Benicassim Takes A Dip

It may still turn out to be Spain’s best-attended festival this summer, but Benicassim took a real dip as the crowd was down more than 30 percent on last year.

Festivals have appeared immune to the factors contributing to a 10 percent drop in global concert ticket sales compared with last year. Benicassim’s new owners – a Vince Power-led consortium that includes fellow Irish promoter Denis Desmond – will be investigating why such a major European festival took such a massive hit.

In ballpark figures, the average daily crowd at Benicassim was down to 31,750 – a 36.5 percent drop on last year when it sold out its 50,000 per day capacity.

Four-day camping tickets were £160 including booking fee, and losing more than 18,000 of them would have wiped out nearly £3 million off the gross.

Spain’s economic situation and high unemployment will likely get the blame, particularly as Rock in Rio Madrid’s figures were down on the original version in 2008. But comparing Benicassim to Rock In Rio, which did 40,000 less (or 13.8 percent) than it did two years ago, is hardly comparing like-for-like.

More worrying for Power and Desmond is that Primavera Sound Festival, which was in Barcelona’s San Miguel Parc del Fòrum May 27-29, reported that attendance rose 24 percent, averaging more than 33,000 per day.

Three years ago, the consortium bought 80 percent of Festival Internacional de Benicàssim (FIB) from José Luis and Miguel Morán of Maraworld, who established the event in 1995. The consortium snapped up the remaining 20 percent at the end of last year.

Despite taking such a knock, Power has underlined his commitment to Benicassim, referring to it as his “favourite festival.” He’s also reiterated his plan to twin it with a new festival he’ll start in northern Spain.

In 2008 he twinned it by staging a new Benicassim in Madrid, which clashed with the Summercase Festival that Jose Cahahia was staging 20 miles away.

Benicassim denied the festival had been forced into choosing Madrid because the bands were already contracted to play a twinned event when it discovered it couldn’t find a site in any of the other major Spanish cities. Crowd figures suggested the clash did a lot of damage to both Summercase and Benicassim.

A weak Spanish economy doesn’t appear to have attracted foreign visitors, as the number attending this year’s Benicassim dropped by almost a half.

As more Europeans, particularly Brits, Germans, and the Dutch, chose festivals as holiday destinations, maybe some of those who regularly attended Benicassim are now looking elsewhere.

Some may have felt the Benicassim bill, which had Oasis, Franz Ferdinand and The Killers in 2009, wasn’t so strong this year. Foreign visitors may also have unpleasant memories of last year’s Benicassim, when Kings Of Leon had to pull its slot as high winds whipped through the site and left the camping area looking like a disaster zone.

The acts playing this year’s Benicassim July 15-18 included Kasabian, Julian Casablancas, The Prodigy, Gorillaz, Ray Davies, Vampire Weekend, Hot Chip, DJ Shadow, The Specials and Charlotte Gainsbourg.