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Popular Vancouver music festival cancels 2023 event, may never return

"With today’s pricing, we would require an additional $500k in funding every year," says festival organizers.
The Vancouver Folk Music Festival announced that the 2023 festival is cancelled, and that the annual event may not return at all.

A beloved music festival won't be returning this year, and may not ever. 

Vancouver Folk Music Festival organizers (VFMF) announced on Tuesday, Jan. 17, that in addition to its cancelling the 2023 event, the festival's Board of Directors has made the difficult decision to recommend the Vancouver Folk Music Festival Society, which organizes the annual event, be dissolved.

However, the decision is not confirmed yet. A membership vote will take place on Feb. 1 to decide the festival's future. 

Why won't the VFMF make a comeback? 

"It was a very, very tough decision for the Board to come to," VFMF board president Mark Zuberbuhler tells V.I.A. "But we were faced with a situation that our financial challenges were just too great to overcome."

The festival was postponed twice due to COVID-19 but was able to return in 2022. Zuberbuhler notes that that year's festival was "very well attended" with plenty of musical acts, but it did not "break even."

The result of last year's festival has been influential in VFMFS' decision to cancel this year's event.

Zuberbuhler explains that by dissolving the society now, and not holding another festival, they will have enough funds to pay off all outstanding debts and have a clean closure. He adds that this would also leave room for others who may want to start up the festival again.

Following last year's festival, VFMF also found that the festival environment had greatly changed.

"These types of live events became much more costly to produce," says Zuberbuhler. 

New expenses and increased costs

He cites new expenses in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic as the main reason for the VFMFS' decision to cancel this year's festival. 

Many suppliers, which provided equipment required to host a festival, went out of business over the pandemic. Simultaneously, the cost of equipment and necessary supplies has jumped dramatically; things like audio equipment, stages, fencing, tents, and portable washrooms, lists Zuberbuhler. 

However, a newer, more challenging expense that came out of the pandemic was suppliers asking for up-front payments. 

"That became a big cash flow issue for us because we just don't have the cash and reserves to do that," Zuberbuhler explains. "We need ticket revenue and what we get after the festival to help pay for all our bills." 

Inherently, it is the "great gap between what we anticipate the revenue that we can generate [to be] and the actual expenses" that pushed the festival to the unfortunate decision. 

"With today’s pricing, we would require an additional $500k in funding every year to produce the festival, which is unfortunately not realistic or sustainable for our organization," writes VFMF in the announcement. 

As for a potential future return of the festival, Zuberbuhler wants "to make it so that that's a possibility."