AFTER enduring bushfires, floods and the pandemic, Hunter music promoters say cost-of-living pressures are threatening to derail their revival.
Tickets sales to major music festivals in the Hunter are down on previous years as punters become increasingly discernible with their spending.
The return of superstar international acts such as Taylor Swift and Beatles legend Paul McCartney is also having an impact.
Even Newcastle's largest annual music festival, This That, isn't immune to economic pressures.
Traditionally the youth-orientated festival has sold out well in advance, and with Sydney rockers Gang Of Youths and US producer Porter Robinson headlining its November 11 return at Wickham Park, expectations were high This That would be a hot-ticket item.
The line-up also includes Hockey Dad, Chillinit, Peking Duk, The Presets and many more.
"It's definitely softer than where we usually are at this point of the campaign," promoter Greg Mathew said.
"The daily sales are still strong, it just didn't come out of the box like it usually does."
This That was cancelled last year three months out due to a combination of supply chain issues, labour shortages, ballooning insurance premiums, infrastructure costs and a wet weather forecast.
Mr Mathew said his team had worked hard to keep prices affordable for the Newcastle and Hunter market.
Tickets prices for the one-day festival range from $141.55 for early bird sales through to $172.45.
"This That is a Newcastle homegrown festival and I think we have a good brand," he said.
"There's a whole number of different factors. There's different buying patterns, there's cost-of-living, there's the big international tours that are coming through.
"We hope people will buy late when they realise they have the cash there."
The new Off The Rails festival scheduled for the Bar On The Hill on September 30 has also experienced underwhelming sales, despite booking red-hot headliner Amyl & The Sniffers.
Hunter Valley promoter Matt Johnston is experiencing similarly slow sales for Dashville's punk and heavy metal festival, Thrashville, scheduled for September 8-9.
This is despite the strongest ever line-up in the "slightly heavier" festival's six-year history, led by Cog and Mammal.
It led to Johnston taking to social media to ask followers if they intended to buy a ticket last minute.
"What really motivated me to do it was to be transparent," Mr Johnston said.
"Nobody wants to talk about low sales, it's all that perception thing which the whole industry is built on.
"I approached it carefully, but the reality is it's quite a stark one."
Mr Johnston said Dashville's middle-aged demographic was being particularly squeezed by cost-of-living pressures.
"I was talking to another promoter and there's a flip in the demographic with young people having more money now than older people, whereas it was always a bit different," he said.
"The 30-50 age group, we're all bound by living pressure with kids and mortgages and cost of food."
The City Of Newcastle and NSW Government's decision to open McDonald Jones Stadium for international music superstars like Elton John, Pink and McCartney has been widely applauded.
Punters have also shown their enthusiasm, purchasing around 120,000 tickets to the four concerts announced.
Lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes said last week McCartney's concert would generate $9 million for the local economy.
However, Mr Johnston questioned why governments were getting involved in music promotion.
"It's awesome to see those big acts and big shows in Australia, but it does put a lot of pressure on smaller operators around Australia when you've got big high-end business relationships with government and councils," he said.
Pokolbin's Hope Estate has been renowned over the past 15 years for booking the Hunter's biggest shows such as The Killers, Elton John, The Rolling Stones and Red Hot Chili Peppers.
So far this season Hope Estate has only announced The Big 80s Party on October 7 and Grapevine Gathering - featuring Spacey Jane and The Wombats - on October 21.
Owner Michael Hope said the consolidation of the Australian touring market under two major players, Live Nation and AEG, meant it was becoming increasingly hard to book major concerts.
Live Nation and AEG were focusing their energies on booking "no-brainers" such as McCartney, Swift and Ed Sheeran, Hope says, rather than taking a gamble on more mid-sized acts.
"There is a lot more nervousness among the promoters about being able to sell enough tickets, given the state of the economy," Mr Hope said.
"The majority of the shows that we're seeing coming through the country are stadium shows because they are big names and they are guaranteed to sell out."