt all the forces of nature in recent years, and by most accounts, has made a stellar comeback.
For a population of 25m, Australia’s live industry punches above its weight class, a space where a singer can sell 1m tickets on a single tour (Ed Sheeran’s Divide) and another can play – and fill – 58 arena shows (P!nk’s Funhouse).
It’s not all fun and games. Touring Australia, a country roughly 4,000 km wide – a distance greater than London is from Moscow – the concerts space has its complexities. The soaring cost of travel, haulage, and booking acts; ongoing pressure on inner-city venues from developers; and a shortage of skilled professionals, many of whom left the industry during the pandemic, are just some of the challenges faced by promoters and others in Australia’s live music ecosystem.
But with a new federal government in power, one that’s sympathetic to the music industry, and a bonanza of major tours performing well at the box office, optimism is high.
So business is back, although it’s not what it was.
“Right now is a very exciting time to be an Australian music fan”
For a continent as vast as Australia, some things are surprisingly the same wherever you go. Drive for days and the language, currency, and power-points remain the same. And all across the country, there’s an enormous appetite for live entertainment. Getting a show on the road, however, is never a cinch.
“Right now is a very exciting time to be an Australian music fan,” says Geoff Jones, CEO of live entertainment, data, and tech giant TEG. “Since the end of the pandemic, we’ve seen many artists flock to Australia to play for their Aussie fanbases, which has played a major part in boosting the economy.”
Among them, stadium treks by Guns N’ Roses (TEG Dainty), Ed Sheeran (Frontier Touring), Harry Styles and Red Hot Chili Peppers (Live Nation Australia) – all visiting these parts within the space of three months.
And while cost of living and inflation is a big issue that’s impacting Australians, “consumers have been highly resilient and are still keeping money aside to watch their favourite artists perform to crowds of thousands,” Jones adds.
“We’re still seeing buying patterns lean much closer to the festival or show date, and we expect last-minute purchasing to remain part of the landscape,” notes Zac Leigh, CEO and founder of Tixel.
“I think the per-cap spending in Australia is the highest in the world. It’s just so engrained in the culture to see live music and sport”
In the most recent summer (December 2022-March 2023), “Something like 20% of the tickets listed on Tixel were traded for less than 50% of the face value of the ticket and we believe the oversupply was due to things like illness, Covid isolation periods, inability to travel, and the clutter of rescheduled events,” Leigh explains. Now, less than 5% of tickets trade at that level – signs that the market is returning to a demand-supply equilibrium for tickets.
The backlog of shows after two-and-a-half years of Covid disruption and market and border closures resulted in a “huge summer touring season” across concerts and festivals, explains Evelyn Richardson, chief executive of Live Performance Australia (LPA), the trade body for the live entertainment industry.
The data isn’t yet in; the most recent figures were captured for LPA’s Ticket Attendance and Revenue Report 2021 – then Australia’s industry was largely mothballed due to Covid. Richardson says the market has since seen “significant activity,” an “exceptional summer,” and the trade body expects that the “upcoming touring schedule later in 2023 going into 2024 will be massive [in the region].”
For its population, Australia “really punches above its weight when it comes to live performance,” Adam Wilkes of AEG Presents Asia Pacific said during a keynote at Singapore’s All That Matters gathering in September 2022. “I think the per-cap spending in Australia is the highest in the world. It’s just so engrained in the culture to see live music and sport.”
Live Nation president Asia-Pacific, Roger Field, states, “Australasia is going great. This will be our biggest year ever and we’re seeing unprecedented attendances at all levels from club to arenas. We have more artists coming to our shores and we’re having our biggest stadium year.”
“It seems that the years of being unable to tour and operate have enabled a number of arena acts to take the leap into stadiums with huge success”
He observes, “It seems that the years of being unable to tour and operate have enabled a number of arena acts to take the leap into stadiums with huge success. This in turn creates the opportunity for more acts to step up to fill those arena dates – and fans are really getting behind these artists and demanding even more.”
Legendary concert promoter Michael Chugg handled the 40-plus-date domestic swing for Elton John’s Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour, through Chugg Entertainment and its partners Frontier Touring and AEG Presents.
It’s the “same old problem with rival promoters paying too much for artists,” he tells IQ, “not enough care going into ticket pricing; lack of personnel, security, food and beverage staff, crew; bullshit flight prices.” Add to the list an ongoing lack of support for homegrown music on commercial radio, a situation which, for several weeks in mid-2023, became acute when no Australian-made singles appeared in the ARIA Top 40.
The challenges are many and varied. Booking an itinerary with a relatively small number of venues and many concurrent tours, “it’s a jigsaw puzzle,” Chugg notes. “I don’t think we are truly back on track as an industry. We need new people and some who left [during the health crisis] to come back.”
Snapshot of a billion-dollar business
There’s truth to the stereotype that Aussies like few things more than a night (or day) out with their best mates for a good time. The numbers stack up. According to LPA’s pre-pandemic ticketing data, live entertainment is a billion-dollar-plus business.
Australia’s live sector is a sophisticated one with trade bodies and lobby reps working alongside its industry captains in each field
Australia’s live sector is a sophisticated one with trade bodies and lobby reps working alongside its industry captains in each field. In addition to the LPA, the Australian Festival Association (AFA) was presented to the media in December 2018, with a commitment to making “festivals safer for patrons and reduce friction between festival promoters and regulatory bodies,” and more. AFA holds a position on the executive committee of the Live Entertainment Industry Forum (LEIF), established during the pandemic to help support the return of live entertainment and sport.
Meanwhile, the Australian Live Music Business Council (ALMBC) was launched during the pandemic, to advocate for thousands of Australian-owned small businesses and sole traders that support Australian music in public performance places.
Festival specialists will gather 30-31 August at Sydney’s Luna Park for the 2023 Australian Festival Industry Conference. And for the first time, SXSW expands outside of its decades-long base in the United States with SXSW Sydney, set for October 15-22, 2023. TEG is event producer, and industry veteran Colin Daniels helms SXSW Sydney as managing director.
Australia’s leading promoters include Live Nation Australia; Frontier Touring, part of the Mushroom Group, which is now led by Matt Gudinski following the March 2021 death of his father, the great music entrepreneur Michael Gudinski; Chugg Entertainment; TEG Dainty, and others.
It’s a constantly evolving and growing space. In 2019, Frontier Touring struck a joint venture with Chugg Entertainment and separately formalised a years-long alliance with AEG Presents, ensuring the company Gudinski built would be the official partner for AEG treks in these parts.
“Our interest in venues of all sizes is partly motivated by having the ability to engage with a variety of artist content”
TEG continues to grow and expand, including a 2020 deal for Van Egmond Group, Garry Van Egmond’s concerts company, which has orchestrated blockbuster tours for Dire Straits, AC/DC, and many others. The following year, in 2021, TEG landed deals that brought the Laneway festival brand and boutique promoter and events company Handsome Tours into its empire, while its ticketing arm, Ticketek, now operates in 11 markets, including the UK.
Frontier Touring remains one of the world’s leading concert promoters, its founder, Michael Gudinski, posthumously recognised by Billboard in April 2021 as its International Power Player. The concerts specialist this year celebrates its 50th anniversary, which the Melbourne-based business will mark with an all-star concert in November.
Live Nation’s domestic arm continues to expand its portfolio of venues and live assets. regional boss Roger Field comments, “Our venue development is a huge priority for us across both Australia and New Zealand – we’ve just celebrated the return of the iconic Festival Hall in Melbourne to a fulltime live music venue after signing a multi-lease and that’s only the beginning. Our interest in venues of all sizes is partly motivated by having the ability to engage with a variety of artist content, even if we’re not promoting it, but also open to new ticket buying markets.”
LN’s suite of venues also includes The Palais Theatre in Melbourne, the Fortitude Music Hall in Brisbane, the Hindley Street Music Hall in Adelaide, and Anita’s Theatre, a historic venue in Thirroul, a northern seaside suburb of Wollongong, which in 2022 became the concerts giant’s first entry into regional Australia.
Australia’s concert promoters have, historically, been at loggerheads with each other. The late Gudinski was never short of a word or three for LN or Dainty. However, during the pandemic, the hatchets were buried and once-bitter rivals shared infrastructure on several major events, keeping costs down in the most difficult of times.
On 21 May 2022, when border closures still plagued the touring space, Australia took a left turn
One of the Australian events industry’s many success stories is the rise of Untitled Group. “The challenges posed by the pandemic allowed us to pause, reflect, and focus on the long-term growth of our business,” comments Nicholas Greco – co-founder/managing partner. Greco and his colleagues “took the opportunity to strategise and refine our approach. It was undeniably a difficult time, but it offered us a moment to breathe and strengthen our foundations”.
Untitled organises such events as camping festivals Beyond The Valley and Pitch Music & Arts, both of which, says Greco, have experienced a notable uptake, especially in the post-pandemic era. Independently owned and based in Melbourne, Untitled boasts 65 staff and shifts more than 400,000 tickets each year across its events.
Australia’s outdoor concerts network extends into wineries. A Day On The Green, created by Michael and Anthea Newton from Roundhouse Entertainment, operating as a joint venture with Mushroom Group, in November 2022 celebrated its 500th show with Crowded House’s performance at Mt Duneed Estate, Geelong.
After Covid – a new dawn, new government
On 21 May 2022, when border closures still plagued the touring space, Australia took a left turn.
After the best part of a decade led by the centre-right Liberal political party, a national shift occurred when Anthony Albanese and his Australian Labor Party (ALP), the country’s major centre-left party, swung into power.
“We need serious skills training; we need new venues, big and small; we need a regional circuit”
After a generation, during which time the music industry’s calls for support repeatedly fell on deaf ears with the Liberal leadership, the ALP represented a new dawn for the country’s live music community.
Prime minister Albanese and minister of arts Tony Burke moved swiftly and decisively to reward that belief. In June 2023, the Creative Australia Bill passed through parliament – a document that lays the legal foundation for the national cultural policy presented earlier in January 2023. The bill establishes Music Australia with AU$69.4m in funding which, for the first time in the nation’s history, explains APRA AMCOS CEO Dean Ormston, provides an opportunity “for a whole-of-government, cross-portfolio, strategic and long-term relationship with the breadth of the Australian contemporary music industry.”
Music Australia sits under Creative Australia, formerly the Australia Council for the Arts, or Australia Council, which was due to commence from 1 July and was presented in the government’s 116-page “Revive” document, a years-long roadmap for the music industry, which details new investment totalling $286m over four years.
The government’s initiative and “all that money will make a serious impact,” notes Chugg. “We need serious skills training; we need new venues, big and small; we need a regional circuit. I would like to see more shows in universities and schools, which in the 70s and 80s were amazing breeding grounds.”
The ALP now governs at national level and across every state, with the exception of Tasmania, the last remaining Liberal post. It’s “a government that cares,” he enthuses. “My late mate, MG, would have such a huge smile alongside all the Australian music icons he is hanging out with in heaven.”
Some positive trends have emerged in Australia’s post-Covid touring landscape, including a revival in country music and comedy
What’s hot, what’s not
The elite A-list acts have filled Australian stadiums in the 2022-2023 southern summer. The demand side of the business is “really healthy in terms of artists who have been limited in their ability to travel for several years”, explains Dion Brant, CEO of Frontier Touring. One of those artists is Ed Sheeran. The Englishman’s The Mathematics Tour did over 830,000 tickets and “left excess demand,” explains Brant. Those artists “that care about the audience and produce great shows, combined with pricing that is accessible and strong campaigns, can lead to record-breaking results”.
Some positive trends have emerged in Australia’s post-Covid touring landscape, including a revival in country music and comedy.
Morgan Wallen’s six-date tour for Frontier Touring in March, which included a headline slot at country-focused fest CMC Rocks QLD, was a hit and was reflected when Wallen led both the ARIA singles and albums charts, setting records along the way. Luke Combs returns to Australia and makes his New Zealand debut in August, for a trek promoted by Frontier Touring.
The resurgence of country has been powered by the likes of the late Rob Potts, and later, his son Jeremy, Chugg, and colleague Susan Heymann. As the country business grows, Chugg Music recently teamed up with Select Music and artist manager Dan Biddle of Wheelhouse Agency, to launch a new venture with an eye on growing the country music and Americana genre.
Though no brand has replaced the travelling festival juggernauts that were the Big Day Out and Soundwave, rock continues to roll along. Chris O’Brien is an aficionado of music of the heavier kind and wears multiple hats with Destroy All Lines (general manager of touring), Good Things Festival (promoter), and Knotfest Australia (co-promoter).
The price of putting on a show has escalated “in a way that needs to be properly looked at”
The appetite for rock and metal in Australia “continues to grow at an incredible rate,” O’Brien tells IQ. Between Good Things Festival and Knotfest, every show sold out, shifting just shy of 200,000 tickets. In the past 12 months, Destroy All Lines has sold over 650,000 tickets, he explains, and 2023/24 “is looking like we will get close to 1m tickets with what we have in the pipeline”.
Spiralling costs, less hands at the pump
Promoters and live event organisers are experiencing major skills shortages, particularly in technical, production, and stage management. Even sourcing riggers, drivers, and security is a challenge.
The price of putting on a show has escalated “in a way that needs to be properly looked at”, says Frontier’s Brant. Infrastructure on larger shows, such as stages, flooring, barriers, and chairs, are up by at least 50%. “Freight is through the roof.”
Production and touring costs have skyrocketed by 30-40% compared with pre-Covid levels, experts say.
At the same time, a shaky economy with high inflation and interest rate rises is having an impact on discretionary spending. “It may dampen some events,” notes LPA’s Richardson. “Having said that, we are seeing huge demand [for] shows going on sale for later in the year.”
“Suppliers to the industry need to be careful they are not trying to make up for lost time and squeezing the golden goose too hard”
Those on-sales include a trans-Tasman tour by Foo Fighters, organised by Frontier Touring; while Live Nation is promoting two special Coldplay dates at Perth’s Optus Stadium in November, as well as Blink-182’s arena run next year.
With the explosion in activity for stadium dates comes a heightened sensitivity to the replacement of turf, with rate per square meter said to be amongst the highest in the world.
“The cost to get to and from Australia is the highest it’s ever been,” explains Brant. “Fans want to go to shows and artists want to play to fans, but the suppliers to the industry need to be careful they are not trying to make up for lost time and squeezing the golden goose too hard.”
When the region’s venue operators gathered in May in Melbourne for the 2023 Venues Management Congress, Frontier Touring’s chief marketing and communications officer, Reegan Stark, quipped on stage, “I learned more about grass the last 12 months than I ever thought I needed to know.”
Where concert tours have “done exceptionally well,” notes LPA’s Richardson, “music festivals have had challenges both in terms of weather events disrupting or closing down events and changes in consumer buying behaviour with audiences buying much later than pre-Covid times.”
Peter Noble’s Bluesfest site was flooded ahead of the 2022 event, and, several months later, Splendour In The Grass, also held in Byron Bay, a picturesque beach spot in northern New South Wales, was inundated, leading to the cancelation of day one mainstage performances.
“We’ve all got to realise that this entire industry only works if everyone gets a slice of the cake”
The rotten weather of 2022, the abundance of shows in the early part of this year, and the wobbly state of the economy has put pressure on some festival brands. Noble and his team spent nearly a million dollars on waterproofing at Tyagarah Tea Tree Farm in Byron Bay. Attendance dipped from more than 100,000 in 2022, to about 70,000 in 2023, Noble tells IQ.
“We’ve all seen a bit of a drop off in festivals. I hope they all come back,” he says. Fests “have got some challenges”, he continues. “The attendances have been down, the costs are up. We’ve all got to realise that this entire industry only works if everyone gets a slice of the cake. And if you leave crumbs at one end, then you’re starving someone out of business.”
Bluesfest Touring “had a great season”, he notes, pointing to the 20 tours which worked the market, including Bonnie Raitt, Buddy Guy and the Doobie Brothers, and the launch of Bluefest Melbourne and Perth.
Climate change and the bad weather that comes with it is a blow to consumer confidence in ways that are difficult to predict, promoters say.
The festival and outdoor events industry “faces an existential crisis”, notes Richardson. “Adapting business models is a big topic of discussion right now.”
Another unexpected hurdle to doing business can be seen in the rising costs of renewing insurance for live music venues
Those forces of nature contributed to the travelling Falls Festival cancelling its 2023/24 edition. Led by Live Nation-affiliated concert specialist Secret Sounds, co-founded by Jessica Ducrou and Paul Piticco, Falls announced it would take the time out to “rest, recover, and recalibrate.”
Another unexpected hurdle to doing business can be seen in the rising costs of renewing insurance for live music venues. The public liability premiums for some venues have risen 15-fold, with one venue reporting a hike from $1,500 to $35,000. Rising costs are “the biggest issue in the live space right now,” explains Stephen Wade, chairman of the ALMBC and CEO of leading agency Select Music.
The so-called insurance cliff has been a “massive issue” for the industry and remains unresolved, although it is being addressed positively, he continues. In one potential solution, the trade body has approached several underwriters on behalf of its members, with the proposition to underwrite venues under an appropriate scheme that is both affordable and provides adequate cover.
Despite the challenges, business is roaring
The domestic live scene “is extremely vibrant and alive; on any Saturday night, we’re booking more than 25 shows at different venues across the country,” explains Darren Aboud, the former Universal Music Australia senior executive who recently joined Select Music Agency as chief operating officer. “Music has roared back post-Covid as people have longed for meaningful real experiences.” He adds, “Quality shows from quality artists will continue to sell.”
Those quality acts include homegrown talent. “Business is 100% on the up as far as we are seeing at our agency,” says Select Music’s Wade, “and we have a new wave of acts that we have been developing over the past 18 months who are all realising their potential and selling huge amounts of tickets.”
“We’re booking stuff into stadiums already into 2025”
As business grows, further investment is coming. Brisbane should benefit from at least AU$7bn in state and federal commitments for infrastructure, including the erection of the 18,000-capacity Brisbane Live venue.
Elsewhere, Cedar Mill Group has a raft of developments on the go, including winery circuit venues designed to integrate seamlessly, and a major project at Lake Macquarie. That planned 30,000-capacity venue on the doorstep of the Central Coast and Hunter region north of Sydney, “will be within reach of over a million people”, explains Paul Lambess, managing director at Cedar Mill Group. It represents the “first time an arena-sized venue in Australia will be built and funded by a private individual rather than a multinational corporation or a government body.”
Cedar Mill’s venues plans “are just as robust as the current touring cycle”, he continues. “The development runway is long and the investment substantial.”
Luke Hede, vice president of touring at Live Nation, says the outlook is excellent. “We’re booking stuff into stadiums already into 2025,” he told the audience during the Promoters Panel at the 2023 VMA Congress in May. “Hopefully, it won’t all be concertinaed like it was this year in the first quarter. But there’s certainly a lot of product coming through. 2019 was our biggest year ever with Live Nation. We’ve already surpassed the ticket sales this year for 2019. So, it’s been a phenomenal start. It looks like it’s going to continue.”
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Australia’s Falls Festival to forego 2023 edition
Australia’s long-running Falls Festival will not take place this year in order to “allow space to reimagine how the festival will look in the future”.
The travelling festival last took place across New Year’s Eve 2022 with artists including Arctic Monkeys, CHVRCHES, The Wiggles, PinkPantheress, Amyl & The Sniffers and Spacey Jane.
The Victorian leg of the event last year was due to move from its longtime home in the seaside town of Lorne to Birregurra in Colac, a small city in the western district of Victoria, after the local authority approved a planning permit.
However, local farmers raised concerns over the event’s potential impact on cattle at neighbouring farms and launched an appeal against the decision, which wasn’t heard until February/March. Therefore, organisers Secret Sounds were forced to move the event to Sidney Myer Music Bowl in downtown Melbourne.
“We look forward to updating you with our plans when the time is right”
Falls has faced other challenges in the last couple of years, including two postponed festivals due to Covid-19 lockdowns and a 2019 event in Lorne cancelled due to insurmountable bushfire risk.
“The past few years has seen unprecedented change in the live music space, both front of house and behind the scenes,” Secret Sounds co-CEO and Falls producer Jessica Ducrou said in a statement. “While Falls’ reboot in 2022/23 was full of amazing moments and we were thrilled to reconnect with our Falls Fam, our team needs a break, so this year we’ll take time off to enjoy the holiday period and allow some space to re-imagine how Falls will look in the future.”
Ducrou added: “We send huge love and appreciation to all our patrons for their ongoing support and for the great vibes they brought to the 2022/23 events. You really are the heart and soul of Falls and we look forward to updating you with our plans when the time is right. We also want to send our love and thanks to our extended Falls team including staff, contractors, volunteers, sponsors, partners, suppliers, stakeholders and key agencies that we work with each year, for their enduring passion, dedication and support.”
Live Nation-owned Secret Sounds has been organising Falls Festival for 28 years, alongside other events including Splendour in the Grass, Harvest Rock, Spin Off, Spilt Milk and Heaps Good.
Australian fests rebound to pre-pandemic levels
Australia’s summer festivals have defied expectations by reporting attendance figures on a par with pre-Covid levels.
Despite many promoters expressing fears that the economic climate – as well as the ongoing effects of flooding in several states – would result in softer ticket sales, major events such as Laneway, Falls, Tamworth Country Music Festival (TCMF) and Woodford Folk pulled in bumper crowds.
According to The Music Network, Laneway’s Brisbane (4 February) and Sydney (5 February) editions attracted a combined 46,000 punters to see acts such as Haim, Phoebe Bridgers, Finneas, Fontaines DC and Fred Again. The travelling festival landed in Adelaide today, with additional legs still to come in Melbourne and Perth this weekend. A 30 January stop in Auckland, New Zealand was cancelled due to “biblical” flooding.
“It was awesome to see new festival goers attending for the first time ever and our regular fans returning to support us and the incredible 2023 line-up,” say Laneway co-founders Danny Rogers and Jerome Borazio.
Secret Sounds’ first Falls Festival in three years drew around 20,000 people to each of its Melbourne, Byron Bay and Fremantle editions with a line-up headed by Arctic Monkeys and Lil Nas X, while TCMF averaged 30,000 fans a day over 10 days.
“Huge thanks to our Falls community for their ongoing support and love for the festival”
“Huge thanks to our Falls community for their ongoing support and love for the festival, as well as to everyone that has helped make the return of Falls 2022/2023 such a success,” say festival producers Jessica Ducrou and Paul Piticco.
Elsewhere, Woodford Folk Festival enticed an estimated 120,000 festival-goers over six days (20,000 a day), Sydney’s Field Day recorded a 27,000 sellout at The Domain, and Victoria’s Meredith Music aggregated 37,500 over three days (12,500 a day).
In less positive news, Queensland’s Jungle Love Festival has cancelled its 2023 edition, which was scheduled for September, citing financial concerns.
“The ongoing inflation is driving supplier costs up to amounts that aren’t financially feasible for us,” says a social media post by organisers. “And with the cost of living going up, we understand many people are struggling to justify the expense of a multi-day festival. We’re just not seeing the ticket sales we need to be assured that we can pay for the expense of creating a mini-city for three days.
“Having had many setbacks since 2020 that could have defeated us, we’ve decided to lay low until better economic times rather than try to fight this uphill battle. We’ll be back when we have the confidence that we can make it a success and make the balance sheet work. As a small independent not-for-profit event, our margins are thin, and we can not afford the risk of operating at another loss.”
Falls Festival organisers halt site move plan
Plans to find a new home in Victoria for Australia’s long-running Falls Festival have fallen through after organisers withdrew from the planning process.
Promoter Secret Sounds had previously announced the travelling festival would move from its longtime home in the seaside town of Lorne to Birregurra in Colac, a small city in the western district of Victoria, after the local authority approved a planning permit.
However, local farmers raised concerns over the event’s potential impact on cattle at neighbouring farms and launched an appeal against the decision, which was due to be heard in February and March. However, the Sydney Morning Herald reports that organisers have now decided to withdraw from the process.
“A small group of objectors opposed the planning permit approval for Falls Birregurra in Murroon, and applied to VCAT [Victorian Civil Administrative Tribunal] to put a halt to it,” says Secret Sounds co-CEO Jessica Ducrou. “Unfortunately, following initial compulsory mediation, the parties could not achieve a resolution.
“Given the time and expense, we have decided to withdraw from the approval process”
“Given the time and expense, we have decided to withdraw from the approval process. It has taken two years of consultation and planning permit approval processes to get to this point and despite support from the local community and Colac Otway Council, the process has been stalled by the objectors through VCAT.”
Dicrou adds that organisers will re-assess the VCAT approval process next year.
The travelling festival is relocating from regional Victoria for the first time in its 30-year history and is set for Sidney Myer Music Bowl in Melbourne from 29-31 December with acts such as Arctic Monkeys, Lil Nas X and Chvrches.
Additional legs will also go ahead in Byron Bay (31 December 2022 to 2 January 2023) and Freemantle (7-8 January 2023).
Australia’s Falls Festival forced to relocate
Australia’s Falls Festival is set to relocate from regional Victoria for the first time in its 30-year history.
The event, promoted by Live Nation-owned Secret Sounds, will now take place at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl in Melbourne with the likes of Arctic Monkeys, Lil Nas X and CHVRCHES performing across two stages.
Secret Sounds had previously announced the event would move from its longtime home in the seaside town of Lorne to Birregurra in Colac, a small city in the western district of Victoria, after the local authority approved a planning permit.
However, despite strong community support, an application was made to the Victorian civil and administrative tribunal by a group of locals appealing the decision.
A hearing date for the appeal had been set for February and March – after the event was scheduled to take place on 29–31 December – which prompted the relocation to Melbourne.
“Thanks so much for all the support from stakeholders, artists and all who contribute to Falls, we’re thrilled that the show will go on at Sidney Myer Music Bowl, ringing in the new year in downtown Melbourne,” the festival’s co-producer Jessica Ducrou said.
A hearing date for the appeal had been set for February and March – after the event was scheduled to take place
Among those opposed to the event being held at Birregurra are Colac farmers concerned about the event’s potential impact on cattle at neighbouring farms.
Some told local media that noise and light from the show could potentially harm their livestock.
“We’ve heard all about the businesses that are going to benefit from this. But my business is farming,” the Gerangamete farmer Chris Roberts told the Surf Coast Times. “What are we going to get out of this festival going forward? I don’t know.”
The Colac Otway mayor, Kate Hanson, said the appeal application was a blow for the area.
“Council is disappointed for community groups and business owners who were looking forward to an increase in spending in the region this year,” Hanson said. “However, we’re pleased that Secret Sounds is still keen to continue to consider our shire for future Falls festival events.”
Ticket holders who are unable to attend the new venue in Melbourne can apply for a refund.
Australia’s Secret Sounds plans new rock festival
Harvest Rock will debut on 19 and 20 November this year at Rymill & King Rodney Parks in Adelaide, South Australia.
Jack White and Kurt Vile will perform at the two-day event for what will be their only Australia shows this year.
They’re joined on the bill by Crowded House, The Black Crowes, Tones & I, Khruangbin, Groove Armada, Courtney Barnett, Sam Fender and Hot Chip.
“The inaugural Harvest Rock will bring both iconic and hot new international artists from around the world to downtown Adelaide, alongside an abundance of incredible talent from our own shores,” says Secret Sounds co-CEO and Harvest Rock producer Jessica Ducrou.
Jack White and Kurt Vile will perform at the two-day event for what will be their only Australia shows this year
“Presenting South Australia’s best in show food and wine offerings including cellar door pop-ups, a mash-up of chefs and musicians on our Feastiville Stage and Little Harvest for the kids, were excited to provide a festival with many different facets. We’re planning a good old-fashioned get-together with great music, food and wine, so come and experience Harvest Rock in all its glory.”
Events South Australia executive director Hitaf Rasheed adds: “The inaugural Harvest Rock in the heart of our city – the country’s only UNESCO City of Music – is going to be something to experience.
“It is fantastic that the festival also highlights our state’s world-class food and beverage, which will attract foodies to sample some of our finest produce in a unique atmosphere. This announcement is another example of events in South Australia returning, bigger and better than ever, with Harvest Rock set to be a staple in festival-goers’ calendars for many years to come.”
The Lumineers, The Avalanches, Genesis Owusu, The Living End, Cat Power, You Am I, Meg Mac, Marlon Williams, Holy Holy, Alex Cameron, Ruby Fields and Alien Stone are also set to perform at Harvest Rock.
LN-owned Secret Sounds buys Kicks Entertainment
Kicks is a premier Australian event management company which founded Foreshore Festival, Warehouse Festival and flagship festival Spilt Milk. The latter has sold out within minutes every year since its 2016 debut and has since expanded to three locations, Canberra, Ballarat and Gold Coast.
Financial terms of the deal between Secret Sounds and Kick Entertainment have not been disclosed.
“As festival and music fans ourselves, it’s exciting for us to have new partners that share our vision for event experiences that are fan-focused,” say Kicks Entertainment co-owners Jeff Drake and Ryan Sabet. “This partnership will evolve our conversations with artists and provide opportunities to activate venues and festivals that can house them. It will strengthen our ability to produce festival tours that deliver on our vision of ensuring quality over quantity.”
“[This] will strengthen our ability to produce festival tours that deliver on our vision of ensuring quality over quantity”
“Partnering with Secret Sounds and Live Nation is a natural step towards securing the future of new events and cementing those currently in the roster. The majority stake acquisition is also a boost for our loyal, local team. It brings new opportunities to enhance the already exceptional Kicks offerings and provides resources at an important time when fan experience is paramount.”
Secret Sounds co-CEOs Jessica Ducrou and Paul Piticco, add: “We’ve admired Jeff and Ryan’s work for a long time, they are brilliant entrepreneurs and the next generation of Australian promoters.
“We’ve been super impressed with the way they deliver their events and the consistent growth they’ve achieved with Spilt Milk, including the addition of a Gold Coast show which promptly sold out within days. We are very excited about this partnership and we’re looking forward to combining all of our skillsets and knowledge to support Spilt Milk’s further growth in the future.”
Secret Sounds is enjoying a bountiful return to live events, with a sold-out Splendour in the Grass (cap 50,000), the ‘biggest Falls line-up ever’ featuring Lil Nas X and Arctic Monkeys, and a slate of sold-out tours including Gorillaz, The Strokes and Jack Harlow.
Live Nation bought a majority stake in the New South Wales-based company in 2016, acquiring a 51% stake in Splendour and Falls, as well as its touring, sponsorship, PR, artist management and agency divisions.
Live Nation teams on new 1,800-cap Australia venue
Live Nation has teamed with Secret Sounds, Five Four Entertainment, and the team behind Brisbane’s Fortitude Music Hall and The Triffid venues to launch a new live music venue in Adelaide, Australia.
Set to open in August, the 1,800-capacity Hindley Street Music Hall will also include a separate street level nightclub and restaurant, and will act as a hub for domestic and international touring artists.
The AUS$6 million (€3.9m) project is a large-scale redevelopment of the previous HQ nightclub and will create at least 60 jobs.
Secret Sounds co-founder and co-CEO Paul Piticco says the soon to be announced official launch party will be “a celebration of South Australia’s finest musical acts, both past and present as the focal point of the night”.
“South Australia is the State of Art and I have long-admired the value that SA puts on culture and social infrastructure,” says Piticco. “Our plan is to build one of the best music halls right here on Hindley Street, and to also do our bit filling it with the greatest local and international talent.”
Secret Sounds is Australia’s largest festival promoter, organising events such as Splendour in the Grass, Falls Festival, Spin Off Festival and the new Harvest Rock Festival, and works on shows by with acts such as Mark Ronson, London Grammar, The Strokes, Gorillaz and Liam Gallagher.
“The venue will ensure the continued development of the city’s incredible live entertainment scene”
“I’m stoked to be bringing my experience and passion to a city I’ve always truly loved,” says venue director John Collins. “We’ve spent a lot of time on the design of the venue ensuring the relationship between the performer and the audience is the best it can be, and to create an incredibly intimate space where fans feel super close and connected to the artist. I want the Hindley St Music Hall to really contribute to Adelaide’s music culture and become an artist and fan-favourite for years to come.”
Live Nation already runs Australian venues including the Palais Theatre in Melbourne and Spark Arena in Auckland, and will assist the new site in attracting high calibre performers to South Australia.
“Hindley Street Music Hall will be a great new addition to our venues across Australia,” says Live Nation Asia Pacific president Roger Field. “The venue will ensure the continued development of the city’s incredible live entertainment scene and will attract amazing performances for local music fans to enjoy while also creating jobs for the local community.”
Five Four Entertainment, meanwhile, runs various large scale music festivals in South Australia, including Spin Off Festival and St Jerome’s Laneway Festival, and opened the 500-cap Lion Arts Factory in 2019.
“As a proud South Australian who has worked in the local music industry for more than 10 years, I am extremely excited to be part of this project,” says Five Four founder Craig Lock. “Having a venue of this size and quality will no doubt increase the calibre of artists willing to play in SA. Music fans should be really excited about this venue cementing Adelaide as part of global touring circuit.”
The venue is preparing to host confirmed artists including Honne and Pub Choir, with a slew of international and domestic acts yet to be announced.