The Queenscliff Music Festival has been running for over 15 years so it’s no wonder they’ve got their finger on the pulse when it comes to knowing their audience and choosing some of the biggest up and coming artists Australia has to offer. They pride themselves on it. Jade Ogden spoke with Festival Director Michael Currucan, who had some great insights on the Australian festival climate.
Queenscliff have put together a killer line up: how do you manage to book an act that immediately becomes the talk of the town. For example Kimbra [pictured].
MC: It’s not pure luck. It’s actually quite a lot of hard work. We knew Kimbra was probably going to be big around this time, and we have an audience that want to see her. It’s like this time last year when Little Red were coming off a big national tour; it’s really knowing your audience and what your audience wants to see. It requires a bit of forward thinking – seeing who’s releasing [an album] – and that’s all done earlier in the year.
How much preparation time goes into the following year’s festival?
MC: We’re thinking about next year’s acts already. That comes about because we put bids in and get rejected and acts have passed over – they get blown over to the following year. The Triffids is a classic example; they’ve been a three year project.
Queenscliff always provides an eclectic and diverse range of artists; I’m pretty pumped to see Justine Clarke.
[Laughs] Last year I noticed couples with young kids that maybe have the kids during the day and offload them at night; it’s either leave the kids at home for the weekend or [parents are] just not going. Now the opportunity is there for them to come down on Saturday with the kids and if they’re lucky they’ll have a babysitter that allows them to come back and have a good time. We can’t afford the Wiggles, but we thought we’d get the next best thing.
Some up and coming artists, such as the Puta Madre Brothers, will be performing. Which new bands to Queenscliff do you think will appeal to festival punters?
I like energy so I am all over The Snowdroppers, The Widowbirds, The Delta Riggs and of course Stonefield. Kimbra will be the highlight of the festival for all ages.
Any advice for new bands trying to crack the festival circuit? What do you look for?
Believe in yourself and be true to yourself. From a programming perspective: an act that engages the crowd. I ask myself at the same time as divorcing myself from my own personal likes, ‘What is it about this act that makes someone want to stand there and listen to them for a set?’
There are a bunch of new festival developments this year, including 1000 new camping spots…
We figured out a lot of people love what we do but cannot afford the accommodation. Working with a bunch of local community groups we secured the footy oval to offer low impact camping for just $30 for the whole weekend. It’s our way of opening up the festival to people who couldn’t afford the overall cost of attending.
As festival director, what are the pros and cons?
Not many cons and the pro is effectively I’m just a big party organiser for thousands of people. Saying that we have 500 volunteers who have a stake in it all and a community down here who effectively own the festival. I answer to them every time I walk out my front door.
With 100 acts, 150 performances over 5 stages in 3 days, how can you afford to keep the festival ticket price so cheap? Do you think it’s about providing real value for money?
Exactly! I’m over going to festivals and forking out $9 for a beer, $40 bucks for a T-shirt on top of a ticket that is over the top.
Any predictions as to where and what a festival will be like in 10 years time?
Festivals have to go beyond providing just 45 minute sets. You won’t see a band performing a set, you’ll see them performing a show. The biggest festivals around the world, like Glastonbury, they’ll pulling the big acts and you’re seeing a full arena/stadium production. Queenscliff is trying to do that on a smaller scale. For us, The Triffids is a show, that’s why we’re putting them on Saturday at 4pm because it’s a 2 hour show with all these musical guests and video and stuff. I think production value will rise dramatically at festivals; we’re already seeing that take place.
The festival climate is pretty shaky at the moment. Several new festivals failed. Why?
People keep over committing themselves and not knowing who their market is. I’ve been involved with festivals that have grown, not just burst onto the scene. There have been some great successes; The Big Day Out came out of nowhere once. Look at East Coast Blues and Splendour.
With what options there are for people to spend their entertainment dollar on these days, if you don’t know your audience or you take them for granted, you’ll lose out very quickly.
– Jade Ogden