“You need cool heads with minimal ego”: Mark Pico of Big Pineapple Music Festival shares his top tips for regional events
Just one week out from its sixth instalment, the sold-out Big Pineapple Music Festival (which is attracting 15,000 punters this year) was voted People’s Choice for Festival of the Year at the Queensland Music Awards.
We asked festival director Mark Pico to share some pearls of wisdom about growing a successful regional festival.
1. Start small and learn your trade
I came from a musical background which helped. I started putting on shows in 400-capacity halls. When I learnt how to sell them out, I got into festivals. It’s the same principle but way bigger everything. Bigger gains, bigger losses and bigger curveballs. If you can’t make it work in smaller venues as a promoter then it’s going to be very hard to make it work in a larger outdoor environment.
2. Your team can make or break a festival
It’s really important to have a good team on board who are all heading in the one direction. If you’re a big picture type who brings the artistic side of the festival together, it’s very important to have a partner/partners who can handle the logistics and work in with council and other authorities.
Over the last seven years events have become extremely regulated and expensive, so you really need to have your shit together or you can lose a lot of money very quickly. It’s also very important to understand the other people you are going to be involved with, as festivals can bring out the worst in personalities due to the potential stress and curveballs involved. You need cool heads preferably with minimal ego.
3. A magic site is a massive advantage
A site with beautiful big trees and a gradual sloping amphitheatre is a great start. I’ve done many events on football fields and it costs a lot trying to beautify a blank canvas. The Pineapple Fields is an amazing site with a few natural amphitheatres and it makes life way easier and provides better viewing. Proximity to local residents and lots of parking is also a big consideration. You want to impact on the local community in a positive way.
4. Don’t skimp on insurance
I can’t stress enough how important it is to have cancellation insurance in place. The one year you don’t have it is the one year that mother nature will teach you a big lesson. Cancellation insurance – as well as all the other insurances in place – is a big must. It’s the world we live in these days.
5. It’s not just about the lineup
Work on creating an overall festival experience rather than just concentrating on music. It’s getting harder to pull lineups together so you can’t just rely on the acts to pull the people. Woodford is a great example of this. They don’t necessarily rely on major headliners. It’s all about the experience and they get massive crowds every year.
That being said, we are blessed with how much amazing music comes out of Australia and if we can promote as many Australian acts as possible whilst helping everyone get paid then that’s a good situation. That’s not to say we won’t work with the right internationals in the future!