Groovin the Moo Abruptly Cancelled — Why So Many Australian Music Festivals Are in Trouble

Groovin the Moo cancelled
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Groovin the Moo cancelled
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Photo Credit: Jay Wennington

A major Australian music festival is abruptly cancelled, leading many to question the future of Aussie festivals amid a cost-of-living crisis.

Australian music festival Groovin the Moo, due to kick off in South Australia this spring, has been abruptly cancelled only two weeks after this year’s lineup was officially announced, citing insufficient ticket sales. The news came to ticketholders in an email on Thursday (February 15), alongside a notice posted on the festival’s website. It becomes the latest Aussie festival to be nixed in the wake of a cost-of-living crisis.

“We are extremely disappointed to announce that the GTM 2024 tour has been forced to cancel,” wrote festival organizers. “Ticket sales have not been sufficient to deliver a regional festival of this kind. All tickets will be refunded automatically. Thank you to everybody who has supported the festival. We hope to be able to bring Groovin the Moo back to regional communities in the future.”

An annual event, the 2024 edition of Groovin the Moo was set to feature an array of artists including King Stingray, The Beaches, San Cisco, Melanie C of Spice Girls fame, Meduza, Wu Tang’s GZA, Stephen Sanchez, Jet, Alison Wonderland, Mallrat, DMA’S, and The Jungle Giants. The festival was set to begin in late April, running until mid-May, with venues in Bendigo, Bunbury, Canberra, Newcastle, and Sunshine Coast.

In the past, Groovin the Moo has brought in artists like Alt-J, Billie Eilish, Sofi Tukker, The Wombats, Charli XCX, Channel Tres, Denzel Curry, and Disclosure to Australian fans who live outside the major metropolitan areas.

The festival’s abrupt cancellation rings alarm bells in the Aussie festival scene, which has already seen several cancellations of events in recent weeks, including Coastal Jam, Dark Mofo, Falls Festival, Goomfest, and ValleyWays. The sharp decrease in ticket sales among the very people who normally flock to these events is due in no small part to a cost-of-living crisis, which has hit the arts sector perhaps hardest of all.

“If people are struggling to pay rent and struggling to buy food, they’re not going to be spending hundreds of dollars on a ticket to a festival or a concert, unfortunately,” said Dr. Catherine Strong, a sociologist specializing in popular music studies at RMIT University.

“Of course, all of those things are impacting the people putting on the festivals as well — everybody from artists who are touring through to those pulling together all the infrastructure, and even vendors on the day selling food and drinks.”

“The flow-on effect of all those extra costs means festivals are going to be on a much tighter budget,” Dr. Strong continues. “They’re going to be on much more of a knife edge than they would have been in the past.”

To make matters worse, many festival and venue operators are still recovering the financial losses of the COVID-19 pandemic, which created public health restrictions that all but decimated the live entertainment sector. In Australia, many operators are reportedly still running at huge losses caused by the pandemic.

“The industry is struggling with the impacts of skyrocketing inflation and uncertain economic times,” said Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, spokesperson for the Australian Greens party, who has written to Arts Minister Tony Burke to call on the Commonwealth to fund live music grants in the upcoming budget. “Art matters. Live music matters. It’s time we let the arts industry in from the cold.”

Fees for international artists traveling to Australia are much higher, with the cost of physically flying them having gone up, in addition to airfares. Virtually all aspects of running a festival in Australia continue to cost more — with everything from staging and equipment to insurance.

But despite its struggles, the festival scene in Australia isn’t going anywhere. It just might take a little time for the industry to thrive in the country the way it once did. Australians are nothing if not resilient and adaptable.