Should Australian Festivals Support Australian Talent?
It’s that time of year again, festival lineups are out and punters’ pockets are beginning to empty as Summer approaches with a hoard of both international and local acts about to hit the road in aid of our enjoyment of the sun.
But behind the summer idealism and musical parties that we all look forward to is a fiercely competitive festival market of promoters that work all year round to earn our dollars.
Festival lineups either bring out our snarkiest social media comments or force us onto a diet of Mi Goreng and Goon in order to save the necessary cash in order to afford the asking price.
What is the magic element that ensnares our purchase though? Is there a successful formula for lineup success? What is the precise balance of international acts versus local talent that is necessary for a festival to sell out, let alone survive?
Looking towards the festival lineups that have been released for the summer ahead, as well as further back to earlier this year, there is a clear distinction between some of the country’s most well-known one day festivals and camping festivals.
Looking at the acts that have made up the bills of both recent and forthcoming camping festivals, it’s clear that a host of Australian acts are included to fill out their multi-day rosters.
While most have over 50% of Australian acts on their bills, Falls at present sits on just 40%, although a third announcement is expected to bolster their local stable.
Other camping festivals though, are heavily reliant on local bands. The Pyramid Rock festival features 80% local bands. Peats Ridge sits at roughly two-thirds, while Festival of the Sun is made up exclusively of Australian and New Zealand acts.
Of all the festivals though, it would appear that Splendour in the Grass have found the best balance between homegrown talent and international draw-cards. 62% of acts at this year’s sold-out festival were Australian or Kiwi.
A huge vindication for the festival after it failed to sell out its 2011 event, despite possessing some of the biggest international headliners yet, in Coldplay and Kanye West. The problem being that the high cost of booking such banner names meant the cost was passed on to the consumer, and that there was little left to pay for Australian acts.
But a trend has emerged from some of Australia’s biggest one day festivals, where it seems international artists have become a necessity to get people through the gates.
The usually mammoth Big Day Out trimmed the fat after the much documented disasters of last year’s event, with a notable lack of local acts on the bill in comparison to 2011 with just 29% of 2013′s lineup being Australian.
Laneway and Parklife are marginally less with 26% of their respective lineups made of local artists, although that is excluding a long list of local DJs from the latter.
Even Homebake, which has traditionally been exclusive to Australian and Kiwi acts branched out this year for its ‘Global Edition’, acquiring Blondie to be their first international band to appear at the festival.
Summadayze has 15% worth of home-grown acts with just four representatives (Kimbra, Knife Party, Stafford Brothers & Timmy Trumpet), but if you thought that was bad, look towards AJ Maddah’s festival stable.
Both Soundwave and Harvest festivals are heavily centred on international acts, with Harvest having just one local act (in Sydney’s Winter People), while Soundwave has four Australian representatives out of a whopping 73 acts (in Confession, Amity Affliction, Northlane, Milestones).
But does having international acts necessarily guarantee that a festival will sell out?
Both Parklife and Big Day Out are yet to run out of tickets and according to Splendour in the Grass co-founder Jessica Ducrou, local acts can sell more tickets than the international draw-cards.
Speaking at BIGSOUND on whether artists were being paid too much, Ducrou said that “Australian acts, in many instances, sell more tickets than their international counterparts.”
Many though might argue that one day festivals don’t need local acts, as they generally tour the country more than once throughout the year.
It's been fun riding the emotional rollercoaster over the last year as the festival market in Australia continues to go through huge changes. Once proud festivals are gone and only a few are left to pick up the pieces.
We take a look back at the last 12 months and have a look at the carnage left behind as festival after festival is postponed, cancelled, or simply vanishes.
We could go on for hours with theories on why the market has been so volatile but we believe the words of Yosemite Sam probably sum it up best when he said 'This town aint big enough for the both of us'. Watch this slideshow »