The return of music festivals and what it means for regional towns in Victoria

The return of music festivals and what it means for regional towns in Victoria

GTM in Bendigo 2019. Photo by Mackenzie Sweetnam
Words by Savannah Selimi

Festivals are the backbone of the Australian music scene.

Each year and no matter the weather, Aussies road trip down the Great Ocean Road for Falls Festival or book out every AirBnB possible in Bendigo for Groovin’ The Moo. With the government easing density limits, the return of highly-anticipated lineups and excited crowds is just what is needed after recovering from a year of cancelled events and refunded tickets. Although a ticket revenue of $102 million in 2018 credits the importance of music festivals for our economy, something that isn’t often acknowledged is what festivals mean to regional towns.

Happening over 23-25 April, Bambra’s Meadow music festival sold out fast. With psychedelic group King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard and rising star Angie McMahon headlining, it’s sure to be a spectacular weekend of live music. It’s also bloody well deserved for Bambra, following the ‘emotional rollercoaster’ of having to cancel 2020’s run. The positive aspect of Bambra hosting the festival is that people will visit for the live music, though return upon seeing the wonderful greenery the place has to offer.

The cancellation of 2020 Meadow Festival struck fans who were keen to see Frankie Cosmos and other international artists (what a throwback?) rock the stage. Though, punters weren’t the only ones who were affected. No festival equalled no tourism, which meant a hard setback for local businesses who were simultaneously coming back from the strain of the 2020 bushfires. 

From then, our beloved festivals were dropping like flies, taking the profits from regional towns with it. In Groovin’ The Moo’s 2019 year, the festival sold out in under an hour. In 2020 and 2021, both events were cancelled for the first time in fifteen years. The cancellation of these shows not only meant that music and event crew were out of work, but that Bendigo would see a lack of tourism that is usually brought by the popular festival. Less people strolling down main streets, meant less people eating at local restaurants and supporting local businesses.

The same goes for Falls Festival in Lorne. Ending after one day in 2019 due to severe heat warnings, the festival took another hit the following year due to COVID. Making it an even bigger punch-in-the-face, Falls 2020 was intended to be completely ‘homegrown’, presenting an array of Aussie talent to boost the local economy and support the artists and crew who work the festival every year. Although Lorne survives as an attractive holiday destination for Victorians anyway, the 16,500 people who could have attended the event would have significantly impacted Lorne’s economy. To get an idea of this, Falls Festival generally brings in $27 million to the Victorian economy alone.

Though it’s not all in sombre news. Cattleyard Promotions, the runner of Groovin’ The Moo, received a $1.2 million funding grant from RISE (Restart Investment to Sustain And Expand) fund, a $60 million government initiative aiming to help revitalise the Australian music industry post-COVID. With the grant, the company plans to bring even more awesome festivals to a bigger list of regional areas. This includes ‘Fresh Produce’, a new music festival coming to Bendigo this September.

With live shows and festivals making a grand return, the places that hold them are sure to benefit. Make sure you’re there for it all.

To stay updated on the latest gigs, check out our Gig Guide.