Yesterday, Karoondinha Festival disappeared. The brand new event was set to take place in less than a month (July 21-23) at Penn’s Cave & Wildlife Park, and boasted an impressive lineup including Chance The RapperJohn LegendThe RootsOdesza, ChromeoMaren Morris, and more. However, in the early evening, Karoondinha deleted all of their social media accounts and took down their official website without warning or comment, leaving fans to wonder about the fate of the fest (and, for ticket-holding fans, the fate of their refunds). This morning, in a conversation with Billboard, sibling festival organizers Kaleena and Paul Rallis  confirmed what most everyone had suspected: the financial well has dried up, so next month’s inaugural Karoondinha Festival has been put on hold.

“The event as planned will not take place July 21-31, 2017,” Paul Rallis tells Billboard. “We’re looking at other options at this moment and hope we can make something happen in some way. We’re not walking away from the vision of the idea in any way, because our commitment is still to make something great happen in this area–it’s just not going to take place on the scheduled days.”

This is far from the first we’ve heard in the past few months about festivals grinding to a halt due to financial and logistical meltdowns. Last month, Canadian weekend event Pemberton Music Festival was forced to file for bankruptcy after inflated costs and low ticket sales depleted their budget, leaving ticket refunds an unfortunate mystery for fans. And then, of course, there was Fyre Festival, the now-legendary shit-show of colossal proportions that promised an upper-crust private island lap of luxury but promptly imploded and devolved into a virtual refugee situation in a matter of hours after the event began. (Perhaps Fyre Festival is even serving as a cautionary tale for these struggling festivals, convincing them to cancel rather than set themselves up for disaster).

As Billboard reports, several talent agencies reported hearing that something was wrong with Karoondinha several weeks ago and got increasingly concerned after calls stopped getting returned. Keith Shackleford of Paradigm, who booked Odesza and Porter Robinson for the festival, said he insisted the organizers present their business plan and contacts before agreeing to sell acts to the event and required the organizers to pay the artists in advance, explaining “I can check every vendor the festival is using and every investor or source of money, but deposits are the best form of due diligence.”

Regarding refunds, Paul Rallis tells Billboard, “We are looking at that next and have to have some other discussions on what that process will turn out to be.” Tickets were sold through Eventbrite, and Kaleena Rallis did confirm to Billboard that the ticketing company advanced the organizers a portion of the ticket sales, saying, “Our attorney is working through that with Eventbrite.”

As with the majority of festivals that flame out early, Karoondinha’s biggest mistake was biting off more than they could chew, and focusing far too much of the funds they did have in the wrong places. The event was planned on an enormous scale (3 days, multiple stages, 30,000 expected attendees), an extremely ambitious and ultimately unrealistic size for a first-year event with no brand recognition or built-in fan base to manage. They also poured large sums of money into marketing and publicity fees and outside contractors promising to bring in business. Not only were their projected ticket sales numbers ultimately way off, but sponsorship sales came in far below expectations despite the fact that they were paying $15,00o per month plus commission to their sponsorship sales team.

For all you aspiring festival organizers out there, learn from the mistakes of the Karoondinhas and the Pembertons and the Fyres of the world. There are lots of festivals today–more and more every day. It’s great to have big visions; that’s what makes life worth living. But don’t underestimate the incredible amount of time, work and (sadly) money it takes to throw a great event. A small fest that runs smoothly beats a huge event that gets canceled 10 times out of 10. We wish the Rallis siblings good luck as they figure out what’s next for the Karoondinha team.


[h/t – Billboard]