Can Australia's Overheated Festival Market Continue?
Can Australia's Overheated Festival Market Continue?

Maybe, just maybe, there is some growth left in the Australian festivals market.

It's a theory being tested by the team behind the resoundingly successful Soundwave event, a hard rock and metal event which has grown into a five-date national tour shifting roughly 200,000 tickets annually.

Earlier this year, Soundwave announced the launch of the Soundwave Revolutions touring fest, headlined by the likes of Van Halen and Alice Cooper. Now, Soundwave promoter AJ Maddah has brought in one of the team behind Ireland's Electric Picnic festival to start the three-date Harvest fest.

Portishead, Flaming Lips, the National and Bright Eyes are among the acts booked for Harvest: A Civilized Gathering, whose one-day line-up will start in Melbourne on Nov. 12, before visiting Sydney the following day and wrapping Nov. 19 in Brisbane

Each Harvest show will take place in attractive greenfield sites no more than 30 minutes from the city centre. And there will be a "general overall emphasis on aesthetics," explains Declan Forde, Harvest music director of Harvest and co-founder of Electric Picnic, which has won several European festival awards.

For the past 10 years, Australia's festivals market has boomed. Some Down Under call it a "festivals frenzy," where every major city it seems has a choice of more than a dozen fests over the summer period.

Since the GFC, however, most festival promoters are feeling the pressure. News of the new Harvest fest closely follows confirmation that Sydney-based live music entrepreneur Justin Hemmes will shift his Good Vibrations festival tour from February 2012 to December in that year, after the gate on the 2011 dance fest was well-down on expectations.

"We're very conscious that (establishing Harvest) won't be a stroll in the park by any stretch of the imagination, and that there are a few music festivals here already," Forde tells Billboard.biz. "But we do feel that what we're setting out to do with Harvest is different from other festivals, and that it will be a success both commercially and in terms of the quality and overall vibe of the events."

Tickets for Harvest are priced at $135 Australian ($149), and go on sale Thursday.

The festivals circuit is busy, but its not over-saturated, notes Splendour in the Grass festival co-promoter Paul Piticco, "But I do think there's going to have to be a correction." The popular Splendour fest wrapped Sunday, drawing some 30,000 guests. Headlined this year by Coldplay, Kanye West and Jane's Addiction, Splendour is in the top-tier of ticket-prices, with camping tickets costing upwards of Australian $520 ($575 U.S.). The show didn't manage to put up the sold-out sign this time. But price is only one factor behind the economic sustainability of Australia's festival explosion.

"Either prices will have to fall so people can afford to go to multiple festivals or talent booking will have to change so there's a bigger array of talent and the festivals aren't recycling talent six months later," says Piticco. "I also think that anybody who doesn't have their business model right or not of the highest standard -- the public is very, very savvy and will inevitably not go the distance."

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboardbiz

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