Why are so many music festivals dying/being canceled/going on hiatus?

One of the questions I get most often these days goes something like this: “What’s wrong with music festivals? Why are so many of them dying? What’s with all the cancellations? And why are so many going on a so-called hiatus?”

You have a right to be concerned. This list of casualties is long.

  • Field Trip (Toronto): On hiatus
  • Rifflandia (Victora): On hiatus
  • Skookum (Vancouver): On hiatus
  • Pemberton (BC): Bankrupt
  • Roxodus (Ontario): Canceled
  • Woodstock 50 (NY state): Canceled
  • WayHome (Ontario): In limbo
  • RiotFest (Toronto): Never coming back.
  • Virgin MusicFest (Toronto): Ditto
  • Plus a ton of others.

What’s going wrong? Brad Wheeler of the Globe and Mail takes a look.

“If you build it, they will come. But what if they don’t?

“With the cancellation of the Roxodus Music Fest in Edenvale, Ont., last month, the extended hiatus of the WayHome Music & Arts Festival north of Toronto and the recent collapse of Michael Lang’s Woodstock 50 reboot in upstate New York, the hard realities of the modern multiday, campsite-and-concert affairs are being laid bare.

“It wasn’t long ago when major music festivals were popping up here, there and in every milk-cow pasture. But the boom has gone bust, and the vision of peace, music and port-o-potty paradise is going down the drain.

“[It’s a brutal business,’ says Stan Dunford, president and co-founder of the Toronto-based live-entertainment company Republic Live. ‘The costs are staggering, the profit margins are low and there are so many variables.'”

Keep reading.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

One thought on “Why are so many music festivals dying/being canceled/going on hiatus?

  • August 9, 2019 at 1:10 pm
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    Sadly there is no money to be made with transient music festivals, everybody has their hand out for a piece of your pie.
    Festivals that are run on a permanent venue owned by organizers stand a chance of survival but poor facilities and long lineups will earn a failing grade in short order. Years ago you put up a stage and a fence and bam you made money, people would come and get by, think Woodstock, but now people don’t want to rough it, they want convenience, they want options and if you get it wrong you face litigation.

    Reply

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