Pemberton Music Festival Files For Bankruptcy. No Refunds, Apparently.

Oh gosh, now another festival has a mess on their hands. BC’s Pemberton Music Festival filed for bankruptcy earlier this week, meaning the 2017 event is cancelled. Even worse – because of the bankruptcy, festival organizers are incapable of offering any sort of automatic ticket refunds. British company Ernst & Young’s Canadian branch have been named trustees in the bankruptcy filing, and a statement from the group now adorns Pemberton’s website. But how could this have happened?

Apparently Pemberton has quietly been having problems for a while now. The festival drew around 40,000 people in its first appearance in 2008, but went on hiatus for five years after agricultural permit issues. A new promoter revived Pemberton in 2014, but the hiccups continued. Global reported that several security guards from the 2015 festival hadn’t been paid thousands of dollars in wages by the time the next year’s festival had arrived, although the festival promoter denied responsibility for that mishap. And this year, Pemberton organizers told Global ticket sales had only accounted for $8,225,000 of the festival’s $22,000,000 operating costs.

The festival also said that the struggling Canadian dollar has been hurting the festival since its 2015 event. Investors and shareholders had been pumping millions into Pemberton to keep it alive, but the festival now owes close to $2.5 million US to its creditors. Ouch. Pemberton 2017 was set for July 13-16, so the relatively short cancellation notice will likely mean lost deposits and additional fees as musicians, contracted companies, and pretty much everybody involved needs to adjust accordingly.

For festival-goers that planned to attend Pemberton 2017, ticket refunds are another headache entirely. Ernst & Young has a short section for ticket holders on their website’s FAQ document, but unfortunately the situation is still a bit convoluted. The company is allowing ticket-holders to file refund claims, but can’t guarantee what sort of action will be taken just yet. If you purchased a ticket with a credit card on a third-party website then you may have better luck. Ticketing websites like Ticketmaster or Ticketfly have their own refund policies, plus you can contact your bank for more info on buyer protection. Thankfully, any purchases made through the venue at Pemberton Golf Shop can be refunded as well.

On the other hand, if you wanted to trade one festival for another, WayHome has extended an offer to Pemberton 2017 ticket holders. The Ontario festival is trading tickets to their festival for now-useless Pemberton tickets, the same promotion they offered to ticket holders of the doomed Fyre Festival. Maybe WayHome is struggling to sell tickets too, but don’t worry about that right now – Pemberton 2017 guests can take advantage of WayHome’s generosity on this website.

Despite all the complications, look on the bright side – a bunch of acts just had their schedules open up! Confirmed acts for Pemberton 2017 had included Chance the Rapper, Muse, A Tribe Called Quest, Major Lazer, Run the Jewels, Ween, Tegan & Sara, MGMT, Eagles of Death Metal, July Talk, The Rural Alberta Advantage, PUP, and many more. Maybe they’ll take advantage of the sudden freedom to visit somewhere else, or create some new material? I don’t know, being an optimist is hard. Keep an eye out for more info in the meantime, there are sure to be more developments soon enough.

Meanwhile, Mark Geiger, a partner and music head at the powerful WME agency, is not happy. “I’m coming for you, Pemberton,” he says.

Mathew Kahansky

Once upon a time, Mat studied journalism. That's how he became Alan's one-time intern and current-time contributor, and the rest is ongoing history - get it? Mat also studied biology and music, so he has a strangely specific knowledge set that doesn't really apply anywhere other than useless fun facts. He currently works for a music tech start-up in Halifax, and is a big fan of the em dash.

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