The Alt-Fest debacle took a turn today with a statement issued by Jo Hampshire, believed to have been working for the festival before its demise and cancellation.
Hampshire took to Facebook to publicly make an announcement making a number of unverified claims but stating that “I do think their egos wouldn’t allow them to call time on the whole thing sooner than they did”
ALT-Fest announced the cancellation to a varying degree of fan reprisals.
Read the full statement below.
“I’d like to publicly add my voice to all those that have said Altfest was a ticking time bomb. From the beginning the maths didn’t add up, and it turns out that even my sums were well underestimated. While I’ve discussed the information here privately, I felt that to do so publicly it would have been greeted with accusations of sabotage and cries of soul grapes.
In Altfest’s own Profit and Loss forecast from the funding tree website they estimated the event would cost 1.7 million pounds. Their own calculations stated they needed to sell 11,000 weekend tickets and 750 day tickets (with the majority being sold at £115 each). It is my understanding that Marilyn Manson’s fee alone would be in excess of £100,000.
I don’t think they ever intended to scam people but I do think their egos wouldn’t allow them to call time on the whole thing sooner than they did. I watched with interest as they published no less than 14 videos featuring interviews with themselves. Most press interviews were accompanied by pictures of Dominic Void, not of any of the artists or anything else that might draw the reader’s attention to the article and actually help ticket sales. Maybe this was on the advice of the PR Company, maybe it was ego, I don’t know.
Regular ticket sales after the Kickstarter began with Super Early Bird tickets which were still on sale until 2nd December last year. Altfest would have had a band budget but variables such as travel, hotels, hospitality and backline would have rendered them nothing but a ball park figure at that early stage. For a small event like WGW, the difference between booking an artist with 2 members from the U.K and one with six members from the USA can be thousands of pounds. Multiplying this by the 170 Altfest bands means the variables were huge. Altfest had put its tickets on sale while still booking acts including headliners, which is potentially disastrous.
So, between April and Xmas Day a 50,000 capacity festival (licenced for 20000) had no main headliner yet tickets were on sale. Stage headliners were added along the way, but the ‘big one’ was due to be announced “at the end of the summer”. However, no announcement came until Xmas Day. It’s my opinion that they were struggling to find a headliner that would live up to the hype they had created and that they paid Manson well over budget because they had to announce *something*. He’s no fool. He can smell children apparently, so I bet he could smell the urgency of a new festival sans headliner, so probably planned to bring his whole Christmas Card list as an entourage and request an endless supply of sea monkeys to snort in the dressing room. Even if he didn’t get on the plane he probably would have got at least 50% of his fee. Lots of WGW bands have to be paid their full fee in advance, sometimes as long as 30 days pre event. I dare say that Manson has been paid in full, and I bet this has happened to him before and feels like taking candy from a baby.
WGW didn’t have a lot of the Halloween line up in place in April so we didn’t properly put our tickets on sale at the event as we usually do. We allocated a very small number of early bird tickets for anyone enquiring at the Info Desk, priced the same as our last event, but then we waited until we had a complete costing forecast before any announcements were made other than the dates. That process took three months. I was virtually sitting huddled around a candle eating bread and jam by that point lol.
In their final statement Altfest said they sold 7.5k tickets in total. From that I would imagine that by the end of January they knew they were in trouble. Manson, while being a great addition to the line up, obviously hadn’t sparked the anticipated surge in ticket sales and as we moved beyond the first ‘back to normal’ pay days after Christmas and out toward the end of February it should have been time to take some action and think about scaling the event down. In my experience, sales tend to be pretty steady with a small flurry in the last month, but nothing like the scale of what would have been required here.
In 2014 Altfest Ltd’s Credit Rating began to plummet until in March it dropped through the floor. I would theorise that invoices for things such as advertising were not being paid. I’m sure that they wouldn’t have gone unpaid deliberately, but more a case that there wasn’t the cashflow to do so. In April 2014 Oliver Bartlam (also a director of their Events Management company, Full Fat Events) became a director of Altfest. Interestingly their credit worthiness rocketed around this time. I can’t say whether the two are connected but I’m intrigued as to why someone from their Events Management company became a Director.
In June 2014 Alt Fest listed themselves on a site called Fundingtree. It’s a corporate site run along the lines of Kickstarter where businesses can offer/receive sponsorship and investment via Pledges. Alt Fest were trying to raise £400,000. They told everyone who queried it that it was a really old listing that had been put up again in error. It was strange that funding tree had boosted it out to their Facebook and Twitter pages on 20th June though. The listing was quickly removed from Fundingtree when remarked upon, but snapshots had been taken and were being circulated.
Last month as would have it become necessary for Altfest to begin to give contractors and artists more firmed up and detailed information, site plans were circulated that showed a 10,000 capacity, and the S.O.P.H.I.E Stage and the Big Top both missing. The scale down had already taken place.
It seemed strange that despite Dominic’s 29 years of experience, a Production company, Events Management company, PR company, and a Band Booking Agency were brought on board so early on. It goes without saying that an event of this size would need some ongoing expertise but I had the overall feeling that these companies were being leaned on more than they should have been especially by a festival who’d made a big song and dance about being ‘anti corporate’.
This type of large outdoor festival for the scene has been tried a few times over the past several years and it has never worked, and in my opinion it never will. The Goth/Industrial section of the Alternative Scene in the UK just isn’t big enough and the majority of Goths won’t camp or even Glamp for that matter. I appreciate WGW isn’t held during summer but a call to Whitby Tourist Information would have told them that, which indicates that Altfest really didn’t do enough market research. I’ve been asked why I don’t move WGW outdoors to increase capacity more times than I’ve had hot dinners over the years.
The UK is extremely expensive to a visitor from abroad, not to mention it has terrible unpredictable weather. Both UK and European visitors go to WGT or Mera Luna if they want to attend a large multi stage alternative festival. I know lots of people that attend both these events, but I personally don’t know of a single person that camps at them. They all have the option of large chain hotels nearby.
The phrase “for the scene by the scene” is a great piece of media spin. Putting it into a WGW context, I could ask you to choose which bands you’d like to see and then from that list I would choose the ones I can afford. But see? *YOU* chose the bands! It’s *YOUR* event! *YOU* spoke we listened!
Nope, basically I canvassed opinion, if you asked for a band then I’m likely to be able to sell you a ticket to see them and the event will be profitable. It wasn’t a co-operative. It wasn’t revolutionary. It was just a rebranding of an idea which we’ve all been using for years, but using your money instead of their own.
This was the unusual idea though, in that it was initially funded by a Kickstarter and ‘Dismembership’ campaign, but this in itself ought to have made a few people question exactly what funds the Promoters themselves had to invest. If there was anything I haven’t seen evidence of it.
I still wonder why two such well respected successful promoters would risk their reputations. The fact that they employed a PR company was a surprise and leads me to think that they felt they didn’t know their potential audience as well as they maybe they should, but at the same time were blinkered by the success of Antichrist to the point they believed they were invincible. I’ve never seen Dom & Missy at any event or seen them post on any general Goth related social media. I had never even spoken to them until Altfest was announced, at which point I contacted them to wish them well, even offering cross promotion believing that what they were trying to achieve with Altfest was a whole different league to Whitby. When they responded all references to cross promotion were ignored and instead they asked me if I’d like to sponsor a stage. I made a joke about my car being 19 years old and how “it’s grim oop North” and told them I didn’t have the funds but that I’d happily cross promote with them. I never heard from them again.
Instead they began to tie bands into “UK Festival Exclusive” deals and I can only imagine that this was possible by paying over the odds for the privilege. Despite being high up the voting poll bands like The Mission and New Model Army never made it to the Altfest bill and I would imagine this could be a reason why. If they’d have known the market, they’d have known that New Model Army, for example, can play tons of festivals every year and their fan base is so loyal and diverse that one performance rarely has much of an impact on another. There aren’t many bands who could play a UK Tour around WGW where I’d remain optimistic about my ticket sales.
As I worked quietly behind the scenes pulling together the WGW line up for Halloween this year, there was excited speculation that The Damned might perform, though I’ve known for a while that they had gigs planned in America around then and therefore weren’t available. During this time Altfest announced The Damned’s performance as a “UK Goth Performance Exclusive”, which a lot of people, myself included took as a bit of a poke in the ribs for WGW.
By far the most heinous and unforgiveable part of all of this mess though, were the blatant lies told to their customers in the run up to the collapse. On 19th July they claimed there were only 521 tickets remaining and that they were looking at increasing capacity, and even on the day before the news broke they posted the FB status update “It’s only 9 days till we go to site and start building Alt-Fest for you!” knowing full well it wasn’t going to happen.
On the whole people in the Goth/Industrial scene play nicely. On the whole we all work together and cross promote each others events. People such as Infest, Dark Waters, Flag Promotions, and WGW realise we’re just a cog in a big wheel. If one of the cogs needs a bit of oil then we’d be happy to rally round and sort it. Altfest’s ethos was always about being against the corporations, but it felt to a lot of us as though they wanted to dismantle all the smaller truly independent organisations and *become* the corporation themselves.
I wanted to make a post because through knowing bands, tech companies and promoters, I have documents and source information that when brought together form a bigger factual picture, and so that some rumours can be put to bed. I can’t say I’m sorry to see the curtain come down on an event that had a greater desire to crush WGW and similar events rather than work with them. If Alt Fest had gone ahead in 2015 I sincerely doubt there would have been a Halloween 2015 WGW at all.
But there’s certainly nothing to gloat about, and I imagine that the aftershock of Altfest’s demise will reverberate throughout the scene for a long time. Bands that have never played the U.K will think twice, and new events and crowd funding campaigns will not have the usual level of support. Everyone has been burnt by this.
I think that until all possible refunds have been issued the anger and upset will continue at its current level and these people have a right to feel that way, particularly the ones that have also paid for non-refundable travel and accommodation. So if these people aren’t coming onto your personal profile page ranting about it then you really have no cause to call them out on it. I presume that most of the people getting annoyed with the anger have lost neither money nor credibility and they haven’t been sucked in and spat out to be left feeling foolish and betrayed.
Once refunds have been issued and things start to abate though, I hope that people will turn the page and see that there are lots of events, club nights and gigs still here.
We can’t change what’s happened but let’s never forget that it did.”