7 Takeaways From the Australian Festival Industry Conference
Survival, safety, insurance, accessibility, staff shortages, and livestreaming were among the topics discussed with passion and humour at the 2022 Australian Festival Industry Conference.
Held at Seaworld on the Gold Coast from August 30 to September 1, its director Carlina Ericson – who founded the event in 2019— acclaimed it “a huge success” with over 130 delegates and 15 exhibiting companies from across Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific.
1. The ‘BFI’ factor
Thea Jeanes-Cochrane, director of Gold-Coast-based Cochrane Entertainment used what she learned when pitching for the Rolling Stones’ interactive exhibition (“it was about innovation and the devil being in the detail, as Mick would say”) and SXSW Sydney (“it took us three years to persuade Austin”) in her keynote on events companies surviving after the pandemic.
“All operators in the industry, whether they be small or large, must undertake a thorough business viability check to assess their future viability and relevance going into the future.”
“BFI – or Big Fucking Idea” was a place to start but only 10% of importance on the list.
25% was research (“know your ticket buyer, industry trends”), 20% was the target audience, and 25% was project funding (“allow for a lot of contingencies in our high-risk business”).
12% was strategic partners (“for us, it’s government or private sector, sometimes both, sometimes very big global partners”), 7% perseverance, and 1% luck.
2. It’s all about the experience
Events are all about making memories for the crowds, Vivid Sydney director Gill Minervini says, so open up to new experiences, think outside the box creatively, and the best feelings come from 360º immersive which touch all senses.
3. Have an understanding of health issues
There have been disasters when promoters don’t have enough staff and equipment, said Griffith University’s Dr Jamie Ranse, director of Mass Gatherings Collaboration.
You must consider the “biomedical makeup” of crowds (like its age), and “environmental factors” if it’s seated inside or moving around outside.
The psycho-social factors include the mood of the crowd and its motivation for attending.
“You can have 100,000 people at an ANZAC Day ceremony and 100,000 at a music festival. The crowd’s mood and motivation are very different.
“The types of injuries and illnesses you see are very different as well.”
4. Being really accessible
Festivals and venues are gradually opening up to making their sites and staff more friendly for musicians and patrons with disabilities.
But is your outdoor area and entrance well lit? Are signs in your accessible toilets in braille? Are your backstage pathways cluttered?
Do your bars, merch stand and box office cater for people who are seated? Have you got hearing loops? Are there trip hazards?
5. Finding Staff
If you’re having problems finding workers, students at TAFEs are looking for experience.
Are the working conditions you’re offering flexible enough for what younger groups expect?
6. Getting smart about insurance
Event insurance has long been a maze for the music industry, especially as terminology varies.
Jason Holmes, managing director of H2 Insurance Solutions said, “Liability and cancellation goes trashed these last few years.”
As a result, the amount of syndicates offering cover has dropped from 30 to 10.
Events grossing $1 million to $2 million get insured easily but not large-scale festivals and tours, or outdoor events.
Companies still transfer risk but want promoters to provide greater risk and safety plans, and ground protection given bushfires and flooding.
Holmes pointed to insurance issues that promoters need to get a greater handle on.
How many of your major acts have to cancel before they adversely affect the event’s viability?
Hired equipment that is damaged, even from heavy rain, comes under promoter negligence.
But of a famous incident at the end of WOMADelaide when rented gear was packed and stored on the stage overnight to be picked up the next morning.
But the heat from stage lights started a fire which caused $1 million worth of damages.
7. Livestreaming will remain a draw
Audiences might be regarded as suffering from digital festival fatigue.
But the experts say that astounding technology that is coming will make livestreaming a creative and financial draw, and more festival promoters will go for a hybrid of physical and digital.