Will Rain Clobber Governors Ball Just Before Direct Competitor Panorama Launches Next Month?

Robert Altman/Invision/AP
Concert goers on the grounds of Governors Ball Music Festival at Randall's Island Park on June 6, 2015 in New York. 

As of 2016, New York City's Randall's Island has become the O.K. Corral for music festivals. Governors Ball -- which has been held on the parks-filled island since its second edition in 2012 -- begins its sixth year this weekend (June 3-5). But the Founders Entertainment-produced event is no the only major cross-genre music fest in NYC this summer. In fact, it's not even the only one on Randall's Island this summer.

Ever since Goldenvoice (a subsidiary of AEG Live) was denied the necessary permits to hold the debut of Panorama music fest in Queens' Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, Randall's Island became the site of two separate -- but not so stylistically different -- three-day music festivals within a seven-week time span. And starting this weekend, we'll learn if the town is big enough for the both of them.

How Panorama Ended Up on Top of Governors Island in 2016

Gov Ball already has five years under its belt, during which the festival has flourished, selling out in 2015 to the tune of about 50,000 people per day. But even with a sold-out weekend ahead for 2016, there's potential trouble on the horizon. Aside from Panorama's looming presence, there's the hip-hop-centric Hot 97 Summer Jam on Sunday (June 5) -- the same night Kanye West headlines Gov Ball.

The real trouble, though, comes from above. Apart from an attendee dying, rain is perhaps the worst thing that can happen to a festival, and the forecast calls for rain on two of the fest's three days (Friday and Sunday). An angry few hours from Mother Nature can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, dampening profits even for sold-out festivals and negatively affecting on-the-ground consumer spending.

In preparation, Gov Ball is flooring portions of the park's grounds to mitigate potential mud pits, and pallets of landscaping straw will be on hand to put down if necessary. Officially, a rep for the festival says, “We are watching the forecast closely. Our top priority is the wellbeing of our attendees, staff and talent. Fans should check our website and social media channels for weather-related updates as well as stage screens at the festival."

Gov Ball has a mucky history with rain. Tropical Storm Andrea marred the fest's 2013 edition (its first as a three-day affair), forcing Kings of Leon to move their Friday night headlining set to Saturday and affecting travelers on the way home (the ferry service suffered delays and many cars got stuck in the mud attempting to leave the island). That led to a glut of NYC news outlets gleefully running jaw-dropping photos of the muddy mess despite it happening on a sell-out year.

To say the least, Governors Ball can ill afford a complete washout ahead of the inaugural Panorama fest. Historically, markets don't manage well with two competing festivals. Delaware saw Big Barrel and Delaware Junction compete for the same country crowd in 2015, and neither are returning for 2016 (the former was canceled, the latter is unofficially off).

But New York City is not Delaware -- in a way, Gov Ball has been successfully competing with the plethora of weekend entertainment options NYC offers for five years already -- and the appeal of cross-genre festivals like Gov Ball and Panorama is wider than a single-genre affair. Still, two nearly identical festivals on the same island within a two-month period is a tough commercial proposition even for a massive market like New York City.

So will a weather-beaten weekend and a well-funded competitor water down Gov Ball's future? Keep your eyes to the sky.


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