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PARACHUTE MUSIC: ENDING ON A HIGH NOTE BY ELEAZAR CORONADO

WHY HAS THE PARACHUTE MUSIC FESTIVAL CLOSED?


After 24 years of running, on the 26th of March this year, Parachute Musics Board of
Trustees have made the decision that this year was the last year that Parachute would be
held, as they have concluded that it is no longer financially viable and would risk having
to give up Parachute Musics other music events and activities. The following day they
made a statement on their Face Book page and bid farewell on their official website. With
the steady decline of numbers attending, and the operational costs of running such an
event, this year the festival had loss of a quarter of million dollars. Mark De Jong, owner
of Parachute Music says that this has been building up for about the last three to four
years. It is of concern to many committed and loyal supporters in NZ, and overseas,
especially to those who had already pre-ordered tickets to 2015s festival and now have
to get their refunds, to the reasons behind Parachutes closing, as it is one of the largest
musical festivals in the Southern Hemisphere, having been a big part of the NZ music
scene.
Mark De Jong says that the Global Financial Crisis as well as the Christchurch earthquakes
have affected families financial situations has called the need for the initiative Pay what
you can afford in order to keep the festival running under these circumstances. This idea
is that families may pay what they can afford in $50 increments down to a virtually free
option of $1.
Furthermore in 2013, ticket prices dropped by 25 per cent, the organisation decided for
the first time ever to limit ticket sales to the festival in order to use less of the event
centre and reduce costs. This is despite the closing of one of Parachutes big competitors
as a summer music festival Big Day Out, in 2012. Only 17500 tickets were available. And
even though they sold out, this very likely stopped many more people from coming to the
festival, as they forced punters who normally attend Parachute to miss out, as around
20,000 attended last year and over the years the festival had been having consistently
over 20,000 turn out. This combined with the continuation of Pay what you can afford
may be the reason into the decrease in numbers in 2014, and Parachute Musics thinking
that the festival has come to its end in its natural business phases.
Introducing this initiative may mean that many families that would otherwise never have
or would have never been able to go to Parachute may go, resulting in increasing the
festivals market, incurring financial benefits in the future of the festival, and also to their
other activities and events they run and on their bigger goal to help the contemporary
Christian music industry. On the other hand virtually any family can get a hold of one of
these free tickets as there are no formal checks made on looking into the families
financial situation. Based on Parachutes promise to subsidise 1 family for about every
$200 donated, with the total amount raised of $25,261online this should mean that at
least 130 families benefited from this and got a helping hand to attend the festival.
Although this initiative has its benefits, and may have helped out in 2012, continuing this
initiative is counter intuitive with the new limited number of tickets available. This means
either or both of two things. First, families who could not pay received tickets instead of
those who were able to pay. Second, some families who were easily taking advantage of
the initiative for a free ride receive tickets instead of those who were willing to pay.
Either way both would have likely resulted in many people who were the festivals real
market in feeling discouraged that others who do not pay was able to get tickets instead
of them or feel it was unfair that others who pretended not being able to pay received

tickets instead of them, both leading many not to attending in 2014. In 2014 numbers
dropped to about 16,000 and this may have made the board of trustees think that some
of their loyal supporters have not attended and/or despite allowing tickets for those who
cannot afford it, the decrease in numbers show that this has come to its natural
conclusion, when in fact it was the poor decision to combine decreasing the size of the
festival by creating this ticket limit and introducing this initiative that was likely a big
reason why numbers had dropped. On an economic perspective this may be one of the
reasons that the festival ended.
Parachute music over the years has strayed away from its roots. Even though the
festivals music has not been solely Christian, it was for a long time mainstream music,
pop, hip-hop or rock music with Christian influences and messages, which came from
Christian musicians. Over the last few years there have been intentional choices to stray
from Christian music as Christians nowadays more or less listen to the same music as
other people, Mark de Jong explains. Instead of Christian bands like Casting Crowns and
Third Day, chart-topping acts like Stan Walker and Dave Dobbyn headlined this year.
Trying only to have a line-up of musicians who happened to be Christians has changed
the aesthetics making it no different from the other music out there. The Christian aspect
of Parachute as well as its no drugs and alcohol rule is something that has made the
festival offer a different and special music experience for people.
Although this decision may broaden appeal, it has led to the problem that Mark De Jong
says is one of the reasons to the ending of Parachute Festival; todays saturated
market. Parachute then becomes mainstream in a market that already has an excess of
produce. In other words, there is already has an excess of mainstream music available to
music consumers, but in comparison there is a demand to meet for Christian
contemporary music. Parachute music first saw this need to take Christian music to our
pop culture, and this has what defined this festival from other music out there in the first
place. There was concern in the social media on band Elemeno P involvement in the 2011
festival. Their music being secular, it was seen by some as un-Christian. Their lead singer
Dave Gibson says, You could loosely call me Christian. There have been many Christian
supporters that say they voted with their feet this year by not attending Parachute as
they no longer believe it is Christian festival. Also, Parachutes most successful turnout of
27,000 had around half of the headline acts that play Christian music while this year
there was only around two fifths of the acts.
Parachute is not the only festival that has been struggling to run in these financial times.
Even though Big Day Out successfully came back this year after having to close in 2012,
they admitted losing numbers due to financial struggles. In the earlier years of the
Parachute festival, there was a small number of other summer festivals, but today this
has exploded into around 20 festivals, giving people a large array of choices, and so it is
even more important now that Parachute stays true to its roots in order to stand out and
offer something that is unique to itself and different from the other festivals people may
go to. Recently festivals have also been struggling against the increasing number of
international artists that regularly tour and hold concerts on a weekly basis in NZ.

WHAT IS THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE CLOSING OF THE PARACHUTE MUSIC


FESTIVAL IN THE DIVERSITY OF THE NZ MUSIC SCENE?

The closing of Parachute is the closing of a door of opportunity for Christian musicians in
the future. This is the opportunity for new and young talented Christian musicians to be
discovered, enter into the industry and flourish in their careers. More specifically it is a
place where these musicians may gain exposure and experience, and to progress their
careers further outside of the festival.
The festival has brought Christian music outside the walls of Church events and
organisations, bringing it to broadcast Christian ideas and messages to non-believers on
a large scale, as this festival is the largest Christian music festival in the Southern
hemisphere. The festival has brought a new purpose for Christian music, instead of just
being a religious practice of worship it now can be used as a media to influence others as
Christian music in a concert can both be a place of worship and entertainment (although
radio airplay is also a medium for entertainment, in recent times, the radio has become
somewhat redundant in todays younger generation), evident by the domination of
Parachute bands and solo musicians on the NZ iTunes charts in the week after the
festival. With the many musicians who have come from this festival, such as the
Parachute band, Brooke Fraser, Rapture Ruckus and Family Force 5 it is likely that this
change will continue on for the years to come.
We are losing a festival has lead the development of contemporary Christian music
especially as it has discovered new talents in NZ. It has also promoted the reputation of
this genre as it places it on the same platform as other international musicians and other
genres of music, giving Christian music musicians the professional respect in the
industry. A festival is a celebration, and this one celebrates Christian music.
In the NZ music scene, in particular in Hamilton, this is a loss of a medium for Christian
faith to influence others. In 2008 out of 6,000 of non-Christians during the event, 2,000
put themselves forward committing their lives to Christ. It provides a place that bridges
the social gap between some non-Christian and Christian in our community, leading to
Christians being understood and accepted. It is also a loss of a place for families, teens
and tweens for summer entertainment as well as having uplifting positive messages of
hope found in both the music and speakers; even preventing one man from committing
suicide. For the younger people in Christian communities the festival has been an annual
tradition and losing it is a loss of their culture in practice of worship.
The festival has taken the role to discover talent, in the earlier years with the Debut
stage and later with their own version of NZs got talent: Parachutes Gotta Lotta Talent
run in 2013 and 2014 and providing experience and exposure for Christian musicians as
well as connecting them with other like-minded musicians and possibly joining to create
new groups/bands or collaborating and learning from each others experiences and
getting connections to recording companies as Rapture Ruckus did with BEC Recordings.
With the closing of this door, another opens. Mark De Jong says with the festival now
closed, the organisation will be able to put more efforts in their other events and
activities they run. For example, their artist development initiative in which they
personally mentor artists like 15 year-old Nakita Turner in her career, whether that may
be in song writing, in creating music videos or in management. Another example is the
running of Noise seminars which help musicians train their music skills and musicianship,
as well as, running their recording and rehearsal studios. He also suggested the
possibility of creating new events in the future. He was quoted saying, One artist who
really breaks through can actually have more impact on people than an event of 20,000
people. This means that for the last 24 years, the festival has brought a spotlight and
introduction of contemporary Christian music to be accepted, recognised and

acknowledged amongst NZ communities. It has brought confidence to Christian


musicians in the NZ music scene. The next step may be to focus on the artistry of
individual music artists that will really bring about an impact possibly at international
scale.
What will replace the Parachute music festival? Perhaps the ending of this festival will
make space in the industry for other new or existing festivals and musicians to grow. The
Parachute music festival ended on a high note indeed. In its success other artists and
festivals, especially in Christian contemporary music, can look at this festival as an
example to learn from. The Parachute music festival offered the NZ music scene a music
festival that is friendly to families and their children, no drugs and alcohol policy,
promoted Christian musicians and broadcasted Christian Contemporary music. As well as
operating as a charity and having worthy causes providing services to women and
children dealing with domestic violence by working with the Womens Refuge NZ and
helping fight poverty in Rwanda by partnering with World Vision.
Parachutes legacy is that music can really have an impact; Christian music can shift pop
culture. The festival will be missed by many. But maybe this legacy may change or
inspire others in the NZ music scene.

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