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Hillside Festival remains strong in wake of increased competition

Discounted group packages being offered for the first time

While the days of a complete sell-out may be in the past, organizers say ticket sales for this summer's Hillside Festival are still going well.

Festival executive director Marie Zimmerman said as event draws closer, more people are making their plans for the July 22 to July 24 weekend, leading to a recent spike in ticket sales.

As of yet none of festival's three days are sold out.

"I think that because there was a saturation of festivals and events last year it leads people to stall on their decision making. Now that we're almost two weeks away, sales are really picking up," said Zimmerman.

"We never take things for granted," she said. "Because we are in arts and culture, it's a very changeable environment."

Competition, demographics and shifts in popularity can work both against and for the festival.

"There are mega festivals on the scene and certainly festivals that are booking similar acts or acts that we have booked in the past," she said.

Zimmerman said the fact Hillside books all kinds of music, from gospel and world music to country and hip hop works in favour of Hillside.

"We're not just folk music."

Zimmerman said there won't be any acts added to the lineup in an event to boost sales.

She said several years ago, when there were some big names added late, it was usually because those artists schedules became set and they suddenly became available.

Zimmerman said there is much more competition for ticket buyers and artists these days.

Other festivals that spend a lot of money to attract artists also usually put a clause in their contracts saying those artists can't perform within a certain radius of the venue for a set number of days.

"You sometimes feel a little handcuffed, because you can't access some of the performers with the bigger names. But we've always taken pride in that we introduce people to acts they've never heard of."

Hillside remains a not-for-profit event, but Zimmerman said attracting big name acts has never been their thing. They prefer to discover the acts before they get big.

Broken Social Scene, Metric, Arcade Fire and Feist are just some of those bands.

"Those performers hadn't been heard of and were at Hillside first and we feel proud about that and trust that people will realize we will offer them that again this year."

Hillside is offering a group discount on weekend passes for the first time aimed at groups from the same work place, sports teams, family and organizations. The group package, sold in bunches of 10, 25 and 50, offer a discount of between $20 and $40 off the regular single ticket price.

"There are lots of organizations or clubs that want to come together and we want to encourage that kind of togetherness," Zimmerman said. "So many of our patrons come to Hillside not just to enjoy the music and the arts, but also to be with family and friends to enjoy those things."

The group packages must be purchased in advance and as a single sale.

Regular Hillside tickets range from $57 for Friday, $85 for Saturday or Sunday and $146 for the weekend. All plus HST.

A seniors weekend pass is $73 and children 12 and under are still admitted for free.