Founder Kelvin Batt explains how expenses spun out of control for his festival, where one-fourth of last year's attendees were on the guestlist.
After more than a decade, the independent Cornwall festival might call it quits due to the "tripled" expenses and increasing guestlist demands. In an April Facebook post, Batt broke down The Masked Ball's costs and revenue, revealing that the festival made £461 off its 2018 edition. He said the guestlist was "500 plus" names long—about one in four attendees. "This cost us £35,000," he wrote.
But when he spoke to Resident Advisor, Batt said the cost was actually even higher. "If everyone on the guestlist had paid for their tickets, we placed it at £50,000 difference for last year," he said. "We're talking wages for two people for the year to work on the festival."
Ticket prices for The Masked Ball range from £45 to £95, virtually the same for its whole run. "At least for us, for every person that comes onto the land and walks around, [that] costs the event anything between £15 and £20."
Batt explained how the guestlist can easily snowball to 500-plus for a smaller-scale event. "You'd have DJ's friends, the people staging up's friends, people running the soundystems' friends," and the list goes on. He said the reasons for all the asking is about perception: "The longer a festival goes on... the more familiar people become with an event... it kind of breeds ownership. So then they're kind of expecting a guestlist ticket."
"It becomes uncool," Batt said of the perception. "If you're not on guestlist, you're not cool... [but] you should feel quite proud of yourself if you support and buy a ticket.
Batt is also aware of his role in the trend: "Everyone's guilty of it, I'll sign up my friends who own festivals." However, he added: "I'm finding now that I'm not doing that just because I know the effect it does to ours."
Batt stressed that this is only "one of many huge factors" that contribute to a festival's downfall and cited troubled UK events like Secret Garden Party, Festival No. 6 and Bestival. He said The Masked Ball's expenses have "tripled" over the years even as ticket prices have remained the same. "When a festival becomes longstanding, what tends to happen [is] the landowner thinks there's more money being made and puts the rents up," he said as an example of how costs can creep up.
The Masked Ball's 2019 lineup features the likes of Optimo, Powder, Telephones, Body Hammer, Felix Dickinson and more.