Hultsfred May Need To Shed Staff

A loss of US$1 million (6,900,000 kr) on this year’s Hultsfred Festival in Sweden may result in the organizers shedding staff and mortgaging property to survive.

Festival board member Åsa Johnsen says Rock Party, the company that runs the festival, may have to layoff some of the approximately 50 staffers the Swedish company employs to run the event and other interests including a concert venue, a bar and restaurant.

Festival chief JP Bordahl has already departed, apparently leaving by "mutual consent" after this year’s event fell more than 5,000 attendees short of the 28,000 needed to break even.

"We have 15 people working on the festival all year round but we need most of those people to be working here all year round, and so the company may look at the other businesses that it runs," Johnsen told Pollstar.

Bordahl has been replaced by Rock Party co-founder and current Malmo Festival director Per Alexandersson, but the company is hanging fire on making further changes until it’s carried out a complete review of its management structure.

Johnsen doesn’t expect any decisions until the end of August, when Rock Party may also have a better idea of the feasibility of mortgaging its own office building to raise working capital for Hultsfred 2008.

Despite the setback, one of a few the festival has suffered in recent years, she says the current financial woes aren’t so bad that Hultsfred’s future is in any sort of jeopardy.

This year’s poor attendance was said to be due to the increasing competition from new festivals such as Way Out West, the expansion of Accelerator Festival, and the increasing number of smaller events that are mushrooming all around and taking little bits of the market.

Johnsen also said Denmark’s 75,000-capacity Roskilde Festival (July 5-8), which falls two weeks after Hultsfred, selling out a month in advance showed the Swedish event was in for a tough time.

"Many people in Scandinavia decide each year which one they’ll visit between Roskilde and Hultsfred, but there are very few that go to both each year," she explained.

Only a last-minute cancellation from Linkin Park stopped Hultsfred from taking a huge loss in 2003.

After the following year’s festival, Bordahl announced it had done 90 percent business, but he qualified that by adding that profits were still low because the event runs at a high break-even, largely due to the cost of trying to attract "the best available international talent."

The acts on this year’s June 14-16 Hultsfred bill included Ozzy Osbourne, 50 Cent, Pet Shop Boys, Korn, Turbonegro, Mando Diao, Evanescence, Wolfmother, Billy Talent, Gentleman, Razorlight and The View. – John Gammon