2015 Rockstar Mayhem Festival

‘Mayhem Festival’ Co-Founder Asks Fans If The Festival Should Return


Though the ‘Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival‘ went out with a bit of a whimper back in 2015, it seems the books may not be sealed shut on the festival just yet. According to Ghost Cult, one of the festival’s co-founders, John Reese, recently asked the following question via Facebook:

John Reese on 'Mayhem Festival'

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While there’s many who would enthusiastically welcome the return of a traveling metal/hard rock festival, the current economy of the metal scene seems to present the same challenges it did back in 2015—if not worse. After ending the ‘Mayhem Festival‘ at the time, Reese cited issues with headliners capable of carrying the tour as being a big factor for the festival’s then apparent demise. Back in September of 2015 he said of the matter:

“The biggest problem heavy music has right now is headliners, ultimately. You can’t play amphitheaters with this massive production without bands that are hard ticket sellers.”

With the likes of guaranteed ticket movers like Metallica, Guns N’ Roses, Rammstein and more regularly grossing over a million dollars a performance at their own shows and stalwarts like past ‘Mayhem Festival‘ headliner Slayer soon to hang up their boots, there’s few heavy bands out there that could make a touring metal festival financially viable, at least without taking a rather deep pay cut—something ‘Mayhem Festival‘ co-founder Kevin Lyman previously said most metal bands were unwilling to do.

This is also in part why destination festivals continue to crop up and thrive in this climate. With the financial stakes dramatically lessened, the steep price tag for a single date from a big headliner isn’t as much of a risk. Lyman himself took his past summer festival staple, the ‘Vans Warped Tour‘, that route this year, opting to hold a handful of regional festival stops.

While Lyman certainly earned the right to end the touring incarnation of the ‘Vans Warped Tour‘ on his own terms, relatively sparse attendance in 2017 had to have played a part in his reasoning to ‘end’ the festival following its 2018 run.

In the past, younger heavy bands could catapult their careers forward on the backs of standout performances at these traveling festivals, much like Slipknot did during their run on the 1999 ‘Ozzfest‘. But that festival also had metal pioneers Black Sabbath and the likes of then megastars like Rob Zombie and more to also reel in bigger audiences.

In the fractured age of social media and digital distribution, there are fewer avenues for up and coming bands to grow past a certain point. Be it the drastically lessened support and revenue from record company infrastructure or the overall dearth of mainstream media outlets to introduce them to a larger fan base. The capability for an artist to continue to grow is still there, but rarely is it explosive.

It all makes for a rather thick ceiling for the current crop of heavier bands to break through and a tough problem for any potential metal festivals to solve going forward.

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