Music Festival Chaos

COVID-19 Festival Cancellations Grow

Australian Festival Cancellation and Postponement Upheaval

Seventy Per Cent of Events Up To Mid-August Pulled or Postponed

Sample of Festivals Scrapped Reveal $18.4M Loss and 18,000 jobs Gone

Some Events Under Threat for 2021

It feels like an eternity ago.

In fact, it was just three weeks back when we were gathered happily at the Port Fairy Folk Festival in the beautiful seaside village of Port Fairy. (See our report on the festival HERE).

The last morning of the event was Monday 9 March and I was trying to find a spot to see Rhiannon Giddens and Francesco Turrisi, starting to get used to the idea of considering more carefully where to sit and keep some distance from other punters.

Now as I write this twenty-one days later I am at home in semi-lockdown. Government advice this morning was ramped up again – stay at home with only four exceptions – work, medical appointment, exercise (solo or in pairs only) and essential shopping.

How lucky were we to have Port Fairy?! Three days later I enjoyed US folk duo Ordinary Elephant at their first (and as it turns out, only) show of their Australian tour, at the Merri Creek Tavern in Northcote.

When we will be able to enjoy live music again??

When will we be able to go to a festival again??

We have just updated our list of Australian music festivals (as we do each month) and this was a chilling exercise.

We have over 320 events listed and the current state of play is this:

  • over 70 festivals have been specifically cancelled or postponed due to COVID-19
  • the cancellations and postponements now stretch to the middle of August
  • in the five-month period mid-June to mid August, seventy per cent of events have already been pulled or moved
  • the majority of other events in that period are unlikely to go ahead
  • it is probable that festivals beyond mid-August will also be adversely impacted, either through health reasons, poor ticket sales or artists unwilling to commit in these times of great uncertainty.

Here’s the link to our updated list:


Chloe Goodyear, Programme Manager at Queensland Folk Federation has, with the help of Folk Alliance of Australia done some work on quantifying some of the costs of these closures.

Twenty-three Australian organisations were surveyed where cancellations occurred, these bodies being responsible for over fifty music events (festivals and concerts). Some responses were incomplete, so the figures below represent the MINIMUM financial impact on these festivals:

  • Direct financial effect $18.4M (this excludes the broader economic impact), comprising a $3.3M loss for ten events already cancelled and an estimated $15.1M shortfall if the remaining festivals are cancelled over the next twelve months
  • Of those surveyed, at least fourteen are under threat to proceed in 2021.
  • The absolute minimum number of roles impacted is expected to be at least 18,000 (artists/suppliers/staff)

Things undoubtedly will get back to some semblance of normality health-wise. When that will happen is determined by your level of optimism as you look through the murky crystal ball.

What the state of the Australian music industry is like at that point for artists, festival organisers, venues, publicists, managers, booking agents is the sobering question.

Better days – Rhiannon Giddens at Port Fairy – Photo: LTTL


COVID-19 Festival Cancellations Grow

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Author: Rob Dickens

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  1. I’m trying to put light on this darkness but its so hard to comprehend. The complexities of this pandemic are enormous. The social and economic shock to society in general is hard to fathom much less a struggling arts community.

    As a songwriting performer, we (us collectivly) tend to be sensative souls that reflect times past and present though the emotion invoked by our musical expression. I’m just numb, my vestle is full and like many i’m stepping back to process what has just happened. How quicky things collapsed.

    My purpose in life is to bring joy to others through music. Its expensive to put an origenal band on the road, much less keep 6 people in the same band traveling for small change. Of course its not about the money, but thats what keeps the wheel turning to find your fanbase. Festivals are important because they add an unqualifiable value to the sense of community. We do it because its our calling, our passion but most of all, its our life.

    As a preformer, Festivals are a direct line strait into the heart of your audience of like minded individuals looking for the same sense of community. I said once that my music is the one thing that nobody can take from me because I own it. We will adapt but this is a bitter blow to the multitude of beautiful individuals who make festivals and gigs happen so I can spread joy.

    Music is the glue that keeps society together

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    • Beautifully said Ricky. I was thinking of trying to lighten up the position, but frankly my heart wasn’t in it and the starkness should be allowed to speak for itself. But we will get through this and come out the other side. How much fun will it be to see some live music when the situation presents itself. I recall having a chat while you were videoing in the chapel at MountainGrass 2018, good times! In the meantime, we have many on-line music streaming opportunities and our hi-fis/devices to keep us sane. Stay safe.

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