As Rifflandia cancels, industry insiders say growing economic pressures may change direction of festival industry

As Rifflandia cancels, industry insiders say growing economic pressures may change direction of festival industry

For 11 years Rifflandia featured dozens of acts performing over several days at multiple venues across Victoria but this year those stages will sit empty.

“We love this festival, and that’s why this was so difficult,” said Atomique Productions Director Nick Blasko.

Despite being a huge hit among the thousands who attended each year, Blasko says Rifflandia has faced economic challenges and attendance in 2018 was down slightly.

“Our 10 year anniversary in 2017 was the first time we actually turned a profit on this event., which I think for a lot of people is shocking because think this has been wildly successful,” he said.

The announcement comes just a few months after Atomique Productions announced it was cancelling another of its headline concert events — Rock the Shores.

“No festival is immune to external forces, so competition, access to talent, weak dollar, weather, tastes in music,” said Blasko.

They’re just the latest in a lengthy list of cancelled concerts, including the popular Tall Tree Festival, and events like Squamish and Pemberton.

“You see festivals that have been around 20, 30 years in the United States that have closed doors, because the economics of it when it comes down to it, everything is more expensive,” said Times Colonist Arts & Entertainment Critic Mike Devlin.

Organizers of the popular Sunfest Country Music Festival say the exchange rate is putting a lot of financial pressure on Canadian festivals.

“80 per cent of our artists are paid in American dollars and you know that adds up substantially it’s our second biggest expense after artists is paying the exchange,” said Greg Adams, owner of Laketown Ranch.

Adams says one of his company’s greatest advantages is that they own their own venue but not many do. Industry insiders say we may start to see a change in the types of festivals we see down the road.

“They call them boutique events are starting to take hold because it’s easier, it’s more intimate, and sometimes it’s a little more creative,” said Devlin.

Atomique says Rifflandia is only cancelled for this year and will be back in 2020.

April LawrenceApril Lawrence

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