The Australian music festival market is littered with as many ill-prepared and poorly executed events as it is long-running successes. Nature of the beast, really.

But while some big name events have been hurt by poor ticket sales (Boomerang, Push Over’s cancellation, and this year’s Big Day Out and Perth Soundwave are just some recent examples), their scope is rather insignificant compared to a local music event that was run last weekend which drew less than 50 punters.

As The Vine reports, all-ages and alcohol-free Top of the Hill festival failed to draw more than 50 music fans to its all-day event. Hosted at Riverside Park in the rural Victorian city of Swan Hill last Saturday 5th April, the event promised 10 hours of “Rock, Indy [sic] and Alternative artists” on two stages.

Rather than having festival organisers attempt to hide the disastrous attendance figures, instead the event’s sole promoter made a very public admission to the very low ticket sales, confirming to The Guardian that “less than 50 people” passed through gates, even after the event slashed tickets to $10 in the evening“Regardless of there being no one there, I’m very proud of how our setup came together.”

Brad Morpeth, Top Of The Hill’s only organiser who was exclusively funding the festival, had originally booked British India to headline which meant “ticket sales spiked by all of 3 purchases in 3 weeks,” – as he noted in a Facebook post in March; pleading “I’m taking a gamble here… In short, support something new. Please.”

But British India’s bookers and management have confirmed to Tone Deaf that the band “were never contracted for the show” to begin with, leaving Top of the Hill with Geelong band Audemia at the top of a bill featuring local bands Kaos, Taylor Sheridan, Sean McConnell, and more.

“The acts on the day were great and the people who supported us and came on the day were fantastic, but we just didn’t have the right combination for Swan Hill,” Mr Morpeth tells The Guardian of the disappointing turnout. “We picked that weekend because it was the start of school holidays… but there were a lot of other things on the one weekend, and we were the casualty of that.”

Morpeth adds that initial feedback indicated the cost of the $40 tickets and lack of liquor had turned people off, while the event’s Facebook page gives a stark indication of how barren Top Of The Hill looked; Morpeth writing “regardless of there being no one there, I’m very proud of how our setup came together.”

(Photo: Top of the Hill. Source: Facebook.)

Despite the dismal attendance, Mr Morperth has described it as a learning curve. “It’s an experience we can recover from,” he tells The Guardian; “We haven’t dismissed a 2015 event, but we have just got to go back to the drawing board.”

To that end, the festival organiser has been using the event’s Facebook page as a public soundboard for feedback and suggestions, including an online survey for those (few) that attended and those (many, many more) who didn’t. “It is just to gauge that if we were to try again what people really want,” Mr Morpeth says.

It may be that he’s already answered his own question; “people may be happy with the amount of events already.” Should Top of the Hill return, at least it’s got a good chance of beating its previous attendance record.

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