Britain's summer festival circuit had a bumpy ride this year (Billboard, July 19), but just across the English Channel, it was smooth sailing in one of Europe's unlikely live music hotbeds-Belgium.
The small country has a population of just 10.4 million yet supports around 10 major summer fests, comparable to the United Kingdom (population 61 million).
Live music insiders say value-for-money pricing backed by promoters' attention to building infrastructure and relationships with international agents paid off this year, making 2008 the best year yet for Belgian fests.
The summer's trendsetter was metal event Graspop in Dessel (June 27-29) with headliners Judas Priest, Kiss and Iron Maiden, which reported attendance up 35% from 2007 to a daily average of 45,000. Elsewhere, attendance at Pukkelpop in Hasselt (Aug. 14-16) rose 17%, with 50,600 attendees per day shelling out for Metallica, the Killers and the Flaming Lips.
"We've been able to boost our attendance year after year," Graspop organizer Peter Van Geel says. Alongside attractive programming and well-equipped camping facilities, he says, "Free public transport and keen ticket rates seem attractive to foreign festivalgoers."
"Belgian festivals come out cheap" for customers, Pukkelpop organizer Chokri Mahassine says. Pukkelpop's three-day advance ticket-including free travel from any Belgian station-cost €135 ($198) this year and similar Graspop tickets cost €130 ($190.60). In comparison, the United Kingdom's Glastonbury and Reading…
Click here for the full story, including how promoters have been able to boost international attendance at the Belgium festivals, what they consider the highest priorities when planning the events, and more.