Mixed Fortunes For Aussie Festivals

Despite the buoyancy of the Australian festival circuit, major promoters had warned for the last few years that it could not sustain.

Too many festivals were chasing the same major acts and delivering the same experience to an increasingly jaded audience, which became more choosy about where to put its spending dollars.

And so, 2011 was the year the bubble burst.

Longtime standbys such as Bluesfest, the Tamworth Country Music Festival, Soundwave, Supafest, Splendour in The Grass, Groovin’ The Moo, Laneway, Peats Ridge, Future Music and Meredith Music recorded their best attendance or maintained their draw.

Supafest and Future Music are planning events abroad, following Laneway, which in recent years broke into the Southeast Asian market.

But a record number of festivals endured a bad year. Two inaugural attempts – the Australian version of the UK’s ’80s-themed Rewind and metal-hard rock offshoot Soundwave Revolution – pulled the plug before kicking off.

Perth’s One Movement For Music, NSW’s Great Southern Blues and Funk N Grooves, Brisbane’s Sunset Sounds and Newcastle’s New Beginnings also canceled.

The five-city Good Vibrations, Tasmania’s Soundscape and the Australian run of Ragamuffin announced they were taking the year off. Australia’s longest-lasting festival – Canberra’s Stonefest – which was first staged in 1968, drastically downsized.

Even the doyen of modern day-festivals, Big Day Out, saw the split of the 20-year partnership of Ken West and Viv Lees over whether to cancel the event in 2012.

West told Pollstar Big Day Out faced a dilemma securing headliners and got into a bidding war that stretched its finances.

Eminem, for instance, turned down a fee of A$6 million for six shows to do his own headlining run with Dainty Consolidated in December, a month before Big Day Out. To steady the ship, West canceled a number of major acts for the 2012 festival including headliner Kanye West.

However, Business Review Weekly’s Top 50 earning Australian entertainers 2011 list showed nine promoters and 11 music acts made the cut.

Topping the annual list again was Global Creatures, the production company behind the global smash “Walking With Dinosaurs,” with $62 million, which was half of its earnings last year.

Michael Gudinski of Frontier Touring was at No. 4 with $19 million; Paul Dainty at No. 7 with $17.1 million; Michael Coppel at No. 8 with $16.9 million and Michael Chugg at No. 11 with $9.1 million.

Further down were John Frost at No. 17 ($7.6 million); Ken West and Viv Lees of Big Day Out at No. 24 ($4.9 million); Mark James and Jason Ayoubi of Future Entertainment at No. 25 ($4.6 million); Jessica Ducrou and Paul Piticco of Secret Sounds at No. 30 ($3.8 million) and John Wall and Ming Gan of Fuzzy Entertainment at No. 41 ($2.8 million).
Of artists, The Wiggles ranked the highest at No. 2 with $28.2 million.

Kylie Minogue was at No. 9 ($15 million); AC/DC at No. 12 ($9 million), Powderfinger at No. 20 ($6.2 million); Hi-5 at No. 26 ($4.5 million); the Australian Pink Floyd Show at No. 34 ($3.3 million); Dannii Minogue at No. 35 ($3.2 million); Peter Andre at No. 39 ($3 million); Human Nature at No. 42 ($2.6 million) and Keith Urban at No. 50 ($2.3 million).

According to the magazine, the Top 50 earned a total of $409.7 million, a 29 percent decrease from last year when total earnings hit $579.5 million.