The Squamish Valley Music Festival, which has featured headliners such as Drake, Bruno Mars, Mumford & Sons and Sam Smith since it first launched in 2010, has been abruptly cancelled this year.
The event was scheduled to take place in August. The multiday B.C. camping festival attracted more than 115,000 over three days last year to a park located in the shadow of the Stawamus Chief Mountain.
The low Canadian dollar is weighing heavy on the mind of festival promoters. While the Squamish festival’s organizers have not provided a reason for the cancellation, numerous Canadian festival and concert promoters told The Globe and Mail that the discrepancy between the Canadian and American dollars is an enormous concern this year, adding significant financial strain on already-costly fees to book talent.
Most artists and bands, including many Canadians, charge U.S. dollars for appearances, often because they work with American booking agents. Headlining acts, which are often a festival’s chief draw, can charge seven-figure sums for appearances, making costs balloon when converted to Canadian dollars.
Squamish also faced a crowded camping-festival market, including the Pemberton Music Festival to the north and Sasquatch to the south in Washington State, each competing to bring high-demand bands to their stages.
The Squamish festival is organized by Vancouver event firm BrandLive and the global entertainment company Live Nation. BrandLive did not immediately respond to interview requests, while Live Nation declined to comment beyond a statement made available on the festival’s website.
“The decision was not made lightly,” the statement reads, “and we sincerely apologize to all the people this decision affects: the fans, artists, industry partners, corporate partners, suppliers and all of our supporters within the community of Squamish.”
It is unclear whether the festival is cancelled for good, or just this calendar year. Its Twitter account has been deleted and numerous sections of the official website appeared to have disappeared on Wednesday.
Building a lineup for a multiday camping festival is made complicated by two major factors, said Ryan Howes, who produces both the WayHome and Boots and Hearts music festivals in Oro-Medonte, Ont., north of Toronto: a band’s touring schedules and the exchange rate. This year, he said, the low dollar “is the No. 1 topic when you’re talking to other music promoters.”
Only a handful of the Canadian acts on the WayHome 2016 lineup charge in Canadian dollars, he said.
While the dollar has been recovering in recent days – worth about $0.74 (U.S.) at the time of publication, from a 13-year low of less than $0.70 in January – talent for large festivals is typically booked at least eight months ahead of time. WayHome’s organizers, RepublicLive, projected a very weak Canadian dollar last fall, and budgeted for artists accordingly. “It’s a matter of proper forecasting, and knowing what you’re up against a year from the actual show days,” Mr. Howes said.
This year, Canadian Music Week, which takes over Toronto music venues for a full week in May, will include a town hall on booking concerts and building music cities in today’s low-loonie environment. Cameron Wright, CMW’s vice-president of operations and live programming, said that while his festival doesn’t have the ticket pressures of open-air events, it often tries to pair Canadian and American acts on its bills, and this year organizers had to “dig deeper into the great Canadian talent that’s out there.”
Mr. Wright said the currency worries have been on the mind of most Canadian promoters he has been speaking to. Mark Pesci, a co-founder of the Just Shows concert-listings website and a long-time Toronto promoter, said it’s all he hears about too. “The exchange rate is killing everybody, without question,” he said.
“It’s been pretty widely discussed that a lot of festivals across Canada are going to have to change their game plan to adjust to the dollar,” Mr. Pesci said. “It means higher ticket prices, and more risk on behalf of promoters and venues.”
There is one small benefit to the lopsided exchange rate: Canadian festivals look very attractive to Americans. “We’ve already seen an increase from U.S. ticket buyers” versus last year at WayHome, Mr. Howes said.
The 2014 edition of the Squamish Valley Music Festival had an estimated economic impact of about $32-million for the community north of Vancouver, according to official literature. In a statement, representatives from the district of Squamish said they were “extremely disappointed” to learn that the festival was cancelled this year. “The Squamish Valley Music Festival leaves an indelible legacy and has helped put Squamish on the map with its world-class production – we are grateful.”Report Typo/Error