Benicassim Fest Attendance Slumps

Spain's highest-profile summer music festival, the international Benicassim festival (FIB) on the eastern Mediterranean coast, suffered an alarming slump in attendance this year.

The total attendance of 127,000 over the July 15-18 four-day fest was down 40% from the record 200,000 at last year's 15th annual event.

The number of foreign visitors, which last year stood at 70% of the total (and of which 85% were British), was down this year to about 60% of the total, say organizers.

Spain's economic problems, including high unemployment, are likely to have affected attendance from Spanish music fans. Other summer festivals in Spain have also suffered reduced attendances, such as the two-weekend Rock in Rio Madrid festival in June, whose attendance fell to 250,000 from 290,000 at the inaugural 2008 Rock in Rio Madrid.

Most analysts also point to a less enticing line-up this year, with headliners Gorillaz playing their first Spanish concert, the Specials, the Prodigy, Ray Davies, P.I.L., Kasabian, Echo & the Bunnymen, Vampire Weekend, Hop Chip and Dizzee Rascal. An added atrraction this year for Spanish fans was the farewell concert of the Sunday Drivers from Toledo.

Last year's line-up included Oasis, Franz Ferdinand and the Killers.

Another change this year was the purchase of FIB by Irish pioneer festival promoter Vince Power, who used to run the Reading Festival.

Power had co-run FIB for three years with the Maraworld company, run by the Moran brothers. But this year he was the sole owner after buying the event from Maraworld.

Power announced July 18 that from next year there will be two FIBs, with one event taking place in northern Spain. "There will be changes, because if you stand still, they'll knock you over," said Power.

This split into two festivals under the same name occurred this year with Sonar. As well as attracting 87,000 people to its main Barcelona event, Sonar also held a parallel event in A Coruna, in the north-west Galicia region above Portugal, which attracted 14,000 fans. A fairly disastrous similar attempt last year saw Barcelona's Summercase hold a poorly attended (6,000) Summercase Madrid event just outside the capital.

FIB executive director, Pepe Corral, said the 16th FIB was "positive" despite the lower audiences. "This was going to be an uncertain year, but the objectives have been reached, and we are full of happiness and joy," he said.

Power agreed, added that "this is my favorite festival, and I have the intention of seeing that everything continues in the future."

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