British Columbia

Pemberton Music Festival cancelled after filing for bankruptcy

Facing a possible cash shortfall of over $10 million, B.C.'s Pemberton Music Festival has been cancelled due to bankruptcy.

'Unfortunately there are no automatic refunds,' trustee says

The Pemberton Music Festival began as a one-time weekend-long concert in Pemberton, B.C., in 2008 but was restarted by new organizers in 2014. (Pemberton Music Festival)

Facing a possible cash shortfall of over $10 million, B.C.'s Pemberton Music Festival (PMF) has been cancelled due to bankruptcy.

The festival's website, which had been online and selling tickets until 4 p.m. PT on Thursday, now consists of a single page, confirming the partnership organizing the concert has filed for bankruptcy, with Ernst & Young appointed as trustees. 

"Unfortunately there are no automatic refunds from PMF," it read. 

"As PMF is now in bankruptcy, it has no ability to provide refunds for tickets purchased. However, ticket holders may file a proof of claim form as an unsecured creditor with [Ernst & Young] in accordance with the claims process."

Ticket holders who used a credit card for their purchase are advised by the website to contact their bank or credit card issuer to see if they can obtain a refund.

The festival was scheduled to take place from July 13 to 16. Organizers announced Chance the Rapper and Muse as this year's headliners three weeks ago

A fact sheet posted by Ernst & Young said the festival had budgeted expenses of $22 million, and so far had received $8.2 million in revenue.

In a notice on its website, Huka Entertainment, which produced the festival, said it was "heartbroken" to make the announcement.

Jay-Z performs at the inaugural Pemberton Festival in 2008. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

"As a contract producer, Huka did not make the decision to cancel the festival. That decision was made by the Pemberton Music Festival, LP. We are extremely disappointed for our fans, artists and all of our partners who have supported the festival over the years," it says. 

Weak loonie hurt bottom line

The Pemberton Music Festival originally began in 2008 under the management of Live Nation, but the company opted for it not to become an annual event. 

Huka announced its revival for 2014, and headliners since have included Pearl Jam, Snoop Dogg, Kendrick Lamar and Outkast. 

The Squamish Valley Music Festival, another weekend-long concert just north of Vancouver, was cancelled in 2016 after a six-year run. 

Both the Pemberton and Squamish festivals began when the Canadian dollar was close to par with the U.S. dollar, and with most artists being paid in U.S. dollars, the loonie's decline played a big role in the festivals' long-term viability.

Cleanup after the festivals was a major task, but done quickly. (Keith Harasymiw)

"In addition, the Pemberton Music Festival experienced increasing difficulty in sourcing talent for the 2017 festival due to a limited number of artists touring in 2017," says a fact sheet posted by Ernst & Young.

A blow to community

The loss of the festival will come as a blow to the economy of Pemberton, a small city 150 kilometres north of Vancouver. A $3 surcharge on each ticket went to local governments. 

"That was so beneficial to the community. Now obviously we've lost that. That's hard to make up any other way," said Russell Mack, local director for the Squamish-Lillooet regional district.

Pemberton Mayor Mike Richman said the city had been given no warning that bankruptcy was imminent, and presumed the festival was going ahead after the lineup was revealed.

But Mack said the community knew the festival's long-term future was precarious.

"They've lost of a lot of money in the last three years, and you can only do that for so long," he said.  

"It just seems that festivals aren't the easiest thing to make a profit at." 


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