Hultsfred Canceled

Within seven months of the local council bailing it out to the tune of $3.5 million, this year’s Hultsfred Festival has been canceled and the company that runs it has filed for bankruptcy.

This year’s edition of the Swedish festival was called off June 29, when the directors of Rockparty – which founded the event in 1986 – realised it may be unlawful to continue trading.

At press time it wasn’t possible to discover if the cancellation of this year’s gathering, which would have been July 7-9, is also the end of Hultsfred.

Fans who bought tickets are being offered the chance to exchange them for tickets for Sweden’s Rock Weekend in Söderhamn, which runs July 8-10, or wait for news of what those dealing with the bankruptcy are able to do about refunds.

The 32,000-capacity event has been one of the country’s most prestigious outdoors, but competing for top talent has drained its finances. Many in the Swedish live music business believe that for years it’s been trying to punch above its weight.

E-mails sent to Hultsfred press officer Håkan Durmer get an automatic response that says: “We currently have very high pressure in the mail while we have a number of purely practical tasks to be solved in a short time. … Because of this, I will in the near future not have time to answer all emails.”

Until five years ago, Hultsfred was Sweden’s biggest festival, but it’s since taken heavy losses twice and seemingly got itself embroiled in a turf war between Live Nation and AEG.

The festival decided it wasn’t benefiting from being locked into working exclusively through AEG, which had booked the event for two years, and opted to bring the talent-buying back in-house.

The local Hultsfred Kommun paid the festival the $3.5 million at the end of last year, a move that caused such controversy that one of the councilors who voted in favour received a death threat.

Eighty percent of the $3.5 million was to settle outstanding debt, with the remaining 20 percent to be used as working capital.
When there were poor ticket sales for a 2010 bill that included Scissor Sisters, Deftones, 30 Seconds To Mars, The Ting Tings, Killswitch Engage, and top Swedish acts including The Hives, Kent and The Ark, it seems the working capital ran dry.

There had been a shakeup at Hultsfred in 2007 when Per Alexanderson, one of the festival’s founders, returned from running Malmo Festival to replace JP Bordahl as chief exec. Bordahl left by what was described as “mutual consent” after the 2006 edition dropped $1 million.

Last year, when Hultsfred was on its financial knees again, Alexanderson quit on the grounds that he no longer believed he was the man who could turn things around.

Before the local council came to the rescue, acting festival chief Putte Svensson – another Hultsfred founder – had been overseeing a skeleton crew, with many of them working out their notices.