Hultsfred Hits New Low

It’s suffered from financial problems over the last few years, but newspaper reports suggest Sweden’s Hultsfred Festival has hit a new low.

This year’s July 8-11 gathering is said to have attracted more than 23,000 per day, but that doesn’t seem enough to have averted a financial freefall.

Per Alexandersson, who was brought in to steady the ship after the 2007 event reportedly dropped $1 million, resigned his post July 22.

The national media says other staffers, including as many as 20 on salary, have been advised that their jobs aren’t secure.

“We don’t see any option but to do next year, and we’ve not had any thoughts of quitting,” said Hultsfred representative Håkan Durmer, while admitting that festival owners Rock Party may have to hold a quick fire sale to solve immediate cashflow problems.

He confirmed that Alexandersson, unlike his predecessor JP Bordahl, who was ousted after the 2007 event, had been under no pressure to quit and that he would continue to work with the festival in some capacity.

His job as festival director is still open, although his role as managing director of the Rock Party companies is being temporarily filled by Putte Svensson.

Durmer said the festival gave staff notice to comply with Swedish employment law, in case it needs to make reductions. He believes liquidating assets will be enough to pay off creditors and leave a cash pool for Hultsfred 2010.

On the block could be Rock Party’s 49 percent share of a private school, any office buildings it’s not using and a large inventory of festival equipment.

Durmer, who says the festival is trying to arrange payment terms with its creditors, claims this year’s losses could have been borne but Hultsfred had to immediately repay all the short-term loans it borrowed after the $1 million losses from 2007.

The event, once arguably the country’s biggest and most prestigious outdoor, may have to alter its booking policy to stay afloat.

It’s third at best in terms of the crowd size of Swedish festivals. It’s been overtaken by the increasingly popular Love & Peace Festival, which attracted a 40,000-plus crowd to Borlänge June 22-27 to see a lineup of mainly Scandinavian talent such as local heroes Mando Diao, The Soundtrack Of Our Lives and The Sounds.

The international acts included Faith No More, Keane, Gogol Bordello, Mötley Crüe, Pete Doherty and The Kooks.

Sweden Rock, the country’s designated metal bash, did 33,000 per day June 3-6, and younger festivals like Live Nation’s Where The Action Is in Stockholm and Way Out West (Aug. 14-15) in Gothenburg have the capacity of more than the 23,000 or so that Hultsfred attracted.

Even on a rain-soaked Stockholm University campus June 12-13, an average of 13,500 per day showed for a Where The Action Is bill that included Neil Young, The Pixies, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds and Duffy. A year earlier and in much better weather it did 18,000 as a one-dayer.

Ola Broquist, who runs Way Out West for LN, believes the Gothenburg event may sell out its 25,000 capacity and shade Hultsfred out of third slot in the 2009 crowd-pulling stakes.

At Arvika Festival (July 2-4), where Broquist and Live Nation book the international acts, the daily crowds for a lineup that had Depeche Mode, Nine Inch Nails, Korn, and Röyksopp were in the same 23,000-plus bracket.