When Musical Festivals Get Canceled It’s Probably Not Mainstream Enough

If you live around the Kansas City area or in nearby Lawrence I’m sure you got some word of the Kanrocksas music festival.  Well, if you haven’t it’s fine too because they announced its cancellation a month before the festival.   There are currently no plans to reschedule.  To be incredibly honest I’m more shocked about the lack of ticket sales, but I guess I vastly underestimated the hipster population in the area.   I only got to see how things were going from twitter, so I don’t have a complete idea of any other perspective of what went wrong.  Based on what I saw on twitter, and how I view things as a concert goer, here’s what I think went wrong.

1.  The lineup outright sucked.  I know this is a matter of opinion, but I consider my music tastes eclectic and substandard as it is.  While I give the people behind the lineup kudos for trying to have a mixture of locals and some more established acts it was terrible.  Like I said I know it’s a matter of opinion, but I’ll let you be the judge by showing the lineup…

kanrocksas2013lineupSource

See?  Of the acts I recognize I’d only want to see two of them and they probably weren’t on the same night, let alone the same stage.  There isn’t even a strong headliner.  If the cancellation was due to poor sales, I’m probably not the only one who thought the same thing.

Personal tastes aside the lineup was too eclectic and not enough recognizable names for those into more mainstream music.  One could argue that the Wakarusa Music Festival, a festival which originated in Lawrence, is equally eclectic.  The difference is Wakarusa kept it fairly eclectic with mainstream acts as the headliners rather than filling the line up with  lesser-known acts equally eclectic as the mainstream ones.  Wakarusa also had more time to develop a greater following.

2.  Kanrocksas is not going to pull the same crowds as Wakarusa.  This was billed mostly with the appeal of local bands.  It’s also relatively new with a few cards stacked against it, given that it started in 2011 and didn’t hold a festival in 2012 due to construction in the Speedway area.  Wakarusa also had much more to offer with more popular and well known musical acts.  It was at least outside of town near a more friendly campsite.  Which is another point…

3.  The location.  Those who aren’t familiar with Kanrocksas it would have been held at the Kansas Speedway.  This is what the latest Google Maps image looks like.  I’ve been out there for sporting goods and furniture, and even with some understanding of the area I have a hard time conceptualizing a music festival in that area.  People aren’t likely to associate that area with music as much as shopping and NASCAR.

4.  The price.  Even though I encourage people to support music, especially local ones, it gets harder for people to do when it’s on a scale like a music festival.  Festivals are expensive not only to run but for attendees because it’s not just the cost of the music alone.  Even though this festival is a bargain price compared to other festivals it didn’t feel like a bargain for me.  That’s without figuring the costs of food, lodging, and transportation into it.  Like I mentioned before I was only interested in a couple of acts and didn’t really want to see the others.  I can’t justify breaking open my piggy bank for that.  Again, if ticket sales were that low I’m not the only one who felt this way.

5.  Was there even exposure for this?  It’s not so much a point as a question, but it can quickly turn into a point.  I only knew about this because of some remark on twitter back when Kanrocksas was announced.  After the cancellation I learned about the facebook page.  It was only then I saw any news about the festival as well because a few news sources reported on the cancellation and not so much the return of the festival.

I understand wanting to cut costs where possible, but it can hurt if not properly managed. I speak from personal experience without a decent budget for advertising people won’t know about anything you want to sell.  No knowledge of a festival means fewer ticket sales, if any.  I’m not the type who can calculate potential losses from these scenarios.  I’m not sure if it’s possible.  I do, however, know there is a loss.

What all of these points sum up is I suspect those coordinating this festival tried to appeal to as much of the non-mainstream crowd as possible, were underfunded, and thought they could pull it off anyway.   Admittedly I’m amazed to learn how small the purchasing power of the hipster population is for this area.  At the same time I also feel the lack of focus and vast underestimation of certain aspects damaged the festival.  I’m sure there were lots of other issues behind closed doors, doors that lead to boardrooms.  That’s probably why they waited when they did to announce the cancellation: it was the deadline for cancellation notices for some contracts.  It was still a cancellation during the eleventh hour for ticket purchasers.  It also came with a death knell for the festival.

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