How to make a grassroots festival survive & thrive – Part Three: Beyond The Valley
Summer festival season is almost here! Now, it’s no secret that the Australian music festival landscape has been dealt a fair few blows in the last five years (RIP Big Day Out, Soundwave, Harvest, Homebake, Future, Stereosonic…the list goes on).
However, from the ashes of giants have risen a number of smaller, more punter-conscious events that have provided a light at the end of the tunnel for festival lovers across the country.
As oh-so-many have proven before, festivals can be a risky business. Over the next three installations, TMN is going to delve deep into this grassroots revolution by talking to three Aussie festivals at different stages of their evolution.
We do this in the hope to discover what it takes for a festival to thrive and, more importantly, what it takes to survive.
This week it’s the boutique fest that turned into a behemoth, Beyond The Valley.
Beyond The Valley, Larnder Park, Victoria
Years Active: 2014 – present
First Year Ticket Capacity: Approx. 8,000*
Current Year Ticket Capacity: Approx.16,000*
*Beyond The Valley does not release official ticketing capacity, however, this Eventbrite case study puts their first-year attendance at around 8,000 and claims, after moving to their current site, capacity increased to 16,000.
First Year Lineup Headliner: Action Bronson
Current Year Lineup Headliner: The Kooks
Beyond The Valley is a modern day success story.
From humble beginnings from a fierce fivesome to one of the most promising and largest grassroots festivals in Australia, it shows what hights boutique festivals can soar to.
Now celebrating its fifth birthday, Beyond The Valley (BTV) 2018 has sold out weeks out from the festival. It is currently operating in the same leagues as giants that stake out the New Years Eve period but has retained its punter-focused ethos.
“The cookie-cutter approach to music festivals died very quickly, BTV draws influence from major Australian festivals but it is unique to itself in its music, experience and location, we draw influence massively from overseas events and so can’t be pigeonholed,” founder and co-director Nick Greco tells TMN.
“[We] focus on the patron comfort and experience just as much as the lineup, otherwise you won’t create loyal customers who will return in future years.”
Kicked off back in 2014 by Greco and a group of friends that were, at the time, all in their mid-20’s the inaugural BTV already had growth written in its future.
“The first festival was meant to be so much smaller than it turned out to be, we kept getting offered amazing international talent and had a tendency of saying yes to every act we got offered, and suddenly our little festival in Phillip Island was a major event with thousands of attendees,” says Greco.
“[We] really had no idea what we were getting ourselves into and got pretty taken advantage of throughout the first 12 months, but we managed to learn the ropes very quickly and it was a very expensive lesson.”
Even now the festival has a couple of years under its belt, the team still takes a gamble with each new edition.
“Every year is a massive risk because the tide can turn very quickly in Australia so we are always very cautious with our event and striving to better it and make sure we are putting on the best festival we can be,” says Greco.
“A lot of other festivals don’t have the same success, we were one of the lucky ones.”
After the success of year one on Phillip Island, the crew decided to spread their wings to dry land at Lardner Park in regional Victoria.
“We had a great first year event in Phillip Island but the weather on the edge of the cliff face was just too uncontrollable and it was going to be way too risky to put on a million dollar event annually with such risks in place,” Greco says.
“Lardner Park is such an amazing venue to host our festival, the venue is stunning really helps create a picturesque environment for our event, as well as being extremely supportive.”
Greco maintains that the location hasn’t been the only thing that’s improved over the last five years.
“We’ve been able to master a lot of the other areas throughout the years and it’s allowed us to spend more time the last few years on nailing the decor and experience side,” says Greco
“To the point where this year we feel we are about to deliver a perfect event, everything from the talent, to the toilets have been hand-picked by us and because we are so passionate there is a lot of back and forth to every decision.”
To aspiring festival directors, Greco offers some straightforward and invaluable advice.
“Surround yourself with a strong team (you’ll be spending a lot of time with them), ask as many people around you and in the industry for advice, most people want to help, do a thorough budget before any event and always trust your gut.”
Beyond The Valley will take place from Friday, December 28 2018 – Tuesday, January 1 2019. For more information, head to their official site.