Festivals Returning Despite Struggling Economy

The international music festival market took a hit last week with the cancellation of the Langerado Music Festival in Miami and the Hydro Connect Festival in Scotland, but other large-scale fests are returning for a second year despite a struggling economy.

U.S. festival producers Madison House Presents and AEG Live have just announced that the Rothbury Festival will return for its second year at Double JJ Ranch in Rothbury, Mich. The event will take place July 2-5, with artist and ticket information to be announced soon.

Other AEG Live-promoted festivals returning for their second year include All Points West Music & Arts Festival across the Hudson River from Manhattan and Mile High Music Festival in Denver, AEG Live CEO Randy Phillips tells Billboard. The lineups for those festivals have not yet been announced.

Last year's four-day Rothbury Festival featured sets from Phil Lesh, Snoop Dogg, Widespread Panic, Dave Matthews Band and dozens more. The event ranked No. 8 on Billboard's 2008 top-grossing festivals tally, pulling in $7.4 million and drawing 120,820 music fans, according to Billboard Boxscore.

The struggling economy has forced consumers to become more cautious about how they spend their entertainment dollars, but Phillips reports that ticket sales are strong for the annual Coachella and Stagecoach festivals, which are held at Empire Polo Field in Indio, Calif.

"They're selling well," he says, noting a similar trend for upcoming AEG Live-promoted tours for Britney Spears and Taylor Swift. "I'm nervous about shows we end up putting on sale in May and June, because eventually this unemployment has to bite us."

Phillips believes that this year's three-day Coachella festival could sell more than 150,000 tickets, which would be on par with last year's event, according to Boxscore. He also has high hopes for the 2009 edition of country music festival Stagecoach, which debuted in 2007.

"The first two years we lost money, which we expected to," Phillips says of Stagecoach. "This year we think we're going to go way into profit. That's usually the rule of thumb: it takes about three years for a festival to either break even or make money."

Others haven't been so lucky. Organizers of the Langerado Music Festival cited the recession's impact on ticket sales as a major factor of the event's cancellation. "The economy just really took us for a hit," Langerado co-promoter Ethan Schwartz tells Billboard. "The entertainment dollar is stretched thin for people right now."

Meanwhile, Festival Network executive chairman Chris Shields says the company "is in belt-tightening mode -- streamlining operations to best prepare for the 2009 season." Festival Network produces worldwide jazz and folk-themed music events, including the Playboy Jazz Festival and the JVC Jazz Festivals in New York and Paris.

Some are tackling the issue of the economy head on. Bonnaroo in Manchester, Tenn., and Coachella are among the festivals offering layaway plans on tickets. Similarly, the United Kingdom's Glastonbury Festival, which has reported strong ticket sales, allowed festival-goers to reserve tickets by paying a deposit.