Published in The Music Network
Something seismic occurred last year in Australia’s festivals market. It’s debatable, yes, but many in the biz will admit the top-selling fest was an EDM event. While most observers were distracted by the swelling number of events, and the inevitable gigs which crashed and burned, Stereosonic arguably pushed ahead as the nation’s No. 1. Stereosonic shifted upwards of 180,000 tickets – about 30% more than the 2010 edition. The Sydney date alone did more than 65,000 tickets, a mind-boggling number for any one-day show.
In showbiz, they say you’re only as good as your last show. If that rings true, then Stereosonic is up for another bumper year. The first two hours on sale last Thursday were “huge – much bigger than last year,” explains John F Curtin, Marketing Director across Totem Onelove Group, which handles touring, marketing, events and promotes the major festival brands Stereosonic and Creamfields. The affiliated Onelove Label is owned by Onelove and is a joint venture with Sony Australia. This year’s five-date Stereosonic tour kicks off November 24.
What’s the magic behind the fest?
The directors behind the business are extremely hands-on and passionate about what they do. We’re not a live band festival or a hip hop festival, where a lot of other festivals are trying to cater for five or six different markets. It’s very-much dance music-centred. We’ve got great venues. And you’ve got people who when they finish their uni exams or school exams, it can be great start to their summer. The numbers are a great thing. I was proud to see them grow but the festival also grew a lot (in a production and organisational sense). Our market is primarily 18-22 year olds, and a lot of those acts people haven’t necessarily come across before. But through their friends and YouTube and streaming services, we’re opening-up their eyes to a lot of these artists.
You’ve booked something like 47 international acts?
You must spend a fortune on talent fees. Yeah, it’s not cheap. When you’re talking some of the bigger guys like Avicii, Tiesto and Calvin Harris, it’s not just one guy with a crate of records, they’ve got an entourage with PR people and production people and you’ve got acts who need hotel rooms, and no one flies economy anymore. We run it smart in the sense that we’ve got Sydney and Canberra on the same day so we’ve got a private jet flying between Sydney and Canberra, and a helicopter from Sydney airport to Homebush. We have private jets flying acts between shows. It works really well for us. It means acts can come to Australia and play eight shows over two weekends. The landscape has totally changed. When I started touring acts, you’d just buy and book an artist. Now there’s a big plan around their album release and which other festivals they want to play. It’s a really well-drilled marketing machine, and they’ve got some of the best marketers in the world working with them. We look at five-year plans with these guys.
Your brief is in digital marketing. Where are your marketing activities really connecting?
Social media is extremely popular for us. For us, Facebook is the biggest. The level of interaction and sharing is massive. Twitter hasn’t cut-through yet. It’s still very centralised to people in marketing and media. But it’s great for artists. We do a lot in terms of getting our promoters to push content out to their networks. We also have a strong industry ticket-selling component. A lot of our promoters are out there in universities and their own nightclubs selling tickets for us. Sometimes you have to make a statement. We put advertising across trams in Melbourne, and in the past two or three weeks we’ve seen 40-50 photos of our tram on Instagram. You can’t buy that kind of stuff.
We’re also creating our own content on our website. We’ve hired journalists to do that for us. The people are coming to the pages and “liking” content, and it’s going into their own newsfeed. We’re really mindful of not only above the line advertising, but because its such a captive audience and because this age group listens to their friends so much, we’re trying to create as many tools as possible for people to actually promote our festival toward their network without them even realising they’re doing it. We’ve created our own Stereosonic magazine. Our app last in November last year was the most downloaded music application in the app section of iTunes. We do a lot with mobile billboards. We’re also doing a lot with street posters and billboards around the country. We have trucks driving around Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth. It’s an interesting form of advertising for us – it’s cheap but it gets noticed.
Does Creamfields play a support role for Stereosonic?
As a company, it’s important for us to represent two festivals in the year. There’s nothing worse than putting in a great offer to an artist but they’re not available and you can’t offer them a “plan b”. It’s been great to almost trial a few acts at Creamfields, and look at bringing them back to Stereosonic later in the year or the year after. We’re still playing around with the formula. I believe we could go towards a night event. We’ll see.