Less than 50 people turned out for the debut of Top of the Hill Music Festival in Swan Hill on Saturday. The event, organised by Brad Morpeth, owner and operator of Swan Hill Productions, was an all-ages, alcohol-free, day-long festival held at Swan Hill Riverside Park, in northwest Victoria.
The festival was reportedly set to feature Melbourne band British India as headliners, though the band has since contacted FasterLouder, saying they weren’t booked for the event. The lineup was instead headlined by locals Audemia, and rounded out by Kaos, Taylor Sheridan, and others.
According to updates on the Top of the Hill Festival Facebook page, the event had long been facing troubles, at one point prompting Morpeth to explain to fans that his event “is funded by a single person, I have received one financial contribution from an outside source. I applied for and did not receive any grants, sponsorship or in kind support of any sort. I’m taking a gamble here.”
Addressing the lack of “name” bands on the festival’s roster, he wrote, “If I can make some money then yeah next year we can afford to bring in some names. We had British India booked and the ticket sales spiked by all of 3 purchases in 3 weeks. In short, support something new. Please.”
Despite attendance, Morpeth is looking to 2015, beseeching fans for feedback. “We haven’t dismissed a 2015 event, but we have just got to go back to the drawing board. It’s an experience we can recover from and hopefully walk away a bit wiser at the end,” he told The Guardian.
“The acts on the day were great and the people who supported us and came on the day were fantastic, but we just didn’t have the right combination for Swan Hill,” Morpeth told the paper. He said initial feedback indicated that high ticket prices — tickets were priced at $40 and later slashed to $10 for entry after 6:30pm — and a lack of alcohol were largely to blame for low attendance.
“People may be happy with the amount of events already,” he said. For some, Morpeth’s event has highlighted the Catch-22 of the festival market — while punters naturally don’t want to attend festivals with lacklustre lineups, without attendance, those festivals can never grow or improve.