The following blog post first appeared on FestivalInsights.com in August of 2011, written by Melvin Benn, the Managing Director of UK based, Festival Republic. The blog was originally written to commemorate ActionAid’s 10 years of campaigning on anti-poverty issues at London’s famous Reading Festival. Benn has long supported the work of charities – raising over £250,000 annually – and, in 2011, the ActionAid organization took him to Kenya to see their work.
Reflecting on the Holidays, we think the subject matter of this blog is a perfect fit for this month’s guest blog feature, and a wonderful reminder about how we can all make a difference.
We started working with ActionAid after one of our staff married one of their staff. I was talking to the bride and groom at the wedding and although it was clear that providing some activity at a festival other than handing out leaflets was new territory, and it took off from there.
ActionAid provides a tent at Reading, with DJs and bands – most of the acts are quite modest, but some of the really big names go in there to perform incognito which is a great talking point for audiences. It’s a really nice hang-out space for people and is somewhere Reading Festival-goers feel comfortable talking to ActionAid about what they do.
What’s fantastic is the way ActionAid approaches its involvement with the festival. For instance, one of the great shouts you hear at Reading, which travels across the site like a Mexican wave of sound, is “bollocks!” It’ll start in a campsite and quickly travel across the whole site. ActionAid took that and developed the “Bollocks to Poverty” Campaign, based around the Reading audience.
I spend quite a lot of time in Kenya with another charity we support, Kenyan Orphan Project, so I’m very familiar with what it’s like there, but for me it was a fantastic experience to be able to spend time with the young people in Nairobi and Mombassa, who, if they lived in the UK, would be festival-goers. It was a wonderful experience to have the opportunity to see the difficulties many young people face, such as poverty and deprivation, and how – by and large – they respond to that in a really positive way.
My philosophy – and the philosophy of Festival Republic – is that every business in the developed world should have a charity aspect to it – you should give something back whether you’re making nuts and bolts or running festivals. That said, I don’t think festivals have a responsibility to be making social change. Festivals are parties, and one of the last things you want to do at a party is to be educated about something which will make you feel unhappy. If there’s an opportunity – and at some festivals there is – then we should help. Glastonbury is the perfect example: its integration with Oxfam, WaterAid, and Greenpeace is a perfect fit. Equally, the interaction between Reading and ActionAid is perfect.
On October 22nd I checked into the Atlantica Hotel in Halifax, N.S., where the concierge politely directed me towards my 8th-level room and told me where I could register for this year’s Halifax Pop Explosion. Looking around the lounge, I spotted at least 5 different wicked recreations of my dad’s old bleached denim jacket, a collection of vintage video game consoles set up and ready to rock on an 80” LCD screen, a group of young entrepreneurs all practicing their 2-minute elevator pitch, and, on top of all that, musicians were just pouring through the entrance, checking their luggage at the door and pulling their guitars out of the van. Turning to Laird Wilton, our Vice President of Sales here at Marcato, who was also taking a moment to drink it all in, I excitedly said “Looks like they’ve managed to attract every sub-genre of cool possible to this thing.” He agreed and responded, “Yep, looks like ‘mission: accomplished.’ It’s gonna be a good week.”
Laird was right, HPX had managed to do what a lot festivals out there are trying to do this season: attract multiple sub-groups of likeminded people who are not just invested in music, but might also be interested in entrepreneurship, comedy, culture, design, film, or in HPX’s specialized case: digital innovation. As a result we’re seeing many music festivals adopt a second (and sometimes third) side of their festival that specifically caters to the needs and interests of these other sub-groups, who “might take in some music” during their visit, but are really attending to learn more about how to raise some start-up venture capital, or maybe new tech trends in the gaming industry. Probably the most prevalent example of this approach is mega-festival, SXSW, which has now split their once exclusive music festival into three different branches: music, film, and interactive. This past October was Halifax Pop Explosion’s 21st year running, in which time they’ve garnered a very reputable track record of breaking many of Canada’s greatest underground artists. Throughout those 21 years, HPX has always partnered their shows with a music oriented conference component, however, this year was only their second kick at the can when it comes to specifically catering to those other “non-musical” sub-groups, and — let me tell you — they nailed it.
I had the pleasure of attending all aspects of the festival during my visit, where I took in a few workshops directed towards the startup marketer, saw a presentation on the practical integration of Google Glass into everyday life, and listened to a very inspirational chat by keynote speaker Jonny Cupcakes. I also managed to catch a comedy bit of “that guy from TV” Brian Posehn, and awed over indie-star Hannah Georgas’ sold-out St. Matthew’s Church performance. Again… Laird was right, it was a good week.
I’m sure Jonny Stevens, Executive Director of HPX and Marcato Festival ambassador, would be the first to tell you that this is no easy thing to pull off. It takes a hell of a lot of preparation and some robust organizational skills & tools, but the reward is a whole new demographic of festival attendees buying tickets to your event and walking away having experienced something brand new and been apart of something special — a community.
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Jonny Stevens and we got to chatting about this year’s HPX. Here’s how it went down:
Ethan Fenton: How many festival goers did you have attend this year?
Jonny Stevens: 30,000 in total. We had about 1,200 attend our conferences branch, and the rest attending our music festival components.
EF: Wow, awesome! Was this your biggest year to date?
JS: When you look at pure numbers, this year was the biggest to date, for sure. We’ve actually tripled in size over the past 4 years.
EF: From a director’s perspective, what were your favourite highlights this year?
JS: As the festival director I rarely get to see the bands I want to see, but this year was far more relaxed than any other year. We were able to offload much of our core staff responsibilities to our team leads, and contract production staff. I was proud to watch my event team manage the chaos that comes with such a large festival. We have 20 venues, each with their own set of challenges, and the systems we put in place helped us manage our event properly. I also enjoyed watching fans having the time of their lives.
EF: In the many years that HPX has now operated, what do you think the festival’s legacy has become? What makes HPX special?
JS: Our legacy is that we have kept the focus on the Halifax music scene for the past 21 years. We do this by bringing in the biggest names in indie rock and putting local bands on stage with them. We are the original club festival, and our model has been transplanted to cities around the world. HPX is special because of the community feel. We are a non profit event, so our focus is on creating an amazing experience for the bands and the fans and breaking down the barrier that sometimes exists between the two. We put big bands on small stages through our secret show series, which provides the band a unique experience, and the fan a chance to see a band in a small club.
EF: I think the energy at HPX this year was really amazing, and, personally, it seemed like it was the digital conference that really allowed for that culture to settle in so well. Seeing as you recognized the legacy of HPX to be the “community” aspect, do you think this new model of multi-branch festivals is a now a new key ingredient to keeping that legacy alive?
JS: We have always had a conference component, and we’ve always been focused on music, media, and culture. But, in 2012, our 20th anniversary, I had the idea to start a strictly digital focused conference that tied in with the festival. For us, it makes sense as we were already presenting a music conference, so adding another stream wasn’t terribly expensive to do (economy of scale-wise). Making the event viable for the next 20 years is my main focus, and I think the diversification is the key to that viability. Keep evolving or you die.
EF: If you could say one thing to a just-starting-out festival director, trying to make their event a hit this coming year, what would you say?
JS: We started in 1993 and are only now figuring it out. Remember that overnight successes don’t always have staying power. Grow your festival organically and treat the fans/bands as though they were a guest in your home. Don’t take money from sponsors that don’t align with your values, either. Short term gain for long term pain is never worth it. Remember that you haven’t truly run a successful event until you’ve lost a pile of money. I did in 2011 when we tried to transplant our club model into a big outdoor festival. The day before we announced, Arcade Fire announced a show 1 week before our event. We pivoted and decided to announce our fall lineup during the summer show. We lost 5 figures on one day, and then sold 5 figures for our fall festival the next day.
“Evolve or die.” It sounds like a bad sci-fi movie, but for a lot of music festivals the warning seems to be a very fitting tagline in our constantly changing global culture. For some of you, it might be a daunting thought, but for most, I’m guessing, it’s an exciting challenge. Here at Marcato, we’re very excited to see how you all will bring in a new evolution of festivals, and we promise to keep on the cusp of it all to ensure that we keep pumping out the best festival management software out there!
The festival management industry has experienced a major revolution with the introduction of specialized festival management software over the past five years. This high tech approach to streamlining collaboration and oversight continues to attract festivals of all sizes, ranging from town-based organizations to producers of the industry’s biggest events, like California’s Goldenvoice (Coachella, Stagecoach) and the Country Music Association (CMA Fan Fest).
Those adopting purpose built, web-based festival management tools are abandoning disjointed information and unanchored communication for advanced “online, all the time” software solutions that allow their teams to manage back and front end logistics, access control data, schedule and lineup information, and so much more across the organization from anywhere, in real time.
“Festivals are telling us they’re seeing massive improvements in productivity when their teams are all working from the same, reliable production and promotional data” says Adam Lomas, our Director of Customer Success & Product Development here at Marcato. As one of the early adopters of Marcato Festival, Grimur Atlason, Festival Manager for Reykjavik’s Iceland Airwaves, explains that “It’s changed our lives.” While festival management software is still a new concept, the industry is already going through a major shift. Darren Gallop, CEO of Marcato, reports that in 2013 there has been a paradigm shift in the festival management space, where “the question for many festivals is no longer whether they should adopt these software solutions, but rather how they will implement them.”
Built back in 2008 on the foundation of already proven and effective festival workflows, Lomas tells of Marcato’s “early days”, where “it was very much about replacing sloppy manual processes with the reliability and efficiency of web-based software – we were helping people get reliable data into one place. Now that we’ve solved that problem, we’re seeing a move toward robust integrations with festival’s other expert service providers, allowing that data to be shared with web, mobile, and access control partners, in real time, to facilitate seamless changes, even under the pressures of your typical production day.”
Marcato defines itself as the company that turns “what if” into “what next”; a company that not only understands the needs of the space, but is constantly turning to those fresh on the field to gather feedback about how festivals are evolving and, in turn, how we need to adapt – ensuring that we do not simply react to festivals’ needs, but rather we anticipate those “next big things” and when they arrive we’re ready to serve our clients better than anyone else can.
On the eve of a new year, we truly do want to thank our clients and recommit our promise to never stop innovating and creating the best festival management solution out there – and, if you’re not a client of ours yet, please take some time to check us out! We’re here to chat with you, demonstrate our product, and answer any questions you might have – click here to get started.
I’m sitting at the bar in Sydney’s Cape Breton Fudge Company, sipping a delicious dark roast caramel coffee and soaking up the anticipation for next week’s 2013 Nova Scotia Music Week. The CB Fudge Co. is one of the eight amazing venues Sydney has offered up for us to enjoy some fantastic music listening experiences. Serge Samson, Event Manager with Music Nova Scotia, explains, “When NSWM comes to town, we try to tap into the hosting city’s already vibrant, music-loving culture as much as possible, supporting the venues who already, all-year-round, proudly showcase Nova Scotian artists.” In the next few days, hundreds of those Nova Scotian artists will start pouring into town and over a hundred performances are scheduled to take to the stage, starting November 7th and running through to the 10th.
As a team, you could say we’re pretty excited to see this world-class event come to our home court! In fact, you’re guaranteed to see at least one of our staff members on the premises next week, as our Commander-in-chief, Darren Gallop, is serving as the Host Committee Chair; our Business Manager, Alison Giovannetti, is acting at this year’s International Liaison; and our top Account Executive, Natasha Hillier, is bragging the title of NSMW Secretary Extraordinaire! On top of that, Marcato is delighted to be this year’s official NSMW conference partner. All in all, we’re pretty darn pumped! As a result, we might be a little biased when we tell you this is going to be a killer event, but it’s a rare joy to have the chance to be involved in a festival that not only utilizes our festival management software, but also features many of our amazing Marcato Musicians (artists who take advantage of our artist management product while they’re on the road, living the dream). So, come on, give us this one! In the words of the illustrious Miley Cyrus, “we can’t stop, we won’t stop” – we love of our clients, we can’t help it.
Shows are happening Thursday night through to Sunday, and when it comes to picking out what you want to attend, you really can’t go wrong. That said, sometimes making a game plan for such a jam-packed festival can be daunting; we feel you.
To try and help you optimize your NSMW, we’ve put together a Saturday-Night-Showdown-Challenge:
As for the rest of the festival, you’re on your own. However, we would strongly suggest you hit up the Gala Awards Show, Sunday night at 8pm, located at the Joan Harriss Cruise Pavilion. This one features all our favorites from Jenn Grant, Mo Kenny, The Stanfields, Tom Fun, and then Classified, who will be shutting it down. You don’t get a room filled with that much talent very often, so take advantage!
Other than that, get out there, explore, listen to some great music, grab a coffee at the Fudge Co., sit down for a Big Spruce beer at Governor’s pub, inhale a slice from Kenny’s Pizza… rinse and repeat.
It’s going to be a fantastic four days. Click here to purchase a wristband or two.
See you in Sydney, Marcato readers!
PS: Don’t forget about the conference side of things, either. The speakers and delegates are a must see, offering advice about music, business, festivals, and general self-preservation.
It’s Sunday morning and I have a hangover. This time it’s not from over consumption (that was yesterday), but rather the comedown from extreme elation. I had the pleasure of joining the TD Halifax Jazzfest at the most urban of venues, The Marquee Ballroom, for a summer’s evening of mixing, emceeing, freestyle and, above all, presence!
We arrived to a programmed assault by resident mixer Fresh Kils and his counterpart, Uncle Fester (whose collaboration form The Extremities), which was an enticing warm up. During the Extremeties’ throwdown, we saw a cameo from Halifax native, Ambition, and an impressive set from Buffalo, New York’s Mad Dukez.
Anyone who has attended a hip-hop show at the Marquee Ballroom knows what to expect: above average intimacy, chest-pounding bass, and hundreds of satisfied hands in the air. The effect of the welcomed air-conditioning began to diminish as hip-hopatrons piled into the venue to take refuge from the sultry Halifax atmosphere.
Any time Brooklyn’s in the house, hip-hop enthusiasts know they could be in for a special night, and we were!
Brooklyn’s Oddisee (the etymology of which I identify with, for seeing so much “odd” in the world) gave us a real taste of crowd interaction atop a live 5 piece ensemble. Check it out:
Then he asked us to accompany him to church….
After watching Oddisee propel the crowd into a five-alarm frenzy and witnessing a young lady hurl an undergarment at the guitarist, the energy level was primed for an explosive performance by Ottawa’s own A Tribe Called Red.
A Tribe Called Red twists up Aboriginal drumming, chanting, reggae, dubstep, drum & bass, elements of hip hop and politics, and blows the byproduct right in the face of the audience; a full throttle, electronic beat-down that has to be witnessed!
Needless to say, Tribe tore the roof off the Marquee:
In addition, I was able to snag a Tribe member after the show to pick his brain on what the Tribe movement means to him:
The bottom line: If any of the aforementioned are in your city, be a witness!
In closing, Fresh Kils and Mad Dukes recently had their van broken into and had $5000+ worth of gear jacked (their means to earn a living). They are raising money here: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/mad-dukez-fresh-kils-and-uncle-fester-need-your-help
Thank you for stopping by, and stay tuned for more festival content!
We’re pretty lucky here at Marcato! Part of being in the festival business is living those festivals. I had that opportunity this past weekend by attending the TD Halifax Jazz Festival. I’ve always been a huge fan of the Halifax Jazzfest — having attended Saint Mary’s University, I frequented the free shows when I was a brokeass student.
Once again, the organizers of the TD Jazzfest assembled a terrific lineup of artists, ranging from electroaboriginal beat-down; to the mellow reggae tones of Bob Marley’s (RIP) band, the Wailers; to a Brooklyn hip-hop showcase in Oddisee. You may ask yourself “What kind of person would pass up that opportunity”? Certainly, not this kind of person!
My journey began at about 8:30pm at the mainstage venue on Lower Water street; a terrific venue for terrific artists seemed fitting. I especially enjoy this venue because of the refuge it typically offers from the heat, amidst a cool, ocean breeze from the harbour. On this eve, however, respites were few and far between.
Our first stop:
Erin Costello was just finishing up as we got situated, and we anxiously awaited the arrival of the Nitetripper himself: The colorful Dr. John.
The Five-time Grammy Award winner brings voodoo undertones to his uplifting collection of Jazz delicacies and could rock a crowd of strangers any day. For a man who merely sits behind a piano, his energy is spellbinding and undeniable. His attire is purposely shamanistic and jazz is his magic; equipped with tribal necklaces, a matching decorated cane and two human skulls on the edge of his grand piano.
The crowd was on their feet and going bananas for Dr. John! After the first song, the white plastic chairs became obsolete amongst a mass exodus to the “floor” (if I dare say), whereby even the greyest and whitest of hairs had something to shake.
Stay tuned for an energized eve of urban delights at the Marquee Ballroom, including live footage and a very special interview!
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