All indications are that the 48th edition of the Tamworth Country Music Festival (TCMF) will be its biggest.
“Ticket sales are actually higher than in previous years,” reveals the festival’s general manager Barry Harley, about the January 17 to 26 event.
TCMF draws 50,000 people each day. That means an aggregated audience of 300,000 to 500,000.
Harley says the festival opts for the figure of 300,000 “as more realistic and conservative.”
TCMF markets itself as “Australia’s biggest music festival, and one of the biggest country music festivals in the world,” and the place where visitors see the biggest local country music superstars and the next generation of headliners all in the same place.
The festival’s continued success is due to the fact that it thoroughly understands why its loyal audience comes year after year—some arriving weeks before to set up camp – and gives them what they want.
The country music landscape has changed, with other events bringing in international superstars.
TCMF sticks to what it does best
TCMF highlights Australian artists, songs and stories. But, through social media interaction and research, it has also identified which areas it can grow.
”50% of our audience has been coming back for ten years,” notes Harley. “Obviously half of our marketing is aimed at the rusted-on fans and the grey nomads.
“We tell them, ‘The festival is on, you know it’ll be a great show, so come along and have a great time’. Because they do want to come and see names like Lee Kernaghan and Troy Cassar-Daley and Kasey Chambers, and we make sure they get what they want.”
At the same time, TCMF is also stressing its other strong points.
“It’s a safe festival. The city itself offers about 75% of the 2,800 scheduled events, and most of them are child-friendly.
“So there’s the very important element of families. Because that creates our future audience as their kids grow up,” he adds. “TCMF also reaches out to those who might not list country music as their favourite genre – the festival has a great party atmosphere, so come and have a good time.”
The stress on partying and the greater take-up of country music sub-cultures by younger audiences explains the greater amount of young faces in the crowd than there were ten years ago.
Visitors can hear more Americana, alt-country and roots alongside traditional country, honky tonk and bluegrass.
“This has been an organic change,” Harley points out. “The venues curate their own shows, and they cater for what their audiences want.”
TCMF 2020 will feature a few one-off exclusives
Aside from featuring most of the cream of Australian country, TCMF 2020 has a number of special events.
Kasey Chambers reuniting her original band as she plays her debut solo album The Captain in its entirety.
There’s a huge bash to celebrate country music matriarch Joy McKean’s 90th birthday while McAlister Kemp make their long-awaited return to the live arena.
The 2018 female artist of the year Aleyce Simmonds will launch her latest album, Kross Kut Records holds a roster showcase, while the Tamworth Country Music Charity Ball is on at Tamworth Town Hall.
There is also the lure of the Golden Guitar Awards at the end of the festival.
These are livestreamed while the ABC broadcasts a 90-minute highlights special which takes the event to more metro attention.
This year, the red carpet segment alone drew 300,000 viewers.
But the importance of the Golden Guitars is as much about highlighting the flood of fresh talent coming through.
“The new talent category is the most contested. Over 80 new albums were released in the sector in the past 12 months, and that indicates a very robust younger influence.”
The fact Cold Chisel decided to play a show at Scully Park as part of their national tour is also expected to draw a huge crowd.
“They’re as far from country as you can expect, but they’ve chosen to play Tamworth because they know good music is good music.
“But Don Walker is a prolific country music writer, he penned ‘Looking Forward Looking Back’ for Slim Dusty which is one of his best known songs.”
Don Walker discusses ‘Looking Forward Looking Back’
Harley quips, “Through the years, many musicians better known as members of hard rock bands have sneaked into the festival to play in country cover bands… and of course, they are very welcome!”
To purchase tickets, see the full TCMF line-up and all the festival information head to www.tcmf.com.au.