27 Nov 2015

Echo Festival promoter speaks out on cancellation

12:49 pm on 27 November 2015
McLaren Valley Festival has been renamed Echo Festival and will take place in Auckland this January.

McLaren Valley Festival has been renamed Echo Festival and will take place in Auckland this January. Photo: Unknown

New Zealand is the hardest place in the world to pull off music festivals, says the promoter behind the now cancelled Echo Festival.

The Flaming Lips, Jamie xx, Disclosure and Kurt Vile were billed to headline the two-day event, which promoter Paxton Talbot said he axed due to “slow ticket sales”.

Talbot, who has previously helped run Rhythm & Vines and festivals in Europe, originally organised the line-up for McLaren Valley Festival, which he’d hoped to host at McLaren Falls Park in Bay of Plenty.

Resource consent issues forced him to move the event to Auckland’s Vector Arena under a new name, he said. However, once the event was relocated, tickets sales slowed to a drip.

Talbot wouldn’t reveal exactly how many tickets were sold, but said it was “nowhere near” the 12,000 capacity of Vector.

“Nobody came to the table. We had massive web traffic, loads of interest but nothing was turning into sales and it’s an extremely expensive project.

“You can’t bank on last minute sales. You can’t bank on three or four thousand people rocking up in the last week because it doesn’t happen.”

Echo Festival is the second New Zealand music festival to be cancelled this year. Last month, it was announced that SoulFest wouldn’t be going ahead due to a lack of ticket sales.

The long-running Big Day Out festival didn't return this year after making a successful comeback in 2014.

“All the promoters out there are struggling at the moment because of low ticket sales. It’s a massive issue. Every single one of them. People need to get out there and they need to start supporting their local promoters and their local shows,” Talbot said.

He refused to say how much money he’d lost in the venture, which he said was being funded by him alone. However, he told The Wireless that running the festival would have cost “millions”.

“I’m disappointed for the audience. I don’t blame the audience for not buying – I know there was an audience out there that wanted to buy and wanted to be part of this gig – but we have to make business decisions based on the evidence available to us.”  

Talbot said there was absolutely no doubt in his mind that if the festival had stayed in McLaren Falls Park, it would’ve been a success.

“We were trudging along very nicely with McLaren Falls and I went for that gig because I knew that’s what the market wanted. I knew that’s what Kiwis wanted.”

Getting consent for a big event isn’t a straightforward process and a lot of misinformation was circulating at the time on social media and in the media, said Talbot.  “If you’re going to put $100,000 into a resource consent process and it ends negatively, then that’s money down the drain.”

Despite the financial and emotional knock, Talbot said he plans go back to organising music events in the future.

“I personally think that the people out there that care and know about this are with us. We’ll stick together and we’ll come back. It’ll be fine.”

Echo sideshows will go ahead as planned and full refunds will be offered to all festival ticketholders, he said.

More info is available from their official site.