Bluesfest | Joseph Mayers

Bluesfest Experiences Significant Drop in Attendance Compared to Previous Years

Byron Bay’s Bluesfest has officially wrapped up for another year and while the event went ahead without incident, crowd numbers were significantly reduced. The Sydney Morning Herald reports that around 70,000 people went through the gates at Tyagarah across the five days, compared to around 100,000 in 2022.

Festival Director Peter Noble acknowledged the reduced crowds but maintained that Bluesfest is better than ever, calling the 2023 lineup “one of the best bills we’ve ever had”. “I guess it’s fair enough to say we haven’t got as many people as we had last year, but we’re not dying and we’ll be back next year,” he told the SMH.

Peter Noble: “We Can’t Fight Changes In Society”

Noble elaborated on his thoughts about the crowds at an invite-only guest room session during the festival. “We can’t fight changes in society,” he said, as reported by The Music Network. “And the changes in society have come with multiple interest rate rises every month except for this week… people’s lives are being impacted. They haven’t got enough money to go out. Netflix becomes more interesting because they stay home for it. Inflation is rising.”

Noble also appeared to jab at neighbouring festival Splendour in the Grass, in regards to its multinational owner Live Nation. “My festival is not owned by an overseas multinational,” he asserted. “I own my festival. I am Australian… Nobody else owns 51 percent of my event like those up the road here and many others… know that there are Australian people who are proud of what they’ve created and won’t sell out to overseas interests.”

Noble revealed that he’d been approached “a couple of times” by Live Nation, but a partnership was “not what I want to do”. “I want to pass my event onto my family. I’m part of Byron,” he said. “I’ve been part of Byron for over 30 years, and I’m not going to go ‘I’m part of Byron’ and some other guy owns me and all I end up with at the end of it all is a backstage pass to the event I created. Stick it, Live Nation.”

Noble didn’t address the controversies that dogged the festival in the run-up in 2023. In early March, Bluesfest announced that it would be taking Sticky Fingers off the lineup, having faced significant public backlash after adding them a few weeks earlier. The move resulted in King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard and Sampa The Great withdrawing from the lineup.

Noble defended Sticky Fingers in numerous statements – speaking to the SMH over the weekend, Noble reiterated that he thinks the band is deserving of redemption. “I do have a strong belief that everybody’s got a right to salvation,” he said. “Everybody’s got a right to show that they want to do better.”

Further Reading

Bluesfest Boss Issues New Statement Following Sampa the Great Withdrawal

Bluesfest’s Peter Noble Releases Statement Regarding His Decision to Give Sticky Fingers a “Chance at Rehabilitation”

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard Cancel Bluesfest Performance

Must Read