Problem-plagued Kultureland music festival raises concerns about ticket-holders' rights

·4 min read
Dancers on stage at the Kultureland music festival in Markham, Ont., on Saturday, Aug. 5. (Submitted by Lindsey Addawoo - image credit)
Dancers on stage at the Kultureland music festival in Markham, Ont., on Saturday, Aug. 5. (Submitted by Lindsey Addawoo - image credit)

After a string of music festivals gone wrong in Ontario, ticket-holders may be left wondering what exactly they're entitled to when the experience delivered doesn't match the one they paid for.

On Sunday, ticket-holders for the Kultureland music festival in Ajax, Ont. were left scrambling after the festival changed venues at the last minute, with headliner Jhené Aiko cancelling her performance.

Organizer Ferell Laditi told The Canadian Press on Monday that the inaugural edition of his two-day R&B and Afro-fusion music festival went nothing like he planned.

"It was never my intention to scam anyone or take their money and not give them performances."

But Kultureland wasn't the only problem-plagued music festival in Ontario this past weekend. Toronto's Kingston Fest faced audio issues and overcrowding while the Boots and Hearts festival in Oro-Medonte had to temporarily evacuate festival grounds due to sever weather conditions. Additionally, Ever After, which was also set to take place in Oro-Medonte, was cancelled just a week ahead of its start date on Aug. 11.

Submitted by Mutsa Charamba
Submitted by Mutsa Charamba

Lindsey Addawoo was among those who attended the festival at its original venue in Markham, Ont., on Saturday.

While things really went sideways Sunday, she said the entire festival was poorly organized. VIP tickets weren't honoured and attendees didn't have access to water, which resulted in people needing medical attention due to Saturday's extreme heat, Addawoo said.

"It just seems like a money grab thing, like it didn't seem like there was [no] sense of accountability," Addawoo said. "It just felt like they threw spaghetti at the wall and said, 'Let's make something stick.'"

Saturday's attendees are not currently set to receive a refund.

Ticket holder rights can be tricky

Music lawyer Paul Banwatt told CBC Toronto it can be tricky to pin down what ticket holders are entitled to in these situations.

"If you looked at all of the different festivals and shows and events and looked at the terms of sale for all of them, you'll find lots of differences along the way," he said.

However, he said there's an argument to be made if the experience no longer resembles what was initially sold to attendees.

Entertainment lawyer Miro Oballa agreed, saying some changes to a show or festival are normal but those that affect the overall experience may be grounds for action.

"If it's a single-artist show, you know, and I paid to see Kendrick Lamar and I'm not getting Kendrick Lamar, that's [a problem]," he said. "If it's a festival bill and there's a bunch of artists, arguably, even if the headliner gets swapped out, as long as it's a comparable stature headliner … you're still getting the experience."

Research before you buy

CBC Toronto asked the province how Ontario protects ticket-holders in situations where a festival venue is changed or advertised performers cancel their shows.

In a statement Wednesday, the province said it is currently conducting the first comprehensive review of the Consumer Protection Act in over 15 years and urged individuals to contact Consumer Protection Ontario with any questions about specific refund entitlements.

It's also always a good idea to research festival organizers before buying tickets, Oballa added.

"You're buying a ticket for an experience and you're relying on somebody else or a company to put that experience together for you," he said. "If they haven't had experience doing that before, it's a bigger risk than if it's somebody who has."

As for Laditi, he says he's already planning an improved Kultureland Festival for next year.

"I know there's been a lot of setbacks with this, but the goal is to build something that can continue to connect cultures and build the community we have here in Canada," he told The Canadian Press.

Mutsa Charamba was one of many ticket-holders who left the festival feeling disappointed, however has no plans to attend the follow-up event. The festival needs to rethink its resources, she said.

"I think they bit off more than they could chew, honestly."