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Alt-Fest organisers confirm cancellation, blame high costs and low ticket sales

By | Published on Monday 4 August 2014


Alt-Fest’s organisers issued a lengthy statement on Friday evening, confirming that the event has been cancelled two weeks before it was due to take place.

As previously reported, following signs that all was not well in the Alt-Fest camp when organisers admitted that they were dealing with “some extremely challenging and stressful issues”, it was two of the artists on the line-up, Marilyn Manson and Gary Numan, who actually broke the news of the cancellation.

The event, which had been due to take place at the Boughton Estate in Kettering on 15-17 Aug, was in part funded by £60,000 raised on Kickstarter. However, despite that being twice what organisers had set as their original funding target, it was still a long way from the £1,703,000 total cost of putting on the festival, which was revealed in last week’s statement.

Organisers Missy and Dom Void blamed low ticket sales, the last minute departure of an investor, a “costing error” and the usual cash flow traumas for the cancellation.

The pair wrote: “We were doing very well for a first year festival. We sold over seven and a half thousand weekend tickets, and as you were aware we had a great line-up with plenty going on. This, however, meant we had to pay [substantial band advances], with the remainder due just before and at the festival itself. Securing bands was not the only cost”.

They continued: “[Even] if we were to sell a minimum of another 1000 tickets between now and the festival, we’d have suffered a significant loss that we couldn’t carry. This recently came to light based on a costing error and … the fact that an investor unfortunately pulled out last minute. We were expecting to sell more tickets based on our line-up, and if we had sold just 3000 tickets more then we would have been over the break even line”.

Responding to some online criticism, they added: “We have not gone on any exotic holidays or feathered our own nest, in fact exactly the opposite. We did not embezzle the money, or spend it recklessly, we used it to secure some of those great bands we had in the line-up, who required considerable deposits”.

Of course, the festival business is always a risky one, especially for grass roots events. Though it seems that part of the problem at Alt-Fest may have been that, on the back of the success of its Kickstarter campaign, the event’s organisers allowed the event to grow too quickly, certainly in terms of level of artist.

Explaining the logic behind the Kickstarter fundraising to the Northants Telegraph earlier this year, Dom said: “We already had the support of a lot of the smaller bands. However, as soon as you want to move it to the next level and book more ‘known’ bands, you get into the realms of having to commit to quite large deposits. We looked at the bands we hypothetically wanted to book and then decided if we raised £30,000 we could book X, Y and Z. The whole process was structured in a way that every time we moved forward we could impact positively other forms of funding”.

The husband and wife team have been running London clubnight Club AntiChrist for ten years, also explaining in the Northants Telegraph interview: “We were on holiday a couple of years ago, had probably had one too many Sangrias and were chatting about corporate festivals and our views on them. We wanted to do what we’d achieved with Club AntiChrist in a festival environment. To treat the people who would come as shareholders so it’s as much their vision of what they want and who they to see – a proper crowd-led event”.

As well as the crowdfunding, Alt-Fest’s audience involvement included consulting fans on everything from what bands they’d like to see to what drinks they wanted in the bars. Though while that idea might seem like a sound one, it clearly didn’t translate into ticket sales. Perhaps because many of the most-engaged fans took tickets as their reward for investing on Kickstarter.

Arguably it’s better to cancel the entire event two weeks in advance, rather than attempting to salvage something from it until it’s too late, or putting on a sub-standard festival. However, with the production company set up to run the project now going into liquidation, this means that those early champions of Alt-Fest, who invested money via Kickstarter, now join the list of creditors attempting to get their money back.

Meanwhile, ticketholders are advised to contact the outlet from which they purchased their passes and any other extras. A full list of options is provided in the statement on the Alt-Fest website.