The drawing power of headliners Janet Jackson, indie rock act Florence + The Machine and rapper Future were not enough to save one of the Summer’s most anticipated music festivals. FYF Fest promoters posted a notice to their Instagram over the weekend announcing the concert series would not happen this July as planned. Fest producer Goldenvoice, a division of AEG, headed by controversial CEO Philip Anschutz, has not released a definitive reason for the cancellation, but poor ticket sales appear to be the case.
Past years have seen headliners like Bjork, Solange, Morrissey, Flume, The Strokes, Kanye, Missy Elliot, Nine Inch Nails and Frank Ocean, who memorably serenaded Brad Pitt last year.
Was it a lackluster lineup, the association of Anschutz, the troubling behavior of founder Sean Carlson or were other factors at play in the shuttering of the festival?
The cancellation comes as the 2018 summer festival season begins and new concerns emerge about soft ticket sales and over-saturation, with new multi-day events competing for market share with longtime festival brands. While indie festivals are typically the ones that get squeezed in the ultra-competitive space, the crash of a well-known music festival in a major city operated by one of the biggest festival producers in the world is raising alarm bells about the health of the festival market in 2018.
Rumors of FYF’s problems started last week as booking agents began to quietly call up talent buyers and inquire about possible replacement dates as word of FYF’s poor ticket sales began to trickle out. 2018 was supposed to be a triumphant moment for the festival brand, which faced growing uncertainty following the resignation of Carlson last year after graphic accounts of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior were made public. After first investing in the festival in 2011, Goldenvoice bought out Carlson’s share at the end of 2017 and replaced him with talent buyer Jenn Yacoubian.
The lineup that Goldenvoice rolled out for FYF was met with praise and applause for its diversity with more female headliners and performers than any other major festival this summer. Besides Jackson and Florence and the Machine, FYF featured 20 acts either led by female talent or prominently featuring a female player, such as St. Vincent, the XX and the Breeders.
“This wasn’t something that we were consciously tallying,” Yacoubian told Billboardin an April 6 interview. “When we laid out everything, this is what made sense for the festival and this is what we thought was going to be the best booking.” She added, “We’re super happy to have so many talented women and men on the festival — it wasn’t like there was any sort of criteria.”
Yacoubian, who had been with the festival since 2009, told Billboard “I just don’t want people to think that the show is changing,” noting longtime co-producer Dave Peterson was still involved in the festival. “We love the show for as many reasons as our fans love the show, and we’re excited to continue to bring that experience to people and really showcase a great experience.”
Ticket buyers will be emailed today or early this week with refund information. Learn more at FYFfest.com