Big Barrel Fest Shutters -- Is Delaware Junction Next?

Carrie Underwood,  Big Barrel Country Music Festival
Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images for Big Barrel

Carrie Underwood performs onstage during day 3 of the Big Barrel Country Music Festival on June 28, 2015 in Dover, Delaware.  (Photo by 

Promoters squared off with competing festivals in 2015, it could be that neither return in 2016.

Goldenvoice’s decision to pull the plug on the Big Barrel country music festival in Dover, Del., brings to an end an ambitious project that was faced with challenges out of the gate. Now the question is, will new festivals launched in the country fest gold rush face the same fate?

Earlier this week, Goldenvoice, a subsidiary of AEG Live that produces the Coachella and StageCoach festivals, among many others, posted on the Big Barrel website that the producer had “made the difficult decision to cancel Big Barrel Country Music Festival, due to take place at The Woodlands in Dover, Delaware on June 24-26, 2016.” The post went on to apologize to those affected, including “the fans, artists, industry partners, venue, City of Dover and State of Delaware; all of whom welcomed us with open arms for our inaugural festival in 2015.”

Produced in a partnership with Red Frog Events (with whom Goldenvoice also partners on the Firefly fest at the same site), Big Barrel was announced last December just days after Live Nation announced its own Delaware country music festival, Delaware Junction, to be held on the Delaware State Fairgrounds in Harrington. Big Barrel, which ran June 26-28 with Miranda Lambert, Blake Shelton, and Carrie Underwood as headliners, went on sale the day after it was announced, a somewhat unusual move. Delaware Junction, which played on Aug. 14-16 with Toby Keith, Florida Georgia Line and Jason Aldean as headliners, went on sale the day after Big Barrel, so, while Delaware Junction got its announcement in first, Big Barrel enjoyed a day's head start on ticket sales, and played some 50 days earlier.

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Two major country music festivals going on sale a day apart set the stage for a real test of just how strong the country music market is in the mid-Atlantic region. While neither festival reported its numbers to Billboard Boxscore, sources say Big Barrel, with about 35,000 tickets per day, performed slightly better than Delaware Junction.

Now, Big Barrel is gone and the future of Delaware Junction is uncertain. Live Nation Country Music president Brian O’Connell, who has launched successful country music festivals in George, Wash. (Watershed), Brooklyn, Mich. (Faster Horses), Las Vegas (Rt. 91 Harvest), New York (Farmborough), and Chicago (Windy City Lake Shake), has announced the 2016 lineups to all of those festivals -- but not Delaware Junction. That festival is also not listed among the Live Nation festivals on the promoter’s website, nor on Ticketmaster, and a “Delaware Junction” website could not be found.

Beyond that, one agent tells Billboard that the status of other AEG Live country music festivals may be in jeopardy, though a source at the company says that is not the case. Reps at both firms have so far declined to comment on the status of their respective festivals.

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Like Live Nation, AEG Live and its partners have been very bullish on live country music, with the hugely successful Stagecoach, Bayou Country Superfest in Baton Rouge, La., Buckeye Country Superfest in Columbus, Ohio, and two new ones to be launched this year at NASCAR tracks: Talladega Jam in Talladega, Ala., and the Country 500 fest in Daytona, Fla. AEG also produces tours by Taylor Swift, Kenny Chesney, Carrie Underwood, Eric Church, Shania Twain, and others.

For its part, Live Nation and O’Connell annually field about a dozen headlining country tours, including runs by Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean, Brad Paisley, Toby Keith, Florida Georgia Line, Darius Rucker, Dierks Bentley, Rascal Flatts, and Zac Brown Band.

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