Although owing its survival to the local council writing off at least US$1.6 million worth of unrecoupable loans, new Quart Festival GM Daniel Nordgard says the Norweigan event has learned from its mistakes.
The festival, for many years Norway’s most popular and successful outdoor, was dealt a huge blow when director Toffen Gunnufsen, festival booker Peer Osmundsvaag and a few other Quart Festival staff upped sticks to start a new festival a week before Quart and barely an hour away.
Gunnufsen’s new Hove Festival at Arendal did well, with Brandon Flowers from The Killers saying it was the band’s best European outdoor "from a sheer mind-blowing natural phenomenon point of view." But the country’s live music industry’s mind was blown by a battle that turned Norway’s outdoor market on its head and threatened its biggest festival with extinction.
The upshot was that Hove became the country’s No. 1 crowd-pulling festival, with about 11,000 per day, although it probably only barely beat Oslo’s Oya.
Quart didn’t even make third place. Its regular 12,000-per day crowd was cut by more than half to less than 5,000, while Norwegian Wood – held on a natural 7,000-capacity amphitheatre in Oslo’s Frogner Park – did about 1,000 more per day.
It left Kristiansand Council’s cultural department facing the fact that it couldn’t get back very much of the reported 12.9 million krona (around $2.25 million) it had loaned without bankrupting the event.
Quart came so close to cancellation and financial disaster that the cultural department had to make a million-dollar emergency loan mid-festival to ensure The Who got paid and the rain-lashed event ran its course.
Festival chief exec Magne Aasheim Knudsen, general manager Helge Josdal, and the board have since stood down, although not before persuading the city to continue with the festival.
Nordgard, who has served on the city’s cultural board, and new festival booker Andy Ingliss, whose London-based background includes working for Barfly, are faced with a smaller budget and have cut the festival from five days to four.
Norgard says they’ll also concentrate on building the event on its old tradition of focusing on emerging acts rather than competing for headliners with Europe’s gargantuan festivals.
This year’s July 2-5 bill includes Kings of Leon, Death Cab For Cutie, Johnossi, The Hives, Interpol, Kate Nash, Röyksopp, Dizzee Rascal, The Enemy, Kaizers Orchestra, Friendly Fires, The Streets and I’m From Barcelona.
It looks set to face another battle with Hove, which is a week earlier, and additional pressure of falling on the same weekend as Denmark’s Roskilde, which attracts an estimated 14,000 Norwegian music fans.
Gunnufsen is also expecting a tough year, although he’s buoyed by sales being up 15 percent on the same time last year and the event is already two-thirds of the way to breaking even.
He says this year’s main problems are the growing number of small Norwegian festivals, which he estimates to have increased from 10 to 100 in a decade, and the fact that many of the acts he’s considered for headliners aren’t available at the time.
The June 23-27 Hove lineup includes Bullet For My Valentine, Jay-Z, Panic At The Disco, Cavalera Conspiracy, The Raconteurs, Beck, The Kooks, Babyshambles, Duffy, Goldfrapp, Hellacopters, Opeth, The Pigeon Detectives and The Ting Tings.