Following a number of music festivals calling it a day last year, carrying on from 2011’s event bloodbath, 2013 claimed its first music festival scalp when Peats Ridge announced that it would be calling it a day after 9 years of service, just weeks after a successful 2012 edition featuring headliners The John Butter Trio, Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings,  The Black Seeds, Unknown Mortal Orchestra and many more.

But despite its lineup of 200+ acts, the New South Wales New Year’s event faced a poor financial turnover, leading to Peats Ridge Creative Director Matt Grant announcing that poor tickets sales had left the company behind Peats Ridge, The Festival Company, in financial ruin and they have no choice but to wind the company up, admitting insurmountable debts.

“In the wake of what was an incredible 2012 Peats Ridge Festival, it is with great regret that I have to announce that the income from ticket sales and other sources fell below that required to meet the costs of the event,” Grant revealed. “As a result, the festival’s accountants have advised that the entity that runs the Festival be wound up.”

But the financial implications of Peats Ridge calling it a day have now reverberated, with the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA) issuing a statement that implicates Peats Ridge organisers have not paid “hundreds of professional musicians, performers and production crew” for their efforts at the Glenworth Valley event, “entertaining nearly 10,000 people over three days.”

The MEAA statements says Creative Director Grant’s final announcement came “without warning,” and “intends to wind up the company without paying its debts.” Adding that, “The Alliance has been advised by festival organisers that the workers and performers will need to register as creditors with a liquidator.”

Mal Tulloch of the Alliance said that it was the “professional skills, labour and talent” of the hundreds of musicians, performers, and crew “that make festival liks Peats Ridge happen. They have to be paid what they are owed, and the Alliance is determined to work with everyone affected to chase unpaid monies.”

Adding that:

“People in our industry do these gigs in good faith and always do a fantastic job for the fans and the industry. It is simply not acceptable for them to be left in debt and struggling financially because a particular promoter fails to budget for employment costs as a priority. As their union we will stand with those affected until we get a fair outcome from this debacle.”

The MEAA’s statement concludes with a call-out to those affected by the issue, “whether they are Alliance members or not,” to get in touch with the Alliance for advice and assistance on being reimbursed.

As The Music Network points out Director Matt Grant has now issued a response to the MEAA’s allegations:

I have been in contact with MEAA, and advised them I am working very hard to find a solution. I have been personally contacting all artists and crew who may be affected. The process for payment for artists is a legal one, and the liquidators have been speaking to all creditors to the Festival who have contacted them, as we have instructed all festival suppliers to do from the moment we were advised liquidation was the only option facing the Festival. I have been openly transparent about what is happening and I have personally communicated with the vast majority of those affected including the MEAA.

Peats Ridge has been an important platform for emerging artists for the past nine years, and have been one of the few major festivals in Australia who have given opportunities for emerging artists to perform in front of large audiences. I personally am pursuing every avenue to find a solution to the current situation, and am in communication with several parties regarding this.”

The cancellation of Peats Ridge marks the loss of a unique event on the festival calendar, with it being applauded for its approach to sustainability, hosting a dedicated eco-living education program as well as extensive environmental initiatives and awards in addition to its arts and music programme.

It’s not the first major music event that’s struggled in an oversaturated market, where even the big players like Falls Festival, Homebake, and Big Day Out’s promoter Ken West, have felt the squeeze.

With 2011′s music event death toll acting as a stark reminder, many major promoters and industry figures around Australia have been forging new business partnerships and alliances to strengthen themselves in the ruthless music festival market.

The Chugg Entertainment group recently announced an alliance with Homebake 2012 as co-promoters, while top brass from Splendour In The Grass, Jessica Ducrou and Paul Piticco, stepped in and bought a share of Falls Festival with Simon Daly.

The Dainty Group partnered with former Big Day Out promoter Vivian Lees to create Two Worlds Touring last September. Meanwhile Lees’ former partner, Ken West sought solace in a new partnership with C3 Presents, the international company responsible for the likes of Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits, bringing their considerable promotional power to the Big Day Out, whichkicked off today in Sydney.

Unfortunately, many more music festivals have fallen over in the last 12 months than been created, either through lack of organisation and infrastructure, or over-reaching ambitions. Including charity event One Great Night On Earth quietly folding, the dissolution of the Kangaroo Island Surf and Music Festival after blowing $500,000, the cancellation of Perth’s On The Bright SideVictoria’s Castle Music Festival falling over, Tasmania’s Soundscape Festival quietly exiting the sceneRaggamuffin calling it a day, and NSW’s Central Coast Coaster Festival coming apart.

Hopefully 2013 will see the competitive market levelling out, rather than tough financial times and oversaturation claiming more music festival victims.

Get unlimited access to the coverage that shapes our culture.
to Rolling Stone magazine
to Rolling Stone magazine