WHAT DOES your ideal music festival look like? Does it involve standing in the sun for hours without any updates on your favorite artist showing up? Or do you imagine you and your friends huddled together in fear of tents falling on top of you due to harsh winds and heavy rain? If this sounds like a holiday to you, then this festival would have been your personal paradise. On the last weekend of July, tens of thousands of people fell prey to one of the biggest scams in festival history, as many entered with high hopes but came out empty-handed from the Holiday Land Festival (HLF) 2019. What was supposed to be a weekend getaway turned into an unexpected fiasco, marking HLF 2019 the first ever music-less music festival.
Holiday Land Festival
Three years into production, HLF is an annual R&B music festival that quickly became famous for its ability to cast popular and trendy artists. Fake Virgin, a festival organizing company, assumed the role of the organizers for HLF three years in a row and while they had faced criticism for their poor administrative skills in the past, the festival’s massive scale and the public’s growing hype masked their former mistakes.
HLF 2019 was scheduled on the last weekend of July and took place at Paradise City Hotel in Yeongjong Island—a somewhat inconvenient location to many as it is at least an hour away from Seoul. A one-day ticket was sold for \150,000, a noticeably more expensive price than those of other summer music festivals, which cost \80,000 on average. Despite the seemingly unreasonable price and venue, HLF was still the most anticipated festival this summer due to its line-up and because more than 30,000 people were expected to attend.
Celebrating its third anniversary, HLF promised festival-goers of an unheard-of program. Starting with the Grammy winning artists such as Daniel Caesar and H.E.R., to rising hip-hop artists like Aminé, Fake Virgin seemed to have brought together a group of the hottest artists to Korea. To further heighten the level of expectation for the show, HLF took advantage of social media platforms; a number of influencers such as Dasha and SSbang posted on Instagram regarding their high hopes of the festival. All in all, everyone expected HLF 2019 to be the festival of their lives—little did they know what was to come next.
From a festival to a fiasco
The first day of the festival seemed flawless. Although Fake Virgin had announced the unfortunate news of H.E.R.’s cancellation a day before the event, many still attended and enjoyed themselves. By the end of the day, all artists, fans, and organizers left the festival content and excited for day two.
Signs of mayhem began to appear when rain poured down on the morning of the second day—it seemed as if the sky knew the catastrophe that was set ahead. With the headliners’ stages scheduled later in the day and the tumultuous weather, most attendees got to the festival around 5 p.m. However, just as the crowd started to gather around the stage in hopes of seeing their favorite artists, Fake Virgin announced that they needed to do a safety check on the stage. What was supposed to be a simple 30 minutes check-up soon turned into an hour, and finally, after four hours of waiting came the final announcement.
In their statement, Fake Virgin revealed that the remaining Anne-Marie, Beenzino, and Daniel Caesar’s shows were cancelled, and that the artists voluntarily asked to cancel their performances. Fake Virgin’s claim was later proven false when the artists explained that it was the organizers who had cancelled the shows on them. The safety of the infrastructures also became a problem as tents and booths collapsed due to harsh wind. It was subsequently revealed that the organizers had disregarded Paradise City’s suggestion to cancel the second day of the festival even though there had been warnings of heavy rain issued in Incheon.
A day later, an official apology and a refund policy were uploaded on HLF’s official Instagram page, offering a 40% refund to two-day ticket holders and an 80% refund to one-day ticket holders. When the festival-goers criticized the organizer’s inappropriate response to the event and its equally inappropriate refund policy, HLF blocked all comments and turned a blind eye to the audience’s demands for a full refund.
Thus, what was supposed to be the highlight of the summer turned into a series of unfortunate events—in other words, the Holiday Land Festival turned into a Holiday Land Fiasco.
The first ever music-less music festival
Performances and festivals arts of collaboration between artists, production teams, fans, and organizers*. Musicians perform in these shows to communicate with their fans who love their music. Behind the spotlight, production companies work on the technical aspects of the show such as stage set-ups and sound engineering to make the performances the best they can be. Fans give endless support and love to both the artists and the event the organizers set up. As such, the organizers have the most significant role because, while they work behind the scenes, they take responsibility in coordinating the aforementioned parties to ensure an enjoyable and safe festival overall.
Michael Morgan, a scholar in entertainment marketing who researched about the components of a successful festival, states that organizers are the connecting bridge among the three parties. Though organizers cannot take the entire blame for cancellation of shows and other forms of mishap, they must still take full responsibility and offer legitimate refunds to compensate for the loss participants may have experienced.
Fake Virgin severely lacked this kind of professionalism and have proven to be disqualified as organizers in HLF 2019. Instead of serving as the much-needed connecting bridge, they instead burned the bridge down by blaming the cancelled shows on the artists and the unsafe infrastructures on the production team. In the pivotal moments the artists and fans longed to communicate with one another, the organizers blocked this by intentionally giving both of them misinformation. However, Fake Virgin’s misstatement pitted the participants against one another and broke the faith and respect between the parties.
Fake Virgin also did not offer appropriate refunds to the festival attendees. The Korea Consumer Agency states that if a concert runs for less than 50% of the prior announced running time, the organizers are to give a 100% refund to the festival-goers. Though Fake Virgin shortened an originally 550-minute extravaganza into a mere 260-minute performance, they offered a refund far short of what the attendees legally deserved, showing their incompetence as organizers.
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By the end of the 48-hour fiasco, the high hopes that the attendees had for the festival were replaced by disappointment for the calamitous weather and Fake Virgin’s ineptitude. With doubts and fears encroaching on people’s minds of what will happen next year, Fake Virgin, along with other music festival organizers, will need to not only learn from their mistakes, but also acknowledge and take full responsibility for what has already happened. Festival-goers will continue to look for high quality music festivals, and hopefully next year, will engage in a musical euphoria with their artists, production teams, and lastly, the organizers.
*Gig Guide Korea