After a disastrous 2022, with concertgoers coated in mud, a day of music cancelled and even a disease outbreak, Aussie music festival Splendour in the Grass is struggling to get ticketholders to return.
Last year, the iconic NSW festival copped heavy criticism after it was hit by a major weather event. Campsites were flooded, dance floors turned into swamps and the first day of music was cancelled. Many campers opted to sleep in their cars to avoid pitching a tent on the boggy campground floor.
After the event, Byron Bay locals called for its 2023 iteration to be cancelled when they confronted a parkland littered with rubbish.
In August, health authorities urged attendees to look out for symptoms of meningococcal after a slew of infections at the festival.
Finally, in December, the festival’s parent company was slapped with a $100,000 fine for causing traffic chaos.
Now, it seems the festival is struggling to make a comeback.
Splendour in the Grass organisers say, in 2023, ticket sales are down a troubling 30 per cent. About 35,000 tickets have been sold, compared to 50,000 last year, and the event is just days away.
The festival’s co-producer Jessica Ducrou said the lagging sales were a reflection of the cost of living crisis.
“I think it is a reflection of the current economy,” she told the ABC.
“We are seeing a lot of people buying single-day tickets rather than three days and that is very much a reflection on the budget.”
“No doubt last year’s experiences have impacted on sales as well,” she added.
Ms Ducrou said a number of changes had been made to avoid the chaos of last year.
The festival has implemented new traffic management measures, including vehicle passes that have been sold to ensure visitors come onto the site via designated directions and at particular times.
More than 100 police officers will attend the festival, including cops from Queensland, NSW and the Australian Federal Police, as well as sniffer dogs and mounted police.
“We don’t want to be ‘the fun police’. We want to make sure that people come here, enjoy their time, and get home safely. It’s as simple as that,” said Commander of the Tweed Byron Police district, Superintendent Dave Roptell.
Ms Ducrou said “a lot of thought, consultation and consideration” had gone into avoiding the mistakes of last year.
Splendour in the Grass, considered a mecca for festival-heads and influencers alike, is entering its 21st year, cementing it as one of Australia’s longest-running music events.
This year’s star-studded line-up includes Lizzo, Flume and Noah Cyrus.
The weather in the NSW northern rivers this weekend is forecast to be mercifully clear.
“There’s not a cloud in the sky for the first time in five years, which is pretty exciting,” Ms Ducrou said.
“I‘m just really looking forward to people enjoying the show.”