Bumbershoot's Organizers Won't Tell Us How Bad Attendance Was This Year



An internal AEG bumbershoot planning memo just released has the following subject line: Prevent All Fun.


$130 a day means not many young people are coming out (I think it was like $8 when I was a kid and we'd go every year), and Burning Man weekend means a ton of moneyed dorks will be out of town as well.

Or maybe there just wasn't a real tentpole act on the festival circuit this year but next year will be fine?


Even at 16, I used to be able to scrape together enough to go. 10 bucks to see Sonic Youth, Sleater-Kinney, Built to Spill, and Beck?! Count me in.

These days ... I can't afford to get myself in, let alone my family of 5. Way too cost prohibitive. Which is a shame.


No one could come back if they left, so only people who were really diehard wanting to be there from open to close went. Almost everyone I spoke to this year about going was excited for some bands and wanted to get tickets but didn’t want to get them if they couldn’t just drop in and drop out for a show.


Yeah, even if you can afford this price, what is the chance that there are multiple bands playing on any given day that you really want to see? $130 for 2 or 3 bands that you could see at some club for a fraction of that amount? I'm surprised attendance has not dropped off more precipitously.


$130 per day in an urban setting with no re-entry? That's a tough sell. Folks want to take a lunch break at nearby restaurant, or get a few shots in them at a bar before the seeing the headliner.


I think there are just too.many.music.festivals! There are other fun things to do, especially in the summer. I blame the supply-side idiots for making people think all they have do is 'build it and they will come'!


I literally laughed out loud when they announced the ticket prices were $130 without re-entry. I went nearly every year for 11 years, I will never go again as long as AEG is involved.


@5 that's me there are a few bands most days I would like to see but none of them a c-note's worth; I used to get the 4-day pass in the 90s, see who I wanted, in and out, it was good.


Amazon will buy Bumbershoot and it will be free for all Prime members.


@6 Sir Vic & @8 Kris: Yep--that's precisely what kept me from attending Bumbershoot. It sounds like AEG is a real 12-gauge rifle blow to the foot. Maybe a few years of lost profits from low turnout will wake up the event planners.
@7 iseult: I know, right?


@10 stinkbug: Ugh! I blame Amazon and Jeff Bezos for eating up Seattle.


I'd far rather see four bands I like at Neumo's or the Showbox than spend a day at Bumbershoot for the same price. Lucky for me the bands I like don't seem to get invited to Bumbershoot so Neumo's it is. Next up, the Presets which cost me all of $20.


I am an old person, who wouldn't have any reason to go near Bumbershoot these days, but $130 a day? That's for horrid rich people and corporate donors, like professional sports.


This is the first year we did not go since 1987 (Reagan was still president then) The price is too high and the fun is long gone along with the families and old people and hippies and good food and...


I've gone almost every year since 1992. No ins-and-outs was a dealbreaker for me.


The scourge of "I spend money on experiences, not on things", is that experiences now cost a lot of fucking money and things are cheap.


I believe AEG's contract with One Reel is up after this year's event, so my guess is nobody wants to release attendance or ticket sales figures until they absolutely have to, as it'll be a major piece of leverage against AEG getting a renewal if the numbers were significantly down this year.


$130 per ticket, and the venue only gets $1 of that?

So if they sell 75,000 tickets, they gross $9,750,000, and the Seattle center only gets $75,000?


A college buddy and I have been going to Bumbershoot every year since the mid-‘90s. This year will be our last time unless huge changes get made. We talked at length about how empty it was — both crowd size and numbers of exhibitors/acts were way down from just a few years ago. The price is now ludicrous, and forbidding us our usual sit-down dinners in Belltown and Lower Queen Anne was the final insult.


https://fusiontables.google.com/DataSource?docid=1PGx6yEaMizcM0z5hWBawOKk30LxIN_iBO8PzkJ8#rows:id=1 Historic pricing.. this is out of control


@18 COMTE - one more year on their deal


Jeezus, are you telling me the crowd was that thin before Fleet Foxes? I would have probably gone if I had known nobody else would be there!

But let's be honest, I'm not paying $150 (it's $150 after fees and all that shit) to see them for less than an hour even if I worship the ground they fucking walk on.


Wonder if AEG's failed bid on Key Arena connects up with its approach to Bumbershoot this year? Probably the no ins and outs thing was just greed and trying to get people to eat inside the Seattle Center. On the other hand, perhaps they did it to tank the event on purpose and punish the city for choosing the Oakview Group's proposal instead.

Cuz no ins and outs was a deal killer for a lot of people, especially at that price.


An inspiration behind naming the festival "Bumbershoot" was that the festival could serve as an umbrella representing all the arts: diverse kinds of music, dance, literary performance and small presses, visual arts, film, theater, international folk arts, and hybrids of all kind. In the late seventies, and for about the next twenty years, Bumbershoot did a credible job of serving as such a cultural umbrella. And in so doing, many diverse groups in the community rallied around it, attended it, supported it, promoted it--because each felt in some way represented. Now: dance? small press fair? literary performance? theater? orchestral music, world music, jazz? Most of the festival is devoted to indie rock and rap and hip-hop. Yes, it's not exclusively that, but that's what dominates. So, the dance and literary and theater and other communities feel less kinship to the festival. And with ticket prices being so exorbitant, and feeling like their input about performers is negligible or non-existent, people aren't attending. And the whole vibe of it feels more about hipster self-congratulation than serious community outreach. Bumbershoot can be saved--but it needs an infusion of its original populist inclusiveness. $130 tickets and virtual elimination of many arts is not the ticket. And, yes, as others have noted, there are now many music festivals and loads of competition from all sorts of events and doings. Bumbershoot organizers need to sit down, face reality about where they're at, and do what needs to be done.


Or one other thought: Maybe AEG didn't want to punish the city, but perhaps they're hoping that poor attendance will inspire the city to cancel the contract early, since they won't control Key Arena long-term (which may have been part of the reason they got involved with Bumbershoot in the first place: at an entry point for building a bigger relationship with the city there).


@25 I think you're onto something. The intent was to bring culture to a city that was kind of backwater. Bumbershoot was special because it was unique and it filled a huge void. That situation is long gone and will never return.


I went this year because I wanted to see Blondie.

The high cost of entry, and the no reentry policy was a bitter pill to swallow, but I paid the price and went at around 2PM because I thought there would be crowds to fight. I was surprised that there was hardly anyone there, but it got livelier as the day went on.

Having only one place to get food, with a common ordering and checkout line was a bad idea for this kind of festival. The line at dinner time scared me away and I went over to the Armory to eat there.

It might be time to retire Bumbershoot if they can't get acts that are better known, and keep costs down to a reasonable level. Having said that, the acts I listened to that day were all pretty good, but it seemed like they were mostly up and comers that nobody every heard of. It would be hard to cough up $150 for that.


$130 per day is absolutely unacceptable. This was my first year not going in a long while. It should be $130 tops for a 3 day pass not for a single day.


I'm just not paying $130. I've been a few times over the past few years but only on free tickets or when I'm doing something with a band that's playing.
I used to go with a whole bunch of friends when it was $40 and spend most of the day there. I think only a couple of those people even went this year and I suspect they were on comp tickets.


The price for attendance is too damn high.

To contrast Bumbershoot, Portland has a yearly Blues fest with low pricing and attendees bring cans of food to donate to the local food bank. Its main purpose is to raise money for the Oregon Food Bank. Obviously Bumbershoot is larger and more complex than what they do in Portland, but why couldn't Bumbershoot become something that helps the community? Food for hungry people or homeless programs? Why can't we go back to the original vision and make it more inclusive for the entire city? (Not just people who can shell out $130 a day.)


@25 Exactly - the broad range of programming was what drew me to Bumbershoot year after year (and then at least one headliner a day to plan around) - the joy of stumbling on art of all kinds in between the stuff I knew I wanted to check out (and when I was a teenager in the mid-late 80's bands I couldn't see because I couldn't get into venues with booze) was the very best part. Hell, I took my mom one day the year the Everly Brothers played and we both ended up digging Robbie Fulks on a side stage. Took my pal who worked at Kinko's with me the next day and wandered for hours. Now that it is just another pop music fest - and maybe my advancing age means no matter what the ticket price is, I have no desire to go. Also, Upstream seems to be the smart move for discovering music in a fest setting.


Too expensive; no re-entry. At 130.00 are you kidding me?? Just to keep vendor revenue up?? Shove it bumbershoot.


I used to go when you got $4 change from a $20 to get in. Now I don't even consider. Had a real nice day at a bluegrass festival for $35 instead. They've killed it...…...RIP...…….as in Rip Off!


I made a graph of ticket prices way back in 2011 tickets were actually below $50/day.



I remember when Bumbershoot was something like $20/day, Bartell's and Pay 'n Pak had coupons to reduce admission, and it really did have something for everyone.

Of course in those days, Seattle Center had a much larger number of performance spaces. That was before the Opera House got glamorized, the Mercer Arena was still around, the Pavilion Building was still there, and KEXP hadn't taken over the Northwest Rooms.

There were big names in the Coliseum, medium acts in the Stadium and Mural amphitheater, and lots of odd little things all over. It was a less hokey Folklife, and a true arts festival. It could still be that. We just stop insisting on it being "world class".


And what's the battle for parking like at Seattle Center these days, for Bumbershoot, Key Arena events or anything else?
@37 Catalina Vel-DuRay: Thank you and bless you---I just love reading your posts. Aaaahhhh, the memories. Agreed on "world class". But what to do once the world has come here?


I wonder how much the concerts at Safeco Field impacted Bumbershoot this year? Zac Brown played Friday night and the Foo Fighters played Saturday night.


It’s a festival for rich people now, and it would suck to be there knowing that the hippies, kids, and extended families couldn’t afford it. Real humans make the buzz. The sparse number of people in the area 10 minutes before Fleet Foxes is just sad.


There is no way my family of 3 could have afforded it and no way I would have paid that price when I was single. I have been to bumbershoot dozens of times, but I will never go back at these prices. Why would I?