In sad news that follows community support and Tone Deaf’s own piece, Top 8 Reasons To Attend Harvest 2013, it seems that the arts and music festival is on the brink of being axed as festival organisers look at dismantling the festival and replacing it for a series of headline tours.
After ringing alarm bells over a “crisis of confidence” that ticket sales had “died” for the November festival, promoter AJ Maddah now says that Harvest is likely to be cancelled as it enters what would have been its third year, as Sydney Morning Herald reports.
“At this point it looks like it will disassociate into several tours,” says Maddah, noting that the final decision to pull the plug hadn’t yet been made but that he’d prefer to run a series of headline tours featuring Harvest acts than to run a scaled back version of the event. In either case, it spells certain doom for the festival series; “maybe Harvest will be back some day… Pretty fucking unlikely though,” laments Maddah.
Maddah says ticket sales to Harvest 2013 – with a lineup featuring Massive Attack, Franz Ferdinand, Goldfrapp, and over 15 local and international acts – just weren’t reaching the numbers the festival needed to protect itself financially.
The Brisbane leg on November 17th had shown just “18%” of the 17,500 tickets had been sold, the Sydney leg the prior day had shifted “30-40 per cent” of the 20,000, while Melbourne Harvest tickets were closer to “70-80 per cent” of the 15,000 allocated tickets being sold. “I don’t want to add to the statistics of festivals fucking people over. I don’t want anyone else to get hurt over this.” – AJ Maddah
All in all, it would have meant Maddah meant facing a loss of up to $5.5 million if he’d pressed on with the event. “Breaking even [this year] is not on the cards; the event has never broken even,” Maddah reveals, noting that Harvest had run at a loss for its debut in 2011 and in 2012; “We never expected to [break even]… we have been subsidising the tickets since day one.”
“I’m devastated, we got Massive Attack and we’d dragged (‘Teardrop’ singer) Elizabeth Fraser out… And we had a good second line-up announcement,” adds the promoter, referring to what he’d previously called the festival’s biggest ever addition of bands.
Breaking up Harvest 2013 into a series of separate headline tours would still mean personal losses of up to “seven figures,” estimates Maddah, “but not $5.5 million, which would have been crippling;” but greater concern to the Harvest boss was the financial fallout afflicting others.
“I’m happy to assume risk when that risk is to me, but there comes a point where the risk is to suppliers and bands and everyone involved,” says the promoter. “[To continue it] we’d have to take shortcuts or make drastic changes to the event, where it’s not up to the expectations of people involved and those who have bought tickets.”
Maddah added: “Ethically I can only take risks at my expense… I don’t want to add to the statistics of festivals fucking people over. I don’t want anyone else to get hurt over this.”
Echoing his series of grave tweets that first telegraphed the possibility of a Harvest 2013 cancellation, Maddah blamed the flagging ticket sales on a lack of interest, “economic uncertainty,” and stiff competition from rival festivals with their own “Harvest-centric” lineups, specifically referencing the strong indie bills of Falls Festival and the Big Day Out triple headliners, Blur, Arcade Fire, and Pearl Jam. “Put that next to us and we are dwarfed,” he says.
The shift to break up Harvest 2013 into a series of headline tours was, for Maddah, a personal gesture for Harvest fans to still catch the promised lineup: “Without them and their support [more] events will die out.”
Maddah and his team have been scrambling in the last 48 hours to negotiate new deals with bands on the Harvest 2013 lineup, thus far confirming agreements with Franz Ferdinand, Goldfrapp, and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club for Australian tours in 2014 by Harvest Presents. Meanwhile, Primus and Mutemath are looking to be absorbed into the Soundwave 2014 lineup.
The rest of the lineup – which includes Eels, CSS, Superchunk, M Ward, the reunited Neutral Milk Hotel, and more – are still in negotiations, including headliners Massive Attack and Bon Iver’s Volcano Choir.
As discussed in Tone Deaf’s opinion piece, the cancellation of Harvest 2013 is an obvious blow to Maddah, who is also responsible for Soundwave and the Australian Vans Warped Tour, who was perceived to be a maverick success in a climate when it seems that the music festival market is experiencing another downturn.
“There’s always going to be knock-backs when you are trying to create something new,” says Maddah. “Maybe Harvest will be back some day … Pretty fucking unlikely though. It’s been a labour of love but we have a couple of great years to remember.”
Harvest 2013 Dates, Tickets
Sunday November 10: Melbourne, Werribee Park
Saturday November 16: Sydney, The Domain
Sunday November 17: Brisbane, City Botanic Gardens
Tickets and info at: www.harvestfestival.com.au