Festival producers optimistic despite recession

Fri Apr 10, 2009 9:06pm EDT
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By Mitchell Peters

LOS ANGELES (Billboard) - With the summer music festival season just around the corner, leading international festival producers insist that the difficult economic climate isn't putting a serious crimp on business, and key promoters report that ticket sales are on par with years past.

"We're not feeling it yet," says AEG Live CEO Randy Phillips, whose company produces large U.S. festivals like Coachella, Stagecoach, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, Mile High and All Points West, among others. "I'm not saying we won't eventually, but the festival business is tremendous value for the money in terms of the show and what you get."

Other major festivals also say they haven't been significantly affected by the recession. The United Kingdom's Glastonbury, Reading and Leeds festivals have all sold out. And ticket sales for Bonnaroo in Tennessee "are looking really good compared with last year," says A.C. Entertainment president Ashley Capps, whose company co-produces Bonnaroo with Superfly Productions. "Two weeks ago we were up 10 percent, and this week we're up 15 percent, so I'm feeling really optimistic."

The 10th annual Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival will open the 2009 festival season April 17-19 at Empire Polo Field in Indio, California, with headliners Paul McCartney, the Killers and the Cure. Last year, Coachella drew 151,666 people over three days and grossed $13.8 million, according to Billboard Boxscore.

Phillips says this year's Coachella is selling "almost neck and neck with last year," and he expects it to draw between 135,000 and 150,000 festivalgoers. Ticket sales for AEG's third annual Stagecoach Country Music Festival, set for April 25-26 at Empire Polo Field, are exceeding last year's pace, helped by a lower ticket price, Phillips says.


Earlier this year, the festival business was shaken after organizers of the Langerado Music Festival in Miami and the Hydro Connect Festival in Scotland called off their events, citing the recession's impact on ticket sales as a major factor. The recession continues to affect smaller fests, prompting some organizers to cut ticket prices or offer other discounts.

To reflect their reduced talent and production budgets for 2009, organizers of the Edgefest, set for June 20 in Toronto, have slashed prices by $38 on early-bird tickets and $33 on regular admission. Elliott Lefko, vice president at Edgefest promoter Goldenvoice, estimates that the event in the city's Downsview Park will sell about 16,000 tickets -- 2,000 more than last year. "I knew I needed a cheap ticket price," Lefko says.   Continued...

<p>A fan enjoys a performance by French singer Manu Chao at the Glastonbury Festival 2008 in Somerset, southwest England, June 28, 2008. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor</p>