“Good Vibrations,” Australia’s celebrated travelling music festival, has announced the cancellation of its 2012 annual tour. Confirmed in a March 22, 2012 press release, “Good Vibrations” owner/CEO Justin Hemmes said the festival would be “rested,” marking its first cancellation since debuting in 2004. Citing “higher artist fees, unpredictable weather and a shifting live music market,” Hemmes suggested that the tour be re-evaluated for 2013.
Despite its history of hosting big-name acts like James Brown, The Killers, Snoop Dogg, Beastie Boys, Kanye West, and Scissor Sisters, “Good Vibrations” 2011 illuminated hurdles for the popular end-of-summer event. Resulting from the late withdrawals by big name acts like Cee-Lo Green and Janelle Monae due to the volume of other events around the same time, according to Pulseradio.net, an indie hub for the electronic music scene, ticket sales were so slow that event organizers offered “two-for-one tickets” and “bring along a friend for free” at some shows. Hemmes and festival promoter Jam Music noted a significant loss in profits, and, before deciding to cancel it, had moved “Good Vibrations” to early summer this year — December, in Australia — to avoid scheduling conflicts in the future.
In addition to uninspiring crowds, major criticisms from patrons highlighted hordes of security guards and an overt over-presence of under-cover police officers. Mixed with the heat and an air of forced, manufactured entertainment, these made an already unsettled atmosphere stifling. A review in the Brisbane Times agreed, reflecting that “organisation and planning is appreciated, but there’s no fun in being nannied.”
John Minty, the director of Splore, another late-summer music and art festival in Auckland, told the Australian AP that the current [Australian] festival market has been caught with difficulties across the board. He implied that this needs to be met with innovation and an expanded product. “More specialist festivals seem to be the ones doing quite well,” suggested Minty, especially “those ones that target families or add a lot of non-music activities to their festivals.”
Splore’s kaleidoscopic website maintains that families and “ankle biters” are an essential part of any festival, and they have multi-faceted accommodations for people of all ages and interests. This includes a dedicated kid zone called the “Rumpus Room,” family camping, an array of workshops, visual and interactive arts, cabarets, and a stunning scenic backdrop.
Also entwining the “and art” component with the traditional music festival is the massive Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, an annual four-day destination that attracts festival goers across the U.S. Goods and trading, relaxation, health and wellness, and a strong focus on environmental sustainability are showcased at the celebration, which, according to the festival’s official website, sold 80,000 tickets in 2011. Similarl to Splore — from the comedy and cinema tents to the family-specific areas and camping — “Bonnaroo is a place for people of all ages.”
Perhaps these broadened festivals are the new paradigm for the scene, and their successes will incite other events to adjust to the “shift in the live music market” that Hemmes speaks of. With any luck, festival enthusiasts and future-fans will see a revamped “Good Vibrations” coming in time for [the Australian] summer season, 2013. Until then, round up family and friends, liberally apply sunscreen, and discover exotic art lasting community at a festival near you.