Soundwave struggles symptomatic of changing music festival scene

Written by Domenic Favata

By Domenic  Favata and Ashley Alasagas

Plagued by decreasing ticket sales and increasing festival costs, the likes of Soundwave are struggling to keep up with the rise of boutique music festivals.

After being cut back to a one-day festival and reduced to just three states, Soundwave has experienced further legal problems over the past year which has cast doubt over its future.

The festival survived its second court action in 12 months, with Spotless Facility Services applying to the Supreme Court to wind up the festival’s parent company on the grounds of insolvency.

Spotless accused Soundwave Pty Ltd of owing $47,666 in unpaid invoices, but the action was discontinued at a brief court hearing yesterday.

It is believed the parties reached an out-of-court settlement after beginning an administrative court hearing last week.

Spotless offers waste and security management services and is the second party in 12 months to have taken action against Soundwave, with the festival fighting off an application by Queensland fencing company Pink Fence in August last year.

The matter was similarly dismissed a month after the application was submitted.

Soundwave promoter AJ Maddah said he has faith that the festival’s loyal fan base will continue to be the driving force behind its future.

“Soundwave is not a scene festival. Our fans aren’t shallow and chasing trends. It’s all about the music,” he said.

Maddah says this year’s ticket sales were relative given the simultaneous Cricket World Cup and Foo Fighters stadium tour in February.

Soundwave Melbourne has moved to take Big Day Out’s previous Australia Day time slot.

Maddah said he is still optimistic that Soundwave has a future within a changing Australian musical festival scene.

“None of us have a crystal ball, but I feel very confident about Soundwave,” he said.

However, ProjectU editor Nic Kelly said he isn’t as optimistic about Soundwave’s future after yesterday’s legal win.

“It shows that AJ Maddah is holding on to the skin of his teeth with Soundwave,” Kelly said.

Kelly’s comments came after Maddah sold his stake in Big Day Out to an American company, and was forced to cancel the 2013 Harvest Festival, leading to doubts about the future of Soundwave.

“As we move into an era where boutique, independent festivals reign supreme – it’s the responsibility of those who were once the ‘big festivals’ to tap into this market and create consumer experiences that make sense in 2015.

“Soundwave in its current form worked five years ago but right now it isn’t, and it needs to stop resisting change. Stereosonic has demonstrated it can do this with a more pop-focused festival this year,” Kelly said.

“As mainstream music consumers are becoming more dance focused than rock focused, it’s the job of Soundwave to not over-spend their budget this year and play it safe in order to remain viable.”

Slash performing at Soundwave. Source: Johnny Worthington - Flckr CC.

Slash performing at Soundwave. Source: Johnny Worthington – Flckr CC.

Australia’s music festival scene is trying to fill in the gaps left by festival heavyweights Big Day Out and Future Music. Melbourne festival-goers are opting to travel out of Melbourne for the likes of Splendour In The Grass, Falls Festival and Groovin’ In The Moo.

Avid festival-goer Natalie Tannous said the loss of bigger festivals like Big Day Out and Future Music is felt in the Melbourne festival scene.

She said festivals are failing because organisers struggle to build lineups that people actually want to pay to see.

“There’s too many EDM and indie festivals and not enough rock-based festivals. Soundwave is literally the only festival that takes into account harder rock music so if that were to ever leave, I’d feel betrayed,” she said.

Australia’s location and the lack of support from local governments also continue to trouble festivals.

Kelly said it’s the size and distance of Australia that makes it difficult for international acts to tour, especially with rock bands needing big equipment loads and multiple members.

He said the unwillingness of local governments to hold the festivals and be cooperative makes it that much more difficult to host such events.

About the author

Domenic Favata