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In Numbers: Splendour In The Grass 2011

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by Justin Edwards

Tickets to this year’s Splendour In The Grass festival went on public sale last Thursday morning at 9am (having already been on sale to Splendour Members, a club for Splendour punters who have attended at least five Splendour In The Grass festivals and who get exclusive first release tickets (up to four tickets) prior to them going on public sale.

For the first time in several years the festival didn’t sell out by lunchtime and writing this now (the following Tuesday) it still hasn’t sold out and even camping tickets are available (there’s 30,000 tickets up for grabs but only 20,000 camping spaces).

As with every one of the last few years, there have been the usual issues with buying tickets over the internet and servers crashing due to the volume of traffic. This year’s first day sale wasn’t helped with issues at the Westpac bank meaning that Westpac and Westpac-affiliated credit card payments could not be processed.

However, it’s now Day 6 of sales and it’s still not sold out. Why?

Firstly, Splendour In The Grass is expensive. Some might say it’s ridiculously expensive. A three-day ticket with camping will set you back an eye-watering AU$523.60. At the current exchange rates this equates to US$559.95 or £341.69. By comparison, this year’s Glastonbury will set you back £204.95, this year’s Reading £199.50 and this month’s All Tomorrow’s Parties £180.20 per person.

The argument is always that it costs more to bring acts out to Australia. It’s a fair argument except that the Australian Dollar has never been higher against the US Dollar and it has been high for over two years. There’s never been a better time to get overseas acts into Australia. Secondly, this argument falls on its face when promoters restrict non-festival shows or have exclusive shows. If you’re flying a band, all their gear and their entourage to the other side of the world, you’re never going to spread the costs of the overheads if they’re only playing one or two shows. Having flown them all the way out to Australia, Kanye West, Coldplay and Regina Spektor are all only playing the one show at Splendour before heading straight back out. That’s not going to be cheap. It’s also fairly environmentally unfriendly in an age when music festivals are quick to tell us how much they care about the environment. (I have wondered that when/if a carbon tax is introduced in Australia, whether it will force promoters to stop restricting the number of shows to one or two performances. Vivid is another example, with The Cure, Spiritualized and Bat For Lashes all only playing an exclusive show or two in Sydney when they could easily have played other shows, maybe even have made it to Brisbane. The Cure played at the BEC last time they were here; there is the demand for them.)

Cost is a major factor in why Splendour didn’t sell out in a few hours. The line-up is another.

The festival’s line-up by country of origin is shown in the following table:

Country No. of Acts Percentage
Australia 38 49.35%
UK 16 20.78%
USA 16 20.78%
New Zealand 3 3.90%
UK/USA* 2 2.60%
Sweden 1 1.30%
France 1 1.30%
Grand Total 77 100.00%

* I couldn’t decide what I should do with The Kills and Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan so they’ve got dual nationality.

The Australian acts on the bill make up almost half of the artists playing. When you include the New Zealand artists you’ve got a line-up that is more than 50 per cent ‘local’ (sorry NZ, you know I hate to do that to you). Once you start looking at the Australian bands on the bill you realise it’s the typical combination of Dew Process’s own bands (the label puts on the festival) and the same-old, same-old acts who either play every Australian festival every year (or it at least feels like that) or who are currently ‘big’ and so are playing every single festival without during the 2010/11 festival season (yes, Cloud Control, I’m looking at you).

(continues overleaf)

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16 Responses to In Numbers: Splendour In The Grass 2011

  1. Brendan May 10, 2011 at 12:42 pm

    Splendour has been our Family Festival for the last few years but next year I’m taking everyone to Golden Plains instead. Even after airfares it will be cheaper especially when you take your own drinks and the clashless Lineup is no comparison.

  2. Andrew McMillen May 10, 2011 at 1:08 pm

    Top work Ed.

  3. Bianca May 10, 2011 at 1:51 pm

    I’m with Andrew, great work Justin… was interesting to see a breakdown/figures 🙂

  4. Megan May 10, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    I like this analysis – though I would also note that the line up is somewhat skewed to a younger audience than other years. Bands like The Pixies and Janes Addiction who toured in other years would help bring in the higher earners from Gen X (Pulp doesn’t really count as they’re doing a national tour and Jarvis Cocker was recently here anyway). $523 to a 18 year old is an absurdly high cost.

  5. Knoobs May 10, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    Brilliant article.

    Despite the excuses by the organisers, I think you sums up the current situation perfectly and a message is definitely being sent to them right now. It’s the reason I didn’t buy tickets even though I’ve loved Splendour for many years.

  6. Darragh May 10, 2011 at 4:34 pm

    Brendan – you won’t be disappointed. Golden Plains is easily the best festival Australia has to offer, in terms of value, bands and comfort.

  7. Darragh May 10, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    Justin – I’m disappointed. When I want actual data analysis, I need charts and histograms, averages, modes and medians.


  8. Chad Parkhill May 10, 2011 at 6:45 pm

    Good summary, Justin. It is, as far as I’m concerned, the weakest lineup they’ve yet put on. Evidently a lot of other people think so, too.

    There seems to be a distinct lack of exciting/edgy bands on the lineup, and maybe that’s part of the problem. Nobody’s necessarily going to buy festival tickets just to see an act like, say, Cults or OFWGKTA, but having cutting-edge new music on the lineup is a good way of ensuring people are *excited* about coming to the festival (i.e. they make the festival worth talking about beforehand), while the bread-and-butter acts actually get people to fork out their hard-earned. This year it seems like there’s too much bread-and-butter on the lineup and hardly anything new and exciting. Even the local band selection is conservative (TME again?).

  9. Everett True May 11, 2011 at 4:08 pm

    Another view about the numbers involved over at this blog.

  10. An Economist May 12, 2011 at 11:34 am

    Interesting piece, but you and Everett could do with a bit more economic analysis. There’s no point comparing Aust with Europe etc because we’re a unique market, and in this market, Splendour sadly has a monopoly on the ‘mega festival’. There is no other festival that can really compare to the experience and the breadth of talent (yes these acts were here at the festivals you listed, but never here all at once, lots of punters love convenience and others can’t take all that time off).
    It’s not cheaper to fly to US/Europe and see one of these ‘mega festivals’, so this is the best and only (sadly) option for festival consumers here.

  11. Ed May 12, 2011 at 7:34 pm

    So Justin, do we take it that you and Darragh won’t be putting your hands out for free media tickets to Splendour then? You know, in solidarity with the poor downtrodden masses who can’t afford a ticket? Come on People’s Poet, you couldn’t attend in all clear conscience, could you?

  12. ed May 12, 2011 at 11:21 pm

    I don’t recall saying anything about it not being affordable. Things being expensive and not as good value when compared to something similar never stopped anyone before.

    As for “hands out” for media passes, it’s not like I’m in PR and going to spend the weekend in the VIP tent quaffing champagne, it’s not like I’m from FasterLouder HQ and I’m going to spent the weekend swanning about like I own the place, talking down to people and turning up late for interviews with the festival’s headliners. Me getting a media pass isn’t a “freebie”, and, particularly for a festival pass, is me working like a dog, walking miles every day carrying a heavy bag, trying to dodge things being thrown at me, trying to avoid being spat on, trying to avoid being crushed by huge security dudes being knocked over by crowd surfers, trying to take a fuck tonne of good photos, getting hardly any sleep and getting paid a tiny amount of money that makes no financial sense and doesn’t even cover my costs. As we keep telling people, it’s all about the love here at Collapse Board.

  13. ed May 12, 2011 at 11:43 pm

    It’ a fair point and you’re never going to get a straight comparison as no two festivals are the same, but at the same time I don’t think you need to even think about Purchasing Power to compare festivals. Although Glastonbury has 3 times as many people going, it’s got 29 stages and over 1,000 acts (I think, maybe even more), you can camp for the whole week, I think they put some music stuff on the Thursday night now too and unless it’s changed in the last few years you can take your own alcohol in. Splendour has 3 stages, 77 acts, it might have a third of the people but it’s almost 50% more and they don’t let you take alcohol in. Even though they’re not the same I still think one offers much better value for money than the other, even without considering the economics in much detail.

    On your last sentence, although this is true I think that with the AU$ being so high at the moment people are going overseas but as part of it are using the money they might have put aside for Australian gigs/festivals and going to overseas ones whilst they’re away. Someone I work with has just come back from 4 weeks in the US and went to Coachella, having done that instead of going to any Australian festivals this summer.

    One think I am really interested in finding out, if anyone knows, is how international tours are priced, especially in terms of air fares and how are the air fares and flights worked out. So much of the argument is that bands are coming all this way and that makes it expensive but so many of the bands are coming from/going to shows in the Far East and a lot of the bands are playing Fuji Rock (also cheaper than SITG) so they’re not all flying out/straight back to Europe. So are bands buying multiple single flights, are they going round the world type tickets, are they doing multi-trip tickets and is there a discount for doing that compared with buying single flights and if you are going to a few countries on the tour how are the costs split out when determining the price that the promoter in each country is going to have to pay? Anyone able to shed any light?

  14. ed May 15, 2011 at 5:54 pm

    I’m damn proud of those C grades I got for English and English Lit GCSE.
    Splendour responds.

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