Ken West, the founder of The Big Day Out, says he will lose money on the music festival bonanza this year for the first time in its 20 years of peace and love and selling out.
Poor consumer sentiment, sluggish ticket sales, a shallow pool of international crowd-pulling talent and a glut of rival events mean that the “golden age for Australian music festivals” is over.
- Financial Review, 20th Jan 2012
Has anyone taken a serious look at the music charts to work out why people aren't turning up at music festivals any more?
I might sound like a bit of a silly old git but in the days when people used to play their own instruments, concert goers would go out and see artists play those instruments live.
This may be kind of scary but have a look through the ARIA charts for the year 2011:
Out of the top 100 selling singles in Australia, only 2 were by artists that actually played their own instruments. They were Avril Lavigne at No.48 who can play a guitar and at No.54 the band Coldplay. That's it. Just two... TWO?!
What possible incentive is there for anyone to go and see a band live, when they don't even play their music live. If you want to see DJs play with mixing decks, then you can just as easily go to a nightclub. I mean just what is the point?
To give you an idea of the biggest concert I ever went to, this is a photo:
Now you can argue until you're blue in the face about the relative merits of the band but the point is that the 170,000 people who turned up that day, turned up and saw a band play LIVE. This poses a distinct problem when 98% of artists in the Top 100 on the ARIA charts, can't play their own instruments at all, let alone live.
Part of the blame can also be laid at the feet of those prize gits, Simon Fuller and Simon Cowell. They're the people responsible for the television "talent" shows The X Factor and before that Pop Idol. Once upon a time singers and bands would have to grind out their skills and work at it before they were noticed by record company executives; now you can take any Johnny or Jackie Q Public, pluck them out of obscurity, put them in front of a telly audience who is almost a captured market, knock out an album of 12 mediocre songs and they'll never be heard of again. Whether or not they have any actual talent is almost incidental - usually they won't have a lot; hence the reason why they weren't noticed by record company executives in the first place.
Aside from the above, I personally think that a lot of music today sounds utterly rubbish. I was going to put it down to the fact that I'm just getting older and going the same way as a lot of older people before me but if the concert going public is voting with its wallets and simply not turning up at music festivals, then it invites the very real possibility that music today, actually is in fact rubbish.
You could I suppose blame the internet and concepts like dissipation, dispersion and dissemination of talent, however the rules of what's popular on the internet are different again.
According to the official YouTube blog and as reported by MSNBC, the most viewed video of 2011 in the world was the song "Friday" by Rebecca Black. This is a case of music being notable precisely because it was rubbish.
This is noteworthy because it prompted such comments as "I feel sick" from Stephen K Amos and "It is the end of music" from JJJ presenter Myf Warhurst, who as a DJ should have her finger on the pulse of what is popular.
It could be that we're just in one of those periods that the music industry goes through from time to time and needs a major shift to kick it out of its daze.
However, I'd prefer to think that the reason why people aren't going to big music festivals like they used to is because music today is rubbish.