Bluesfest faces ‘costly’ cancellation ordeal
Having to cancel a music festival the day before it is due to begin is a "costly ordeal", says a promoter who was also forced to pull the plug on an event last year.
Jay Beaumont, co-promoter of Meatstock, which holds several events in Australia and New Zealand, said he could sympathise with the organisers of Bluesfest Byron Bay, who were forced yesterday to cancel their event with less than 24 hours' notice.
Last year he also cancelled the Meatstock event in Melbourne, which was expected to attract a crowd of about 15,000 over two days for live music and food, the day before it was due to begin.
"We had every marquee up, all the structures built, all the stages for the bands built, the bands en route and the food trucks started," he told news.com.au.
Mr Beaumont said the event required nearly 140 temporary structures to be set up including rides, amusements and expo stalls.
"All 50 barbecue teams were all set up," he said.
"The beer was in the fridge being cooled and the barbecue was starting to be cooked because it needed to be done overnight.
"We were 99 per cent done, and the Bluesfest would have been the same, they would have been ready to go."
Mr Beaumont said every festival works with a crew and these people would also have been on their way or already on-site. They include people who help with "bump-in", stage hands, roadies and special guests who fly in from overseas. There are also costs for catering companies, and PR people who are flown or driven to the festival and provided with accommodation.
The cancellation of Meatstock in Melbourne last year left promoters with a bill of more than $100,000, even given discounts from contractors such as those who put up their fencing.
"Everyone helped us out the best they could but there was no support from the Government for the costs that had to be paid, they have to be paid by the promoters," Mr Beaumont said.
"There is an amount of money that's spent on things like getting everyone on flights and once it's done, it's done.
"It's just heartbreaking for Bluesfest to pull the pin at that late stage as it's just a costly ordeal for the promoter."
Mr Beaumont said even given five days' notice, events could avoid costs for things such as fencing, toilets and infrastructure.
"With one day's notice, it's impossible to unwind; the staff is on site and en route.
"We definitely feel for Bluesfest because we were there last year."
The promoter also pointed out that there is no real insurance for cancellations due to a pandemic so the person who has to hold the cost is the promoter.
However, despite the risks Mr Beaumont has planned four Meatstock events for later this year and is hoping the events industry will be able to start up again.
He said some states were providing grants to get events back on their feet including in Victoria but other states like NSW were focusing on regional or new events.
"It's all about new events, which to me is counter-productive, because promoters are almost inventing new events that will then compete with existing events when this is all over.
"Of course we would love more support but at the same time it's a difficult situation for everyone - you can't have an open cheque book.
"Everybody just wants clarity - what the plan is, what the future looks like, what the steps are and where we are at on those steps."
While he can't speak for all promoters, Mr Beaumont said he looked at government announcements and made decisions based on their plans.
"When announcements are made around plans and guidelines, people lock in decisions, bands lock in dates and sell tickets for tours because there is light at the end of the tunnel."
He said the industry was keen for clarity about an updated timeline for vaccinations and when Australia might return to normal, although acknowledged this may be an "unrealistic expectation".
"We are well behind what their vaccination schedule is, and that's OK, I'm sure there are reasons - like the vaccination problems in Europe - but they haven't communicated that effectively I feel," he said.
"A lot of promoters would have expected frontline workers to be vaccinated by now so that risk of community infection is reduced, but that hasn't been done.
"At the end of the day it's just frustrating not knowing what the goalposts are, and then they move.
"It takes four months of hard work for our team to put together an event and we make the effort based on an understanding that things are getting better and restrictions are being eased," he said.
He said it was also frustrating seeing that sports events seem to get a pass.
"You can have 50,000 pack a stadium but to not be able to run a festival for 12,000 people is a very difficult pill to swallow," he said.
However, he said the events industry would live on.
"The best way for people to support the industry is for people to be patient," he said.
"We can't wait to re-open and welcome people at the gate, we are literally biting at the bit to get going again.
"We understand that people take time off work and travel for our events but every bit of patience is appreciated by everyone in the industry until we can get going again.
"A lot of money goes into marketing, advertising and PR, so a lot of time and effort goes into seeing a ticket.
"That's a massive cost for a festival if they have to do it again, so for someone to hang onto their ticket is very important for the events industry."
Originally published as Bluesfest faces 'costly' cancellation ordeal