The music industry may have reached Peak Festival, but we’re also seeing a level of negativity and vileness on Twitter this weekend that I’m going to call Peak Asshole Not Nice.

After Goldenvoice announced the cancelation of FYF Fest Sunday, the reaction on Twitter was swift and surprisingly mean with some celebrating the demise of the festival, reminding those still in doubt that most people, generally speaking, are terrible.

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Of course not everyone was cruel and heartless — these folks actually had thoughtful points to make.

So why did FYF Festival get canceled? As I first reported Sunday for Billboard, poor ticket sales were largely to blame for the festival’s failures. Fans simply did not respond with their wallets to the product put before them. Maybe it was a bad idea putting tickets on sale weeks before Coachella, when some fans were still budgeting for three days in the desert. FYF ticket sales never took off, and despite still having to two-and-a-half months to go, Goldenvoice was never able to hit the numbers it needed to hit to avoid losing millions of dollars on the festival, prompting organizers to pull the plug.

There’s the site — anyone who has been to Exposition Park knows it’s easy to get to, but kind of feels like a parking lot (because much of it is a parking lot). And some fans were quick to blame the lineup — Janet Jackson had just wrapped up a tour of North America and the prevailing wisdom was that her fans probably preferred to see her in an arena or indoor setting instead of standing around all day waiting for her to come on stage so they could watch her on a big screen. Florence + the Machine, on the other hand, was a festival band, and with a new album coming out in June, seemed perfectly timed to headline a big LA festival.

How much blame goes to the festival’s women-centric lineup? Are we seeing backlash against the #MeToo movement following the very public ouster of founder Sean Carlson earlier this year, who sold his stake in the festival after allegations of sexual misconduct and inappropriate behavior came to light?

I’m doubtful that had much of an impact — I think there would have been far more blowback if Carlson had not stepped down and was still associated with FYF. And more importantly, Goldenvoice’s experiment with a more gender equal lineup is commendable and it would be a shame if that was blamed for the event’s demise.

While it’s hard to put one’s finger on exactly what killed FYF Fest, to me the most likely answer is that when fans compared the LA festival to all of the other things happening this summer around Southern California, and looked at ticket prices, they decided to spend their money elsewhere.

Tickets for FYF festival are $250 plus fees, which in hindsight, was too much. Ticket prices are a product of the fees artists charge promoters for their performance, and Goldenvoice opted to take their pool of ticket money and spend it on big-name acts they felt would resonate with fans. In 2016 FYF booked Kendrick Lamar and Grace Jones, and last year they booked Missy Elliot, Bjork and Frank Ocean, so having Janet Jackson top the bill with Future seems to fit with past years of the festival.

That’s what is tricky about this lineup — it looks good on paper. Well sort of — I was not a fan of the lineup poster, which ditched the uniform font for a more creative approach using mixed tapes. It’s a cool design, but it’s a bit hard to read and it kind of individualizes the bands in a way that a typical lineup poster doesn’t. It’s very clever, perhaps its too clever. Fans are used to lineup posters looking the same way, and I think FYF’s presentation made it difficult for fans to think of the lineup in a cohesive way.

Despite the poster criticism, the lineup does look good on paper, but fans are comparing this event to all the other festivals that are taking place in LA this summer. That includes Desert Daze in Lake Perris, Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas, Ohana Fest and Beach Goth in Orange County, Music Tastes Good down in Long Beach and Gary Richard’s new All My Friends festival in downtown LA in August. There are a ton of festivals this summer in LA and fans don’t have endless budgets and have to pick and choose which festivals to attend, and which to skip.

It’s a tipping point moment for the festival world and while it doesn’t bode particularly well in the short term, it’s an important reminder to the talent buyers and festival organizers of the world to think outside of the box and challenge their own assumptions about what fans want this summer. And while the crash of FYF Fest is a sad thing — and organizers are saying they are unsure if the brand will return in 2019 — hopefully other festival buyers learn from this experience and it helps everyone do their jobs a little bit better going forward.

Dave Brooks
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Dave Brooks

Founder & Executive Editor at Amplify Media
Dave Brooks has over 15 years experience as a writer, including eight years as the Managing Editor of Venues Today. He started Amplify in 2014 to give the industry its own voice and turn up the volume on live entertainment.
Dave Brooks
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