Bluesfest 2020 cancellation cost $203 million in lost revenue: Report


If you thought the cancellation of Bluesfest 2020 was a disaster, spare a thought for the local community.

When the pandemic forced Bluesfest organisers to scrap this year’s event, the financial impact on the Byron Shire and Northern Rivers was just shy of $117 million in lost revenue and 745 full time jobs.

The figure balloons to $203.6 million in lost revenue for the state of New South Wales and 1,158 jobs.

Read that again: that’s one fifth of one billion dollars. 

It’s a “tragedy,” notes the team behind the popular multi-day camping fest, which today shares the results of an Economic Impact Report into the 2020 cancellation.

Bluesfest was cancelled by NSW Public Health Order just three weeks before the popular Easter-time event, which was scheduled for April 9 – 13 in Byron Bay with a loaded bill including headliners Dave Matthews Band, Crowded House, Patti Smith, Lenny Kravitz and Alanis Morissette, who was all set to unleash the 25th anniversary performance of her classic album Jagged Little Pill.

Alanis Morissette
Alanis Morissette

The cancellation caterized the local economy, explains the report, commissioned by Bluesfest and undertaken by independent consultancy firm Reuben Lawrence Consulting.

By presenting the studies, says Festival Director Peter Noble, “we are also demonstrating the impact that just one event of this scale in the live music industry can have on the economy of the country.”

He continues, “The entertainment industry is worth $111 billion in Australia. We promote the arts; we bring jobs and the trickle-down effect means that people in the broader community have an income they wouldn’t otherwise have.”

Bluesfest typically wraps up the summer festival circuit and has won several local and international awards for its show since its inaugural 1990 event.

Noble’s trophy cabinet includes four Helpmann Awards for best contemporary music festival and six trophies at the Australian event awards for Australian event of the year.

The festival is much more than a party, the data would suggest.

In 2019 Bluesfest generated 858 full time equivalent jobs in the Northern Rivers and 1,333 in the State of NSW, whereas in 2020 Bluesfest generated only 36.2 jobs [FTE] in the Northern Rivers and 46.8 in the state of NSW due to the fact the festival was ordered not to go ahead less than a month from showtime.

Last year’s fest generated $163 million in the Northern Rivers and $27 million for the state.

This time, due to the cancellation, Bluesfest generated an output of just $7.6 million in the Northern Rivers and $10.7 million.

“The comparisons in employment levels and income as well as gross revenue due to the festival not occurring in 2020 compared to when it did in 2019 are alarming,” adds Noble.

Image of Bluesfest founder Peter Noble
Bluesfest founder Peter Noble

Next year’s edition is already taking shape, with Noble and his team announcing a line-up including Bon Iver, Patti Smith and Her Band, George Benson, Jimmy Barnes and many more.

“Bluesfest is 100% independent,” adds Noble, “and we are proud to contribute to our state and local communities and we look forward to doing it again in 2021.”

Bluesfest 2021 is set to take place April 1-5 at Tyagarah Tea Tree Farm, just 10 minutes north of Byron Bay.

Due to the fluid nature of this historic situation, Bluesfest has created a new space on its official website.

The multi-stage festival and the rest of Australia’s live industry has been locked in deep freeze since March, when the federal government rolled out social distancing measures and enforced strict quarantine measures out the borders. 

According to I Lost My Gig, the health crisis has crippled the music community to the tune of more than $340 million in lost income. 

Read the Bluesfest 2019 and 2020 Economic Impact Assessment Reports.

Bluesfest 2021 Lineup

Bon Iver

Patti Smith And Her Band

Jimmy Barnes

George Benson

The Teskey Brothers

John Butler

Xavier Rudd

The Cat Empire

Kool & The Gang

The Gipsy Kings

Kasey Chambers

The Waifs

Troy Cassar-Daley

Michael Franti & Spearhead

The Wailers Perform Songs From ‘Legend’


The Black Sorrows

Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue

Tori Kelly

Buffy Sainte-Marie

The Marcus King Band

Christone “Kingfish” Ingram

Jimmie Vaughan

John Mayall

Melbourne Ska Orchestra


Larkin Poe

Weddings, Parties, Anything

Exclusive Qld/Nsw Show


Harts Plays Hendrix

Ash Grunwald

The War & Treaty

Cory Henry & The Funk Apostles

Walter Trout

The Bamboos

Mick Thomas’ Roving Commission

Dami Im

Pierce Brothers

Emily Wurramara


Ray Beadle

Henry Wagons

Hussy Hicks

Pacey, King & Doley

Daniel Champagne

Nathan Cavaleri

Little Georgia

Bluesfest Busking Competition & Winners

The Australian Americana Music Honours

Thursday, April 1st – Monday, April 5th, 2021

Tyagarah Tea Tree Farm, Byron Bay, NSW

Tickets are on-sale. For more info visit Bluesfest.

The Brag Group, parent of The Industry Observer, is a media partner with Bluesfest.

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