Top stars, low cost – Quebec celebrates a festival model

News Hour:


The top names in music playing some of their careers’ largest shows, with tickets selling for a sliver of the price they usually command…

Such is the unique model of Quebec City’s summer festival, which turned 50 this year with a lineup teeming with A-list acts including metal greats Metallica, rock pioneers The Who, and Kendrick Lamar, one of the most acclaimed artists in hip-hop.

The golden anniversary comes as the live music industry sweeps the Western world, with millennial-generation fans flocking to festivals that keep growing in size and number despite some high-profile flops along the way.

Quebec City’s festival owes its character to the special culture of the city, the cradle of French-speaking Canada where public funding contributes around 13 percent of the event’s budget.

Tickets for the full 11-day event known in French as the Festival d’ete de Quebec — start at $95 (US$75), less than some headliners charge for their own shows and far below entrance to major global festivals such as Coachella in California, where three-day tickets next year start at US$429.

The Quebec festival’s advantage lies in size. Around 90,000 people can pack in before the main stage said to be North America’s largest on the Plains of Abraham where British troops decisively defeated France in a 1759 battle.

Unlike most festivals, which rigorously check that fans keep on wristbands to prove they paid, the Quebec festival encourages buyers to share tickets. It sold out all 135,000 for the 50th anniversary edition.

“Even if we gave out all of the tickets for free, Quebec City is a market of 750,000 people so you need to find 100,000 people who want to see an artist,” said Louis Bellavance, the festival’s programming director.

“So we don’t exactly have a risk of a riot,” he said.

“It’s pretty unique. This would be impossible in a market like Montreal, Paris, New York or L.A., where so much is going on at once.”

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