This year’s Perth Festival was one of the most tumultuous as Omicron hit the state.

There were on-and-off border closures, restricted attendance numbers, and cancellations by Missy Higgins, Barkaa, Gina Williams, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard and major arts events.

There was anger over gas company Woodside’s sponsorship, given the festival’s ocean theme.

While these hit the festival’s bottom line by $12 million, the WA-centric bill was ultimately beneficial to the state’s live sector.

According to a new economic impact statement from the festival’s organisers, the event paid $10.9 million into the pockets of local musicians and artists, workers, suppliers and contractors.

The contemporary music program included Methyl Ethel, POND, Songs to Experience, Stella Donnelly, electronic acts, RTRFM’s WA Mixtape, Alter Boy, Warranma! Sing in Language, Flewnt’s Boorloo Block Party, the Sounds of Sunset concert series at J-Shed, and the EDM/ambient dance party Aesoteric.

According to The Culture Counts, The 2022 Impact Report, contemporary music had a strong showing with 23% of its audience comeing from first-time attendees.

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It drew a younger audience too, with more in the 40—49 age group. 93% of them reported a “positive overall experience.”

These fans also spent $73 over and above tickets.

Cancellations and venue restrictions pushed audiences and economic impact results down.

Total attendance was 143,665, half of last year’s 473,616.

Direct economic impact including tickets, accommodation and travel was $19.9 million, down from $32 million in 2021.

The festival and its 125 events with 630 artists still managed to exceed its box-office target.

Overall ticket sales of $3.22 million were up 4%.

The performance and free program accounted for 81,775, including 46,318 who took in theatre, dance or music shows.

That was up from 23,914 last year.

Festival executive director Nathan Bennett called these “strong results.”

“For the second year running, we navigated a pandemic to safely share the bonds of culture and community,” Bennett said.

“We are immensely grateful to our audiences, artists, funding partners, donors, volunteers, and other supporters for making the festival possible in the face of the serious challenges thrown our way. 

“This report shows the festival made a positive impact to honour their faith and investment in us.”

There was much public support for community engagement program Festival Connect, and the inaugural Touring WA program which took arts experiences to regional areas.

95% of artists thought the festival opened new opportunities, and 100% rated their experience as good or excellent.

It was artistic director Iain Grandage’s third festival.

Australia’s longest-running arts festival, Perth Festival returns in 2023 from February 10 to March 5.

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