The party’s over: Splendour in the Grass festival cancelled for 2024

The party’s over: Splendour in the Grass festival cancelled for 2024

Photo via Splendour in the Grass Facbook

Splendour in the Grass, Australia’s largest winter music festival, has been officially cancelled for 2024 with organisers offering no explanation for making the shock decision just one week after launching ticket sales.

US based events giant Live Nation issued a statement this afternoon after rumours that a cancellation was imminent began swirling through trade publications and social media.

A report by industry website Tone Deaf kicked off the rumours after reporting that the music festival’s promoters “could not confirm that the festival will go ahead this year”.

Splendour in the Grass, scheduled for 19-21 July this year and set to be headlined by Aussie pop icon Kylie Minogue, attracts some 50,000 people a year to the northern NSW coastal township of Byron Bay.

"With a heavy heart, we’re announcing the cancellation of Splendour in the Grass 2024," says Live Nation.

"We know there were many fans excited for this year’s line-up and all the great artists planning to join us, but due to unexpected events we’ll be taking the year off. Ticket holders will be refunded automatically. We thank you for your understanding and will be working hard to be back in future years."

Prior to this afternoon's announcement by Live Nation, Business News Australia reached out to Byron Shire Council for comment. News of the cancellation appears to have also caught council staff by surprise with staff initially alerted to the move via media reports.

The council late this afternoon told Business News Australia that it was officially made aware of the cancellation of the festival by the afternoon.

Splendour in the Grass is promoted by Secret Sounds, which is majority owned by Live Nation. Tickets for the event officially hit the market only last week following a pre-release campaign launched on 14 March.

A joint statement issued by Jessica Ducrou and Paul Piticco, co-CEOs of Secret Sounds and co-founders of the festival, offered no indication of when Splendour in the Grass will make a return.

"We’re heartbroken to be missing a year especially after more than two decades in operation,” say the co-founders.

“This festival has always been a huge community effort, and we’d like to thank everyone for their support and overall faith. We hope to be back in the future."

NSW Minister for Music, John Graham, describes the cancellation of the festival as “devastating news”.

“The festival industry is under extreme pressure, and I am deeply worried about the health of the festival scene here in NSW,” says Graham.

“The NSW Government offered financial support to help the event proceed this year. We will continue to work with them and hope to see them return next year.”

However, the viability of music festivals has been brought into question in recent years under the weight of rising costs and poor ticket sales.

In February, the Groovin' The Moo festivals scheduled for regional Australia in 2024 was abandoned due to poor market response, coming on the heels of the Falls Festival – which has been running in Victoria since 1993 – being cancelled due to a failure to secure a venue early last year. The cancellation was triggered by pushback from the regional township of Murroon which organisers had hoped to make a permanent home for the festival.

The Falls Festival is also produced by the Secret Sounds team.

According to Griffith University’s Dr Ben Green, a research fellow with the Griffith Centre for Social and Cultural Research, the cancellation of Splendour in the Grass is significant in light of the scale of the event.

Green notes that the promoter is majority owned by Live Nation, which has just reported a bumper year for profits.

“However, this goes both ways - if anyone can afford to run a festival it's Live Nation, but if anyone would make - or force the local promoter to make - a brutal decision on short-term basis, it's also Live Nation,” he says.

Splendour in the Grass has had a tough time regaining momentum following a two-year break during COVID lockdowns. The event made an awkward return in 2022 when some acts were washed out due to heavy rains.

“With Splendour being our biggest festival, one that has been going for 23 years with giant backing, you feel that if Splendour can fail then anyone can fail,” says Green.

“What often happens to events when they take a year off is they don’t come back.

“Falls is one of those festivals that suffered from extreme weather events over recent years – both fire and flood. We hope that both festivals return but there is a range of factors facing the sector at the moment.”

Among the issues identified by Green are rising costs, particularly insurances, combined with lower consumer confidence among the younger demographic.

“Understandably audiences have lost confidence in events which can explain the trend of people, especially young people, buying their tickets later and making their commitment later,” he says.

“That is not the model that the live events sector works on. The general wisdom is that you have to open strongly with ticket sales and that if you don’t you will never recover.

“That’s why we saw Groovin’ the Moo cancelled a week after going on sale and now Splendour six days after the tickets went on sale. In Splendour’s case we can only speculate, but Moo actually said that the sales weren’t up to scratch.”

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