The Hot Seat: Brett Robinson, Future Music

Just days out from Christmas 2011, Future Music Festival dropped a big hint on some international festivities in the pipeline. Asia, the medium of Twitter informed us, was in Future’s plans. Those plans have since moved on, and Future Music Festival is in the final stages of preparing its inaugural fest in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, on March 17. TMN caught up with Future’s Brett Robinson, who has been instrumental in bringing the show to Asia.

Yourself and Laneway have expanded into Asia, in what is really a tough time for festivals here in Australia. How do you view the Asian market? We’re obviously very excited about moving into Asia. There’s been great demand for our festival from numerous producers in different cities. We also see some decent stats on Asians attending the festival via Ticketmaster. There is a genuine following for Future Music in Asia.

Why Malaysia, which has a largely Muslim population which obviously don’t drink? We’ve been looking for the right location that is seated in the heart of South East Asia. There’s never been a festival which has been established there like we are in Australia, or had the vision to establish in that way. And I know the line-up we have this year for Future in Australia will work very well in Malaysia. It’s partly that, and partly because we’ve been approached by a number of people in Asia in the last few years to extend that into a date in Asia. And thirdly,

Tourism Malaysia has been kind enough to give us a government grant to help us establish the festival there. It happens to fall in the weekend before the Formula One Grand Prix in Malaysia, and obviously we have links to the Australia F1 as we do Sidetracked in Melbourne. Tourism Malaysia has looked at linking the GP with ourselves and make it a landmark for a week-long period in KL to attract regional tourism. The idea is to promote the festival regionally – the Philippines, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Singapore, India and that SE Asian region — and make it a destination, where people can visit both Future and the GP.

How many years are you locked-in? It’s a long-term venture. We are there with them for five years. We’re going to start it carefully and build the festival organically, like we’ve done in Australia. We’ve not going to dive-in with the biggest line-up we’ve ever had. We’re going to go-in with a lot of our headliners, and a selection of artists from the other stages. It’s about selecting the right venue, the right period and obviously trying to put on a great event that can build from year to year. We’re starting from ground- up like we did a couple of years ago in Australia.

What shape will the lineup take? There’ll be a number of Australian bands and DJs, and local Malaysian acts and regional Asian acts. We’ve targeted two or three regional artists from all of those countries. We’re representing all of those regional countries. (This year’s line-up includes The Chemical Brothers, Tinie Tempah, Pendulum and Sneaky Sound System).

What are the big challenges to putting this on? Trying to manage the logistics and go in and discuss our production standards in the way we present our show, and try to replicate that in Malaysia. We don’t want to just fall into a situation where we’re doing it exactly the way they do it. We want to take across a lot of stuff we’ve learned; stuff that has made festivals successful (here) and try to replicate that in another market.

What’s will be the capacity of the KL show? 30,000

Are there any other markets Future is looking to expand into? No, this is an Asian exclusive and we see it as a stand-alone festival in Asia.

You’ve started a “book now, pay later” system here in Australia. Are there other measures which festival promoters need to look at to insulate against these tough times? Times aren’t so tough for us. We deliver the best events we can and don’t spare any expense and I guess the punters are supporting us because of it. Some others are not so fortunate.

So how is Future performing? As I mentioned, it’s a tough time for festivals here, especially dance fests. We are tracking along at the same rate as last year. 2010 was our biggest year to date and we expect to perform in the same way. The vibe and anticipation for Future Music Festival feels just like it did last year.


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