Australia's Great Southern Blues Festival Canceled But Aussie Festival Industry Still Growing
Australia's Great Southern Blues Festival Canceled But Aussie Festival Industry Still Growing

Australia's Great Southern Blues Festival has been called off this year, as organizers of the three-day event blame "unsatisfactory" ticket sales.

The likes of the John Butler Trio, Pete Murray, Kasey Chambers and Booker T Jones were booked to headline the 16th-annual festival, which was slated for the Sept. 29 - Oct. 2 Labor Day weekend.

This Wednesday, however, promoters said the show won't go on. "In this current economic climate," a statement reads, "unsatisfactory ticket sales for the event have unfortunately made it impossible for us to proceed."

Hosted at Bateman's Bay, about 270 km south of Sydney, the festival is helmed by one of Australia's leading promoters: Michael Chugg, chairman of Sydney-based Michael Chugg Entertainment. Chugg has vowed to return the event to the festivals calendar next year.

It's the third major festival to cut its losses in 2011, following Soundwave Revolution (which blamed the loss of a key headliner) and Funk N Grooves (poor ticket sales).

But the demise of those three events doesn't presage Australia's festivals market sliding off a cliff. Not even close.

Most promoters say the live scene Down Under has never been healthier, and new stats published by trade body Live Performance Australia seem to back it up.

According to LPA's latest "Ticket Attendance & Revenue Survey," live entertainment ticketing revenue in 2010 grew 22.6% to $1.3 billion Australian ($1.35 billion), with festivals taking a growing chunk of the overall pie.

Australia's economy is in good shape, though it's fair to say the public has become particularly discerning as to where they spend their cash.

The Great Southern Blues Festival was caught in the crowd. Over the past 10 years, the festivals circuit on these shores has literally exploded. Some players refer to it as the "festivals frenzy," where it seems every major city has a choice of more than a dozen fests over the summer period.

"There's certainly a lot of them," says Paul Piticco, co-promoter of the recent Splendour in the Grass festival, which was headlined by Coldplay, Jane's Addiction and Kanye West. "If you look at the summer festival schedule now, there's a lot of new festivals. From the time Parklife starts right through to Bluesfest, you've got Future Music, Big Day Out, Laneway, the new Harvest festival, Homebake, Good Vibrations… It's a dance from the time it gets warm to when it gets cold again. It's quite packed." Splendour -- one of Australia's most popular multi-day fests -- reportedly sold 30,000 tickets, roughly 2,000 short of a sell-out.