Bumbershoot's Attendance Dropped to Its Lowest Level in Years

Has the music fest bubble burst?

Comments

2

Who wants to fork over obscene amounts of personal money to get yelled at by crowd-controllers? Not much value there.

3

They really screwed themselves when they started the NO RE-ENTRY BS this year. #notenoughmiddlefingers

4

Yes and only because of the unmitigated greed. The cost of tickets is obscene.

4

Yep, no re-entry was a dealbreaker for me.

5

It's too expensive! I can't afford to take my family.

6

They should stop booking stuff like The Chainsmokers and the like and book a couple of bigger bands and then mid-level and local acts. Bring the price down but not super down. Definitely do away with the re-entry rules.

7

Good, maybe It'll be fun to attend, something that hasn't been true for about 15 years. The shows and such are great, standing in line for literally 5 or 6 hours a day is not.

8

@1 Pijamaradus: I'd call it a scam, for sure. Bumpershoot officials really shot themselves in the foot by their own greed and bureaucracy. Hopefully 2018's lack of revenue was enough of a wake up call for organizers and profiteers.

9

I am an old person. Unless the Mantovani Orchestra decides to play Bumbershoot, I have no interest.

But any Interest I would have would be immediately squashed by the prices. They’re ridiculous.

10

I get that major touring bands cost $$$ - that's how most recording acts make the bulk of their earnings, as opposed to from album sales - but AEG is also floating the argument that they need to maintain this price-point as a way of recouping the costs of servicing the debt they took over from One Reel. So, the (rhetorical) question I have is: when do they expect to retire that debt, and will they adjust prices accordingly once that happens?

11

@10 I wonder if the cost for big-name acts has gone up. With the decline of CD sales, many artists tour more extensively than ever; meanwhile, the value of an 'engaged user' has gone up as well. So a big act with a lot of instagram fans may well be in a position to charge much more, in 2018, than, say, Third Eye Blind was able to charge in 98.

12

@9 Catalina Vel-DuRay: You don't sound old to me. I, too, am an orchestral fan. I agree, though: Bumpershoot's outrageous ticket prices, fees, and bullshit no-reentry policy were deal killers for me, too.
@10 COMTE: I wouldn't hold my breath that AEG will do anything other than continue to price gouge for record profits.

13

@10 (and everyone): Stop making questions rhetorical, even (rhetorical), and maybe they'll finally get answered.

14

There were two concerts at Safeco Field at the same time as Bumbershoot that might have impacted attendance; Zack Brown Band on 8/31 and the Foo Fighters on 9/1.

15

Couldn't have happened to nicer people. I worked with Jon Stone and One Reel for years and they were professionals who were a joy to work with and did the best they could with the hand they were dealt.

AEG took over and were just a bunch of out-of-town corporate pricks who had no idea what they were doing... other than fuck over the locals and grab for corporate money.

Morons.

16

@13 -- what if we don't Want them answered.

17

I can believe that the cost is the cost but the addition of no reentry etc... gratuitous knife twists give it all a bad flavor.

18

"So, the (rhetorical) question I have is: when do they expect to retire that debt, and will they adjust prices accordingly once that happens?"

Duh no

19

In three years, attendance fell from about 80,000 to 48,000--and this is reason for optimistic self-congratulation? All because other festivals aren't doing well either? I can understand finding consolation in the comparative numbers, but the tone here sounds false, like festival organizers are trying to convince themselves all is well rather than genuinely believing it. And customers' complaints about the high ticket prices, no-return policy, and long waits hardly suggest all will be well. And all this at a time when the Puget Sound region's young adult population is soaring--so by logical extension should Bumbershoot's attendance numbers. I'm having some trouble believing the organizers' we-had-a-good-year and all-is-well tone.

20

@18: “In three years, attendance fell from about 80,000 to 48,000...”

Because in those last few years, the prices skyrocketed as the number of performances, art exhibits, and vendors plummeted. I’ve gone to twenty-five Bumbershoots, and I was amazed at how empty Seattle Center has been for the past few. (Taking away most of the food vendors and then not alllowing festival-goers to take dinner in Belltown or Lower Queen Anne and re-enter was a really brilliant set of business decisions, AEG.)

Fewer food tents, fewer buskers, fewer exhibits — you know, the things that made Bumbershoot FESTIVE? — while jacking up the prices was not a recepie for success. I’m taking my vacation and money elsewhere next year, and that’s a damned shame.

21

I remember when Bumbershoot was an ARTS festival, not a music festival. People would go to see art that surprised them with a little music of the eccentric variety (and definitely not the international sensation variety) and some interesting film thrown in. Then we had Bob F-ing Dylan for crying out loud and all the rest. People came to see bands they already knew and were not going to be surprised by, but now they are tired of paying the high prices for that.

Well those kinds of acts can come to town on their own and definitely don’t need the city to subsidize them with free rent on the Center.

And everyone knows that visual artists work for peanuts (not that I approve of that, but there it is) so just drop the big-time music shows and get back to the visual art. Then it won’t matter if less people show up because you won’t have to pay those money-grubbers to make the whole thing work. People who don’t go to galleries will have an art experience for a change and those that are interested will come because they can afford it.

Why did this have to turn into a big music festival in the first place? We used to have the soap box derby, cow sculptures on fire, giant hearts made of sticks of wood, the fun-scraper, and a strange film featuring an unknown band (at the time) The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo. Now it’s the same bands that you can see (if you can afford it) at all of the festivals or when they are on tour.

Let’s get back to the roots of Bumbershoot. And if less people come it won’t be so crowded that nobody will want to. (see what I did there?)

Seems like this is the dynamic for everything these days, make it more popular so more people come and everyone involved feels better about themselves because, hey, more! But the quality and character of things is trashed in the process. And it works until everyone gets tired of the whole thing and/or the price has become too high and the rules too much (because of the crowds). Then the excuses come out from the commercial interests that have been put in charge of it.

Make it about art again, dammit! Music is great but the town is already at a saturation point with it.

22

As I see it there are two things at work here. Is Bumbershoot even relevant anymore? Every product has a life cycle. Many of the festivals held in cities with 200K populations are cute and fun, but that cute and fun turns sour when that festival tries to accommodate a 2-3M population. Classic example: Sundance - the festival supposedly dedicated to independent film makers has become a bumper-to-bumper, wall-to-wall cell phone yapping, $25 hamburger nightmare. I think Redford even disavows much of it. So Bite of Seattle and Folklife, etc. has become something other than what was planned - and not in a good way.

About prices, yeah, something is definitely out of whack. Sure, Seattle has all those six-figure salaries around Lake Union, but there are many more people working two or three jobs struggling with rent and food. Until we decide what needs to be done regarding wealth re-distribution, an occasional restaurant or concert will be out-of-reach for more and more people. For instance, cafes that used to be affordable for most people every now and then are now serving $24 "craft" cocktails.

23

21 they changed it from an art fest to a music fest because no one gave a shit about an art fest, couldn’t draw a crowd.

24

What really frosts my cookies is that AEG is ripping off the citizens of Seattle if they get to fence off the entirety of Seattle Center for a long weekend, for free, and not only deny us entry but make us pay three digits a day to enter our own public park. WTF?!

25

“Times change, festivals evolve. I would rather celebrate what Bumbershoot continues to offer the city of Seattle than dwell on what it used to be,” Griswold said. “And trust me, a packed Seattle Center doesn’t mean that it was a better Bumbershoot. Just different. And more crowded.”

That was, indeed, the downside to past Bumbershoots: the crowds. The upside, however, was worth it to me: bands that I loved seeing (and reasonable ticket prices.) Since 1979, when I moved to Seattle, I only missed one Bumbershoot -- to fly back home for my parents' 50th wedding anniversary -- and I would almost always go for the full three (or four) days. But, as the bands that were booked became less and less appealing to me -- because, very understandably, the festival needed to evolve to appeal to younger people -- I began to go only one or two days and finally, about three years ago, quit going altogether. I miss it, but have a lot of great memories.

For the sake of people who still enjoy going to Bumbershoot, who enjoy the kind of bands that are booked, I hope the festival draws enough people, and makes enough money, to continue.

26

@24 they don't get to rent the entire grounds for free, not even close.

27

I have this suspicion that if they cut prices in half, and allowed for re-entry (even if it was a limited thing, like once per day) that they'd find that attendance would more than double.

I stopped going when the prices got absurd. The prices got absurd when the number of national headlining acts increased dramatically.

I have a ticket stub somewhere from when single day tickets were $8, the whole weekend was $20, and there wasn't hardly anyone playing you'd ever heard of, unless you read The Rocket or made it out a lot. Totally different thing... and very very local, with tons of Seattle, Portland, and Vancouver BC bands.

28

@21
You are exactly right. We expected to discover unfamiliar acts (did not say just bands) and witness huge daringly curated art shows. I can still vividly remember pieces that were not 'gallery material'. It was definitely an Arts festival. Any boob can go see bands in bars: Bumbershoot was so much more.
Just because a festival is not packed with shoulder slamming drunks doesn't mean it is 'not successful': quite the opposite.
Ticket prices are insulting too; you may be paying for all those momentarily huge acts, but you won't be able to see them all.
And I especially agree with the idea that a large public park, in a crowded city, on a major holiday needs to be accessible to the public, not just a very narrow slice of the economy. Everyone gets dollar signs in their eyes about Seattle demographics, but those with hefty salaries are still a minority. The rest of us have seen rents go up so much faster than income that there just isn't 'extra' money for entertainment anymore. Until civic leaders protect us from rapacious landlords with rent control, ALL cultural events are going to suffer. It certainly did not ruin New York City, did it?

29

Bumbershoot really needs to scale back to what it was: a low-key, local arts festival. Do people really want to pay $100+ a day to see acts like Bhad Bhabie?

Not every festival needs to be Burning Man, SXSW, or Coachella. Sometimes, less is more - a lot more.

31

The 70s are over, Man.

32

Garbage festival. I remember interning at One Reel back in 2002 after filming the festival and that year our publicity person (who was in charge of me) Doug Carvarachio (I could never spell his last name) told me that REM turned down the festival due to One Reel getting grants to attract larger name acts... At the time the festival pass for the weekend was something like 60 dollars... I remember being in the offices near Fremont and the CEO/Owner (this old hippie dude with a beard) had an autographed check from George W. Bush plastered on his window... Now you let me know where their allegiances lie? (Side note: It was quite odd to see a hippie proudly displaying an autograph from George Bush lol!)

33

Side note: Having lived in Chicago for the past 7 years (and now moving back)... I went to Riot Fest for 5 of those years... In 2014 they had 30,000 people a day go through the gates... Sorry Strangers, but festivals like that one are really what is keeping up with the times. :) Also it was a great fest that saw the Misfits reunion.