Laneway in the niche to make it in tough times

By Kim Choe

Thousands of Aucklanders are spending their Anniversary Day holiday at music festival St Jerome’s Laneway.

While many people are struggling financially, and following the Big Day Out closing down its New Zealand operation, the niche indie music festival is bigger than ever.

The calm before the musical storm sees technicians carry out final checks before the bands begin.

Laneway organisers are expecting a capacity crowd, drawn by Canadian singer Feist and French electronic act M83.

Festival co-promoter Ben Howe acknowledges they are “niche festival”.

“It is a sort of independent or alternative style of music festival and we do cater to people that are really dedicated and enthusiastic music fans,” says Mr Howe.

He says it is this niche that is helping keep it afloat despite other festivals falling on tough times.

Laneway has gone from strength to strength in its short lifetime. Crowd numbers today will be more than 30 percent up on the last two years, with more than 6,500 people expected.

In contrast, the final BDO ten days ago drew just half of its capacity crowd as well as the sympathy of other big festival organisers.

Parachute festival director Mark De Jong thinks for major established events it has been a hard year, “maybe the hardest I can remember”.

“The fact that there are so many events happening this summer, there’s something like 22 major summer events. It wasn’t that long ago it felt like there were only a few of us.”

Music journalist Hugh Sundae says the BDO grew too big to sustain, with competition from other smaller festivals.

“I guess BDO was an example of one that was trying to be a lot of things to a lot of people, whereas Splore is a pretty different crowd,” he says. “There’s always going to be crossover, but Splore is different to Laneway, which is different to Rhythm Vines.”

With breakthrough artists like Gotye on its bill, Laneway has no problems standing out from the crowd.

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