The annual street and club festival Distortion will need to undergo drastic changes if it is to return next year, warns its lead organiser.
The festival, which visits a different Copenhagen district on each its five days, saw up to 100,000 people attend each of the street parties.
But despite their soaring popularity, the night-time Club Clash events were massively undersubscribed, with only 2,500 of the 230 kroner tickets sold for Friday night’s event when sales of 6,000 tickets were needed to break even.
Festival organiser, Thomas Fleurquin, writing in his email newsletter early Saturday morning, expressed his frustration that people were still partying on the street at night 100 meters from world-class music acts.
“Don’t they know Distortion is a festival of club culture, where the street parties are intended as a free and cosy warm-up for the club night fun?”
The success of the street parties wrought havoc with the festivals budget, which stands to lose approximately 1,000,000 kroner this year.
Twice the number of people attended the street parties than were expected, leading to spiralling clean-up costs that far surpassed the 200,000 kroner set aside in the budget.
The popularity of the street parties stretched the festivals resources to breaking point, with Fleurquin estimating that a budget of three million kroner would be required to fully professionalise the street parties when only 500,000 kroner was set aside this year.
“It means that we need a drastic rethink if there is at all going to be a Distortion 2012. We can no longer take this route with the street parties, especially if they destroy the main source of our income,” wrote Fleurquin.
By comparison, the Roskilde Festival, which has an attendance of 75,000, has an operating budget of 37 million kroner.
Distortion’s street parties consist of dozens of stages set up and arranged by anyone willing to pay the participation fee to become a ‘street host’.
While this raises some capital, the majority of the funds raised by the festival come by way of ticket sales to Club Clash in the evenings.
But with up to thirty hosts at each of the street parties, some believe the daytime events are becoming the main focus of the festival.
One prominent individual who works in the Copenhagen club scene, who spoke to the Copenhagen Post, thinks Distortion needs to limit the number of street hosts and think of more intelligent ways to raise funds.
“They need to take control of the planning and booking. I can’t understand why they have such a hole in their finances but I think they are probably paying too much to book some of their acts.”
“They keep on saying they want odd and unusual acts but it was a little predictable.”
Nick Bridge, editor of underground publication Bitchslap Magazine, held a dance competition on Halmtorv on Friday as part of the Vesterbro street party – the sixth year the magazine collaborated with the festival.
He thinks people need to be more aware of how important it is to support Club Clash in order to keep the festival running.
“Even though they did a lot of work in ticket promotion they didn’t communicate to the outsiders that this is how it works economically.”
“They were also missing some good headline acts. It was really great having Jenny Wilson and Trentemøller play for free in town on Wednesday, but they should have played the club,” he said, highlighting the feeling that there were a lack of acts with a sufficiently broad appeal to draw in the crowds.
“I think people would definitely support it if they knew it was so critical and I’m sure people would do everything possible to make sure it keeps on going.”
But Fleurquin’s email on Saturday morning before the final party expressed concern over the festival’s future.
“Spending millions to hold the world’s most fun street party is something I would love to do – when I can. Distortion has always been about love for Copenhagen and about sharing your enthusiasm. But we’ve reached breaking point.”
Distortion Festival spokesperson Christian Langballe accepted the need to work on encouraging people to attend the Club Clash events.
“We need people to understand the extra value the evening parties offer. It was a lot of money to spend when there was so much going on in the street. But we need to work on making people understand the value of going to these parties.”
“To 95% of people the main part of Distortion was the street parties. So we need to figure out how to have the street parties while also getting people into the club.”
Despite the problems, however, Langballe was keen to stress that they were pleased by how the festival turned out.
“We have fought really hard throughout this festival because our team is really small. But we’re happy about how hard people have worked to make it happen – it’s been crazy,” he said.
“Distortion has become one of the biggest cultural institution ever to happen to Copenhagen and it’s amazing to think of all the people who visited, going home thinking it’s the coolest city in the world.”
Originally published in the Copenhagen Post