The Electric Garden Prog Festival was held in 2011 and 2013. Both were tremendous events. 2011 was very well attended and the quality of music/bands on display was excellent. The event was headlined by Credo (Thu), The Watch (Fri) and The Tangent (Sat).
In 2013 we had a few problems with ‘precious’ bands who shall remain nameless but we managed to stage the event and the resulting show was (incredibly) an improvement on 2011. The festival was headlined by a stunning set from Comedy Of Errors.
Due to the problems that faced us in 2013, the festival is currently on hold. I’ve been asked many times (mainly by bands) why the festival doesn’t run every year and so here is my explanation.
No.1 – The Reasons for the festival
Were you around in the 70’s when progressive rock meant freedom, choice, counter-culture? If we’d known then how soon it would all come crashing back down we’d have savoured it all a bit more.
Our festival – maybe in it’s own misguided way – was/is an attempt to recapture that period in a way that would make sense to old fools like me but more importantly bring new bands and new fans into the realms of something that now seems like it was just a ‘mood for a day’
So, no it has nothing to do with money. We all know it is expensive to perform, travel to gigs, book accommodation but although prog has a hardcore cult following, there simply aren’t the numbers to sustain a festival. We made it work twice but the cost to our wallets and health made it only borderline worthwhile. Actually my wife calls me an idiot (and she’s probably right).
No.2 – Fees
The costs associated with putting on a festival are considerable but not prohibitive. You need to get a good deal on sound/engineer because they can make or break a show. The big problem is the fee structure for bands. Prog bands generally fall into 3 camps (there are the odd exceptions):
Camp 1: New band, not many fans but they will play for free
Camp 2: New (post 1990) band with a bit of a name (in prog circles) – usually want 1k to 3k to perform
Camp 3: Had a name back in the day when the music industry was a bit of a gravy train for touring bands – usually want 15k plus
No.3 – The Risk
So in light of 1 & 2 above lets take a band from pot 3 at 15k, 4 from pot 2 at 8k and fill the bill with pot 3’s. All the other stuff surrounding the event brings it to a conservative estimate of 30k. So you are stuck with that. Let us assume this bill is going to fill your venue over 2 days.
We had a 300 capacity venue in 2011. So we need those (hopefully) 600 people to cover the 30k = £50 per ticket to break even.
So we need to completely fill the venue on both nights (at £50 per head) just to break even. That isn’t going to happen and why would anyone subject themselves to such ridiculous odds?
Conclusion: To run a Prog Festival you need to be a either 1. Rich or 2. An Idiot – (I guess my wife worked out which one i was without the Maths!!)