Music Festivals Are Facing an ‘Extinction Event’ — Reports from Australia & Ireland Grim

music festival extinction event coming australia and ireland reports
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music festival extinction event coming australia and ireland reports
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Photo Credit: Chinh Le Luc

Music festival organizers in the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Australia are struggling, with Bluesfest director Peter Noble suggesting a music festival ‘extinction event’ is on the horizon—with very few survivors.

Just a few weeks ago, Digital Music News reported that more than 42 music festivals in the UK that have announced a postponement, cancellation, or complete closure in 2024. That data comes from the Association of Independent Music Festivals, which tracks the health of long-standing local music festivals and venues. Ireland saw the highest number of cancellations in recent months including events like Body and Soul in County Westmeath and Wild Roots 2024 in County Sligo.

Elsewhere, Australian music festivals are also experiencing hard times, while stateside staples like Coachella are suddenly witnessing softening demand. So what’s going on?

Bluesfest director Peter Noble says he believes something akin to an “extinction event” is ongoing in the live concert industry. Noble delivered those comments while collecting the award for Best Music Festival during the Variety Live Business Breakfast in Sydney, Australia.

“We all know when you go to the supermarket, when you think about what it costs you, when you go to the restaurant for your meal, we all know that people are doing it tough in Australia today and they’re not going out as much as they did,” Noble told the audience, according to event reports. “Go to your new local movie theater; it’s not just festivals doing it tough.”

‘Doing it tough’ is Australian slang for finding yourself in a desperate situation. Noble noted that the live music space is a difficult one, calling it a “three or four speed economy.” Noble remarked that larger tours like Taylor Swift and P!nk are doing brilliantly, however. As Digital Music News notes, other acts like The Black Keys and Jennifer Lopez are not—with entire tours cancelled.

“Everything has gone up in recent years across the board, everything from insurance costs, artist fees to affording fuel for generators,” the Director of the Stendhal Festival in County Londonberry, Ross Parhill, recently told the BBC. “Our program budget for artists is probably about 25% of our overall budget—this is substantial.”

“Any fees over a few thousand pounds you are paying a 50% deposit, and quite often for the higher fees you are then paying 100% before the gig, which is significant pressure.”

“In our world, the funding climate isn’t great and then you’re remaining quite fluid in a lot of decisions depending on how confident you are with your ticket sales.”