Heading into the 2010 season, a handful of North American music festivals were already on ice due to issues with past attendance levels and available financial backing. Now in the heat of the season, more festivals are falling victim and announcing indefinite hiatuses.
The most prominent additions to the cutting room floor are the regional branches of Canada’s Virgin Festival. Last year, two-day shows were staged in Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia and Montreal, while a single-day festival occurred in Nova Scotia.
All five festivals are taking the year off, with preliminary plans to return in 2011. The hiatus comes after soft ticket sales forced the festival to relocate its Ontario offshoot in 2009.
Virgin Mobile Canada’s chief marketing officer Nathan Rosenberg blamed this year’s hiatus on industry-wide challenges that reached into 2010, according to the Toronto Sun.
“2009, for the entire world and in every industry, was a bit different and a bit challenging,” Rosenberg was quoted in the Sun‘s report,” and when we got into 2010 we didn’t have luck in securing the headliners that we would have liked to have pursued.”
Rosenberg continued, “In the last couple of months as we’ve been trying to put the list together, it just didn’t get to the stage that we thought, ‘This is an event that we want to present to people who have been to Virgin Festivals.’ If we can’t produce a festival that provides a talent lineup that we think is appropriate, we won’t go ahead with it.”
According to the Rosenberg noted that a 2011 Virgin Festival remains a viable option, so long as proper talent is secured and consumer confidence in the event returns to the levels seen in previous seasons. He concluded, “From a Virgin Festival point of view, we still absolutely believe in the property.”
The originating V Festival in England, where Virgin hosts concurrent two-day events in Hylands Park and Weston Park, will return this year during the August 21-22 weekend.
In the United States, the fifth annual Virgin Mobile Festival, founded in 2005 with its Canadian counterpart, is also scheduled to go on as planned. But for the second straight year, it will be entirely free, as it returns to Merriweather Post Pavilion on September 25.
“Last year’s FreeFest was such a huge success. The bands loved it, the fans loved it, and it got great reviews,” said Virgin Mobile USA’s Ron Faris in a prepared statement. “It’s a wonderful feeling to once again bring some of the best bands in the world to perform and give away tickets for free.”
FreeFest’s return was officially confirmed late in May. A lineup is yet to be announced, though the statement from Virgin Mobile USA noted that several acts were in consideration to headline the September event.
But the second FreeFest might be the only event gracing the East Coast late in the season.
The return of New Jersey’s All Points West, usually held in August, has been cast in serious doubt. Ticket sales for the three-day event were down in 2009 when the Beastie Boys cancelled their headline appearance. There has not yet been a lineup announcement or ticket onsale for the festival this season.
“I don’t know how great an experience [All Points West] was for the fans,” Goldenvoice vice president Skip Paige told The New York Times in late February. “If we’re going to do that show again, we want to be able to make it great and have it be something that people respect.”
The event’s organizers have still not reached an official verdict, though the staging of an All Points West 2010 seems increasingly unlikely as the summer season kicks into gear. The All Points West official Web site bears only remnant announcements from 2009.
Two smaller U.S. festivals also bit the dust in 2010, according to a recent report from Consequence of Sound. Tulsa’s annual DFest and San Diego’s long-running Street Scene are both off the books for the year with plans to return in 2011.
DFest noted the “tough economy, rising production costs, and a decline in lower level corporate sponsorships and support” in its decision to halt production on a 2010 festival. Nearly $3 million in financial losses for 2009 sidelined this year’s Street Scene, which first graced the San Diego’s downtown area in 1984.
The Rothbury and Pemberton festivals were cancelled in early 2010, while 10,000 Lakes and Monolith were both axed late in 2009 due to financial concerns. So far, all of the festivals on break have announced plans to return in 2011, except Pemberton which is off for the second straight year.