Saturday 20 October 2018

Festival fever cooled by slump

Breda Heffernan and Edel Kennedy

CONCERT-GOERS are tightening their belts, with some of the country's major summer music festivals hit by slowing sales.

Some 80,000 tickets for last year's Oxegen event at Punchestown, Co Kildare, sold out in a record 70 minutes.

However, this time round, two months after the main release of tickets, they are still available.

Four-day Oxegen tickets with camping cost €244.50 and are sold out. However, fans can still buy three-day tickets without camping for €199.50 or tickets to see Friday's acts for €99.50, with a €6.35 booking fee per ticket.

Yet, some ticket websites haven't cottoned on to the slowdown just yet -- with one site looking for €250 for a three-day ticket, an extra €50.50, and €120 for a Friday day ticket, a mark up of over €20.

A spokesperson for Oxegen promoters MCD said there are only a "handful" of day tickets remaining. He added that the three-day music marathon is considered a camping event and those tickets are long gone.

"We have been inundated with enquiries for people looking for camping tickets but these are sold out. It's a camping festival, so there are only a limited number of day tickets available," he added.

Unrealistic

Consumer watchdogs say people are beginning to "wise up" to unrealistic ticket prices and are thinking twice before handing over their cash.

Other "big name" acts, including Prince, Neil Diamond, Lenny Kravitz, Bon Jovi and Radiohead, also still have tickets available for their summer gigs.

Even Westlife still have tickets available for each of their five Irish gigs ,while just one of their 11 UK dates has sold out.

Last summer also saw an abundance of tickets available for the Rolling Stones gig in Slane, with many touts left out of pocket because they had expected fans to pay over the odds to see the aging rockers.

In contrast, smaller -- and cheaper -- gigs are proving as popular as ever. This was evidenced at this weekend's Heineken Green Energy festival, which saw Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds play to a dedicated fan base. They sold out in 45 seconds flat, while tonight's concert in Dublin Castle, featuring The Kooks and Irish band The Coronas, is also sold out.

Meanwhile, there are still tickets on sale for Electric Picnic, which takes place at Stradbally in Co Laois in August. Its sales have always been more of a slow-burner compared to Oxegen and last year it took just under eight weeks to sell all 32,500 tickets.

This year, tickets costing €240 went on sale on March 28 and now, more than five weeks later, they are still available.

A spokesperson for the event said they did not know how many tickets were left, however they are confident it would be another sell-out.

Again, websites are offering tickets that are already available through conventional channels at a mark-up, this time of €15.

Britain's summer stalwart, Glastonbury, is also experiencing slow sales for the first time in years. While musical purists blame this on the decision to install American rapper Jay-Z as the headline act, organisers put it down to music fans being sick of wading through mud for the last three years.

Some heavy-hitters can still cause a stir at the box office, no matter what the economic climate, but they have become the exception, rather than the norm.

Bruce Springsteen will play three sold-out shows in the RDS later this month, with the 100,000 tickets snapped up within minutes of their release. Likewise, Canadian chanteuse Celine Dion sold-out Croke Park within hours, a not inconsiderable feat considering that some tickets cost more than €126.

Dermot Jewell, chief executive of the Consumers Association of Ireland, said he is not surprised that people are turning their backs on highly priced events. He said young concertgoers are already struggling to balance their budget against rising food and transportation costs. For many, the cost of a festival ticket is a stretch too far.

"The cost of tickets has been an issue for a while, but more so now that money is tighter. People are looking at the price and saying 'no, I'll think about it'.

"Having said that, it's been a long, hard winter and when the summer months come, things might cheer up. But the reality is that prices have been pegged very high for several years," he added.

Tickets for big-name bands typically cost over €70, with many reaching over €100. On top of this is the standard €6.35 charge per ticket booked via Ticketmaster. Additional costs such as travel, accommodation and food can easily push the price of a two-hour gig well over €250 per person.

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