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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