A transcribed public Q+A for Mess+Noise.
Splendour 2010: Your Questions Answered
What does it take to run one of Australia’s largest festivals? At a public forum on day one of last weekend’s Splendour In The Grass, co-founders Paul Piticco and Jessica Ducrou gave punters a unique insight into how they pull it off. Transcription by ANDREW MCMILLEN. Photos by JUSTIN EDWARDS.
How did Splendour come about in the first place? Why did it happen?
Paul: We got together on the idea of “we should do a little festival”. Boutique, start out small, something different. A camping event. We came to the conclusion that it was probably best to avoid the competition and summer traffic, and do it somewhere that people would like to escape to in the winter. And that was Byron Bay. That was 10 years ago.
What’s your vision for the future of Splendour?
Jess: Part of the reason for our move to Woodford is that it’s allowed us to steer the festival in a direction that’s quite different from Belongil Fields, and much closer to our vision, which is a camping festival. Ideally, we’d like to camp everyone on-site. The format this year is that gates open at 4pm on Thursday and don’t close until 12pm [on Monday]. You’re creating a city; your own experience. We weren’t able to do that at Belongil Fields, as we didn’t have the space to do it. It’s pretty satisfying being here now, and seeing where the festival has come, 10 years down the track.
Read the full article on Mess+Noise.
However! What’s published on M+N is an abridged version of what took place on the day. My editor cut around 2,000 words for brevity and clarity. For posterity, I’ve included the full 50 minute, 6,000 word transcript below.
Splendour 2010: Public Q+A
A new addition to the Splendour In The Grass program in 2010 was the Forum component, which hosted several events across the weekend. First up, though, at 10am on Friday was a Q+A session with the event co-founders, Paul Piticco and Jessica Ducrou. ANDREW MCMILLEN was there to capture the session, and ask a couple of questions. Monique Schafter from ABC’s Hungry Beast was the Q+A’s MC.
Monique: I’ll ask the first question, just to get us rolling. This is the tenth year of Splendour In The Grass; how did Splendour come about in the first place? Why did it happen?
Paul: Well, Jessica started out in the music industry as a booking agent, and I was a manager. We shared bands; I managed them, and she was the booking agent. How we modelled our business was pretty much a strategy where agents and managers in a lot of other countries use concert promoters to put on their bands’ shows. For a lot of Australian acts, we cut that link out, and the agent and manager take on the responsibility of promoting shows. So Jess and I already had that relationship, but Jess was also in business with another guy doing the Homebake festival. So Jess had that festival experience which I didn’t have, and the other side of our business we got working together on was promoting Aussie bands, essentially, and we got together on the idea of “we should so a little festival”. Boutique, start out small, something different. A camping event. We came to the conclusion that it was probably best to avoid the competition and summer traffic, and do it somewhere that people would like to escape to in the winter. And that was Byron Bay. That was ten years ago.
Monique: It’s certainly grown a lot in the last ten years. What’s your vision for the future of Splendour?
Jess: Part of the reason for our move to Woodford is that it’s allowed us to steer the festival in a direction that’s quite different from Belongil Fields, and much closer to our vision. Which is a camping festival. Ideally we’d like to camp everyone on-site. The format this year is that gates open at 4pm on Thursday and don’t close until 12pm [on Monday]. You’re creating a city; your own experience. We weren’t able to do that at Belongil Fields, as we didn’t have the space to do it. It’s pretty satisfying being here now, and seeing where the festival has come, ten years down the track.
Paul: Jess and I have had this ambition: we are fans, and have been patrons of the great festivals of the world. The Glastonburys, the Coachellas, and so many great camping events around the world. We didn’t really think that Australia had one. Our aspirations are to build an event that’s of that global standard. Something that Australia can hold up as its globally-recognised festival. That’s another thing that we’re aiming to get to, and we think we get a little closer every year.
[Audience questions begin]
Q: I’m wondering about the numbers. What capacity did you have ten years ago, and now, is it like a ‘big Australia’ policy? Or do you have a good level of people now? Have you felt at any stage during the ten years that, “Oh shit, that was a bit big that time.”
Paul: The first year was 7,500. There was a little bit of a joke among the international agents and booking community. When we were starting out, not everybody knew us, but they were like, “Oh, you’re the festival that sold out, but still lost money!” [laughs] That’s what happened in year one, because we weren’t very good at budgeting, obviously. We sold all our tickets and went, “Shit, we don’t have enough money to pay bills.” It started out at 7,500, and I think I’ll let Jess take the second part of the question.
Jess: I guess there’s a financial reality that what we’re hoping to present costs money. All of the different areas that we’ve brought to this particular site cost money. The only way we can afford to pay for that is through ticket sales. But there has to be a good balance between economics and an experience for those coming to the show. There’s certainly been times at Belongil Fields where we’ve had crowd flow issues, and a general sense from people that there’s too many people at the show. We’ve tried to re-assess that in the following years. We might try and tighten up our guestlist, and try and open up more space. So there’s ways to do that. It’s very difficult once you set a precedent, in terms of what you’re doing with a festival, to move the costs backwards. The reality is, the show will suffer if you start reeling in the costs.
Q: So you can only get bigger?
Jess: No, but I’d have to say our vision in the long-term is to develop a program. And by developing the program, you’ll have to pay for it, so there’ll be more people. I think that the festival really is at about 50% of where we see it, and I don’t mean that in terms of capacity, but in terms of what we want to present. We want to have different musical genres. We’d like it to appeal to people between the ages of six to 60. We’ve started upgrading the kids area; we want there to be a kids festival. All of that costs money.
Paul: To touch on it, too, a lot of people primarily come here for the four or five particular acts, but it is this, [the forum] that we’re doing right now. This isn’t a revenue raiser. This isn’t something that takes money out of your pocket. These are the kinds of thing that we see increasing the vitality of the event, like Jess said. If you’re a parent, or will hopefully one day have the pleasure to be, we’ll have a giants kids area. That’s something we want to grow. We want to grow the forum; this is the first year we’ve had it. We’ll watch this over the weekend and if it’s great, we’ll grow it. These things cost; a lot of people work this show 300 days of the year. For your three days of enjoyment, there’s 300 days of wages to pay. We try to keep that fine balance between expanding the vision, but maintaining the amount of people we need – and the ticket price – to keep it relevant.
Q: How many thousand do you have this year?
Paul and Jess [simultaneously]: 32.
Q: Is that about what you’re comfortable with? What about 40,000 [next year]?
Paul: It’s hard. We don’t know. It’s one of those things where, usually, Jess and I will sit down, have an argument over a vision, then we’ll work back form the vision until we hit a budget. Sometimes those things get shot down; sometimes we go, “You know, that’s doable.” So just saying an arbitrary figure – “will you have 40,000 next year?” – is irrelevant, because we don’t know what we’re going to add, or what we’re going to expand.
Jess: We also need to see this show happening here for a few days, to have an opinion on how well this space can cope with what we’ve done this year. It’s definitely an intention for us to keep it intimate. That’s one great thing about this site, with all its different areas, to a degree there’s intimacy there. At the same time, you need a space to present the big acts, so that everyone can see them if they want to. We don’t know what we’ll do next year. We’re just going to try and get through this weekend.
Paul: We’ll likely be here next year. For 2012, we’re not sure yet.
Q: I’m Lou, and I’m from Melbourne. I’d like to know a bit more about why you’ve come to Woodford from Byron this year. Why did you move; what are some of the politics behind it?
Jess: There were two reasons for the move. This venue gave us the opportunity to present the show in a format that we wanted. In Byron, there’s currently not anywhere we can do that. And we also had the instant support of Bill Hauritz, the director of the Woodford Folk Festival, and the council, which was very appealing. And the other reason for the move was in reaction to a draft events policy that Byron Council were creating, which was going to limit the size, length and location of events [in Byron]. We were already feeling like we’d outgrown Belongil, and we really wanted to present some new areas for the show. It was more about survival.
Paul: Space was one of the primary concerns. Returning to the previous question about having an expansive vision, we simply ran out of room at Belongil Fields.
Q: I’m Gus from Perth. This is my first year at Splendour. We actually did a road trip from Byron, which is quite amusing, because it was the original home. I’ve got two questions. Paul, are you a perfectionist? If so, how do you deal with all of the stress that’s involved with running a function of this size?
Paul: I would say that we’re both very driven to detail. Jess has a different set of criteria to me, but the visual image of the festival is definitely more her bag. The attention to detail and the level of perfection that goes into that, as you know when you look around, that’s where that goes. How do I deal with stress? I’ve got a pretty stressful job. I run a record label [Dew Process], I do this, and I manage bands. Between all that, I just… let it go over. I just do what I an, and try not to freak out too much. Occasionally I fail, and have a meltdown, but generally I just make a list, try to smile through it, tick boxes and plow through. Otherwise, I don’t really know. Take multivitamins, they’re very good for you.
Gus: The second question leads in from the first. This is more of a gossipy questions. You don’t have to name any names, but obviously when you’ve got so many people that are a part of this event, you’re going to get let down. Is there any good goss you can hit us with about people who’ve absolutely left you floundering, where you’ve just gone “never again”?
Paul: We were very disappointing with Jane’s Addiction not showing [in 2009]. We caught Whitley with a golf buggy out on the main road. He was very drunk. I don’t think we’ve ever been let down catastrophically by anyone. Let’s just say that there’s almost too many to mention. You add 30,000-odd people, a thousand artists, three days of drinking, fun and food, and people do silly things. Nothing immediately comes to mind. I’ll come back to you if I think of anything.
Gus: On a more positive and less gossipy note, what are some of the bands that stand out as highlights?
Paul: Was it two years ago that Band Of Horses first played? [Audience confirms] When they played ‘Funeral’, that was probably the highlight and the lowlight for one particular song at the festival. I was so moved and emotional, I started to well up. That was the highlight, obviously. The lowlight was watching a lot of the road crew looking at me, going “what the hell is he crying about?” I was just standing there, crying. That was a great moment.
I was very proud the first time that Coldplay played [in 2003]. That was a coup for us, considering the size of festival we were at the time. The Grates have always had great sets here, I’ve always enjoy watching them.
Jess: The Flaming Lips last year was pretty awesome. Sigur Rós [in 2008] was a very left-field performance. We took a bit of a risk by putting them so high up the bill, on the main stage, as not a lot of people know their stuff. But it was such a phenomenal moment. I felt very proud of us; we did something that’s less obvious. I’m a huge fan of TV On The Radio, so I thought their main stage performance [in 2006] was a knock-out. And unfortunately, the one band I wanted to see two years ago was Band Of Horses, and I didn’t get to see one song. So I’m hoping that there are three or four bands that I’ll get to see this year, and that I won’t get dragged off to, you know, check out some portaloos overflowing somewhere and actually get to watch some bands.
Actually, I know a pretty funny experience. Brian Wilson…
Paul: [laughs] Oh yeah, this is good.
Jess: Brian Wilson played Splendour [in 2006] and I was smoking cigarettes at the time. I was standing side of stage. I’d had a drink. I was with my partner, we were chatting away. All of a sudden the side of stage crowd parted, and started looking at us. Brian Wilson pointed at me and said, “You are smoking. Stop smoking. I’m going to stop playing if you don’t stop smoking.” The whole 15,000 people in the tent were looking at me; I didn’t know what was going on.
Paul: I thought he was joking. I thought it was part of his banter, the old man jokey rant. But after about 20 seconds we realised, no, he was waiting for her to stub it out. [laughs]
Jess: And he just didn’t let it go for the whole set. I actually had to leave the side of stage. I couldn’t watch any more of the performance. I was quite traumatised by it.
Paul: Oh, another really proud moment for us. We’re also the concert promoter for Bloc Party in Australia. From their first tour, we’ve done all their shows, not just at Splendour but around the country. That’s one that we’ve really used for the festival. We’ve really brought them up – well, they write amazing music and have huge amounts of fans and hits, so it’s not all our doing – but how they’re perceived in the live arena. [Australia] is one of the biggest per-capita live markets in the world for them. So that’s something else we’re both pretty proud of, and a band we both love immensely.
Jess: Oh, watching The Vines play when they were our mystery band [in 2006]. I do all the agenting for The Vine. It’s been a long road; there are highs and lows, lots of cancellations along the way. [In 2006] they hadn’t played in a long time, and we were a bit anxious about how they were going to be. Craig [Nicholls, The Vines singer] doesn’t handle pressure very well. But it was fantastic watching them play, and pull off a great show.
Paul: [With The Vines] it’s always going to be a spectacle, one way or the other. Either an amazing show, or it’s not.
Q: Epic line-up this year. How do you decide who plays, and who doesn’t?
Paul: We fight, short answer. Like brother and sister, cats and dogs sometimes. Because we have a pot of money, right. It’s like this: put you and your best friend in a room, and you go, “OK, we’ve got this much money to spend on the ultimate line-up,” and then you start arguing. So it goes back and forth, and through attrition we agree on things. Sometimes one of us gets lucky over the other, because we both want something and my option’s not available, or Jess’ is, and I go “well, we’ll have to take that then.”
Jess: But in saying that, there’s a lot that we agree on.
Paul: Yeah, we do. We ultimately agree.
Q: Who wanted what this year?
Paul: Let’s see. The Strokes have been on our list forever. So have The Pixies, but they’d just been here [in Australia], so we agreed on that. Temper Trap I erred Jess toward, a little bit; maybe the other way around for Florence [+ The Machine]. LCD [Soundsystem], Jess was a slam dunk, I didn’t even bother. That was definitely something she was big on.
Jess: We really put a concerted effort in. We started booking the line-up about six months before we announced the show.
Paul: In October/November last year, we were making lists, and negotiating deals overseas. Before Christmas this year we’ll be overseas again, probably making two or three trips around LA, New York and London, booking talent for next year.
Jess: So to buy a band, you should go and sit in the agent’s office, and see what they’ve got available. Often what they’ve got available is based on whether they’ve got a new record coming out. So there’s that, but there’s also a hitlist which, for instance, The Flaming Lips, The Strokes and Pixies are probably three that have always been on the list and we don’t care if there’s a new record or not, we just want them to play.
Paul: There’s quite a few still on the list. But we won’t tell you who they are.
Q: Band Of Horses were on everybody’s lips last year after their set. It was a little bit of a surprise, I don’t think everybody expected that going in. To hazard a guess, have you got any idea of who might be on everybody’s lips after these three days? Someone who’s a little less obvious, maybe?
Paul: Well, there’s a lot of bands on that are huge, but not everybody’s seen. Like Mumford [& Sons] and Florence, not everybody caught when they first toured because they were quite small, so I think they’ll be pretty big.
Jess: Personally, I think Surfer Blood are worth checking out. After The Strokes, I’m most excited about seeing Alberta Cross, who’re on Paul’s label. Yeasayer. The Magic Numbers…
Paul: I saw Band Of Skulls at SXSW this year, and that was a thing for me. I think they’ll do really well in this country. Their sideshows in Sydney and Melbourne have sold out. There’s a real buzz in the live community about them. They’ll go on to be a bigger band, so I’d make sure people saw them.
Q: Out of your budget, how much money do you have to fork out for your headline acts, like say The Strokes, or The Pixies?
Paul: We can’t really say the specific fee, but it would be safe to say that the line-up of talent for the show is in the multi, multi millions of dollars. Just to give you some idea, it’s our biggest cost – and believe me, tents, fences, staff, they don’t come cheap – but still, talent is… We spent a lot of money on the line-up. For us, it’s [the] core of what we do. We probably could have taken 10 bands off this bill and substituted them out with cheaper options, but it’s not in our style. We start out with a utopian line-up, and we try to make it affordable for us.
Jess: To give you some perspective, we set a budget to spend on bands. This year, we spent $1.5 million over that budget. And I mean, that money has to come from somewhere, so we were just really intent on creating the best line-up that we could.
Paul: The feedback that we’ve got on the line-up has been immense, this year. It’s pretty gratifying, too, because we were moving site, we had a history in Byron Bay… It really felt to us that the line-up was so strong that everybody was going to come with us [to Woodford]. And you did, which is great. But part of the thinking, too, was that it was our tenth birthday and we were in a new location, and we wanted to make it a special year. It was worth every penny. Well, we haven’t seen it all yet, but we’re hoping it’s worth every penny.
Q: G’day, I’m Melissa. I’m wondering with the change in location, what – if any – support you guys got from the Queensland Folk Federation?
Jess: Well Bill Hauritz, the director of the Queensland Folk Federation, has been a friend for many, many years, and just a fantastic supporter of the arts in general. When we were in this quandary about how we could develop the festival, and also feeling frustrated by the Byron Council’s draft events policy, Woodford physically is exactly the property we’d like to be on. Knowing Bill, we just rang him and said, “This is a kind of crazy question, but are you interested in having us?” And the timing for them; if we’d asked the year before, they wouldn’t have been ready to accommodate us. Bill, Amanda and all the people who work on the Woodford Folk Festival have moved heaven and earth to welcome us here. They’ve been so incredibly supportive. They’ve been really integral to allowing us, and not trying to restrict what it is that we wanted to present. And allowing us to stick a yacht in the dam ['Ibeefa'] and running with us on some of the crazy ideas we come up with.
Q: Are there other events that you get inspiration from, or model your event on?
Jess: Plagiarism’s rife.
Paul: I went to Burning Man [held in the Black Rock Desert, Navada] a couple of years ago, and their arts program is off the hook. I had ideas from that. Jess travelled to Glastonbury, Coachella…even little ones, not just big ones. See something that works! Go, “Hey, wow, great idea. Look at that! A mobile lemonade stand for people who’re standing in the queue,” or whatever it might be that you think is a good idea.
Jess: Then you go and take photos of it, and come back, and try and call it your own. [laughs]
Paul: To go back to the Band Of Horses questions, I’ve just been having a look at the line-up. Delphic, I think could have a really big set. Also, Two Door Cinema Club are amazing. The Drums, amazing live. Frightened Rabbit. LCD. Oh, and early reports – because we’re the promoter of Foals, who’ve done shows in Adelaide and Melbourne in the last few days – which went crazy. Nuts. They all sold out, so you’ll have to check out Foals as well.
Q: Just regarding what you were just saying about good ideas. I thought the whole exchanging a used can for a dollar off a drink was a really good idea. Was it just costs that made you rethink that?
Paul: I’ll explain what it was, then I’ll let Jess answer why we’re not doing it this year, because that’s the easy part and she’ll have the hard part. What happened in the past was that we put a $1 surcharge on a drink item, so if it was $6, you paid $7 for it, but there was inherent value, then, of the dollar in a can. So if you returned the can to a recycling station, you’d get a $1 drink ticket back. So you could technically accumulate 10 or 15 cans, and go get enough money to pick up a couple of drinks. That was the system, and it did keep the site very clean.
Jess: This site is quite complicated for us. We were really stretching our resources just trying to accommodate such a large amount of people in the campgrounds. That [can system] is quite complicated. It has so many ramifications beyond putting a cost on the drink ticket, which is everything from staffing it t, to making it work for people. And also, while it’s a great initiative, a lot of people object to even the idea that their drink seems a dollar more expensive. They can’t wrap their head around the fact that it’s only paid once, and they can actually get it back in the long-term. So we went, “look, let’s just try to get the show right,” and then hopefully we’ll look at all of those issues and we’ll try and do it next year. We certainly haven’t let it go, we’ve just put it on ice for a while.
Paul: And just to elaborate a little bit on that, too. Once again, consumer sentiment might have been guys drinking beer going, “well, a beer is a dollar extra,” but we’re not bringing that money in any more. We’ve had to divert a lot of money, obviously, into an increased cleaning bill. Everything gets recycled, regardless of whether you guys were picking it up and getting a bargain, or a cleaner’s picking it up, it’s all going to be recycled. But it was just a change of the balance, to see if we could make more people satisfied by not having a more expensive drink. The reality was, the majority were paying for the minority to pick up the cans. Which could work, but I guess maybe the majority weren’t satisfied with paying additional money for their drinks.
Q: Just with the mid-strength alcohol laws in Queensland, how’s that been?
Jess: You know, it’s incredibly disappointing. We went to inordinate lengths to meet with licensing to try and beg and plead to get full-strength. It’s not something we’ve had to do before. The reality is that we’re in Queensland, and to a degree, we have to toe the line with what licensing want to give us. That said, we’ve had some really great wins, like at the wine bar, you can buy a bottle of wine, and we’ve been able to operate quite late hours, as well. In many ways, we’re running longer hours than we were at Belongil Fields. But yeah, it’s a pain in the arse.
Q: Many of the ideas that come into the festival, are a lot of them the Splendour team’s ‘brain children’, or do a lot of outside people who want to run cool stuff come to you?
Paul: Both, I think, is the answer. Under us, and predominately under Jess, there’s a raft of event managers – partners, almost – across all different areas: environmental stuff, décor, theming, running different areas. They all bring IP to the mix, and how it can be improved. They’re all fairly proactive. We get pitched all the time. We do have resources that we offer back out to the community, and we have artists pitch to us. Those kind of things come from outsiders. But we also have funding with which we deliberately engage other artists, which Jess might want to talk about.
Jess: I just want to go back to our managers. A lot of them are very involved in the show. They come up with some awesome ideas. One of them is the boat in the dam ['Ibeefa'], which started out as, “How about we do a piss-take on Ibiza and make it as cheesy as we possibly can?” And we’re all like, “Yeah! Let’s embrace it, let’s create this little world.” A lot of the things around the site are ideas that people have come to us with, and we’ve developed them. I think that’s why we have such a great team, because everyone really feels like they can bring things into fruition. It’s certainly not Paul and I sitting here, coming up with everything. There’s a lot of people contributing.
On the artwork front, we’re constantly fielding ideas, whether they come through our website, or people who know people associated with the event. If some of those ideas are good, we’ll embrace it. It does get to the point now, though, where our program is so complicated that we physically can’t do everything, so we’re going to have to work out a way to keep engaging in those ideas, and to develop them. Which just means more people to organise it, really.
Paul: Do you want to talk about [the arts program] Splendid?
Jess: We were spending quite a lot of money on our arts program, for many years. We had this great bloke, Steven Alderton, who’s the director of the Lismore Regional Gallery and a bit of a mover and shaker in the arts world. He saw what we were doing and approached the Australia Council, and said “These guys are sinking truckloads of money into the arts, we should collaborate with and fund them for a couple of years”. So what came out of that is we’re spending $150,000, and they’re spending $450,000 and counting to present three years of collaborations in this artist workshop. There are three on site this year, I don’t know if you guys have seen them. There’s the [giant inflatable] ‘up yours’ hand; there’s the ‘best time ever’, which is a stairwell and sundial up on the hill; and ‘where the party’s at’, which is a balloon installation. We still fund other aspects of the arts program.
Paul: So those joint arts projects are also a way to bring up to Splendour, that we’ve funded jointly with your taxpayers’ dollars, through the Australia Council, and then also those works get to be seen by people not necessarily at Splendour. They can tour those works to other festivals around Australia, or around the world. So there’s a program that’s internal, then there’s a kind of, if you want, a ‘give back’ aspect to it, where those works can go on and have lives, and have other people enjoy them.
Q: I’ve heard the Government is going to invest some money into developing the site. I just wondered what kind of plans there are.
Jess: Are you talking about the $3 million that was announced yesterday?
Q: Yeah, I heard it on the news.
Jess: So if the Labor government win the next federal election, they’ve pledged to give $3 million to Woodfordia, to help upgrade their site. I can’t really speak on behalf of Woodfordia, because the money’s going to them, not to us. But from what I read in the press release, it would go towards putting in more permanent toilets, showers, upgrading roads, sewerage and power. All those kind of things that you guys don’t really notice, that make it much easier to run events. So let’s hope the Labor government wins, and Woodford will be a better site.
Q: Hi there, my name’s Ros. Can you please let us know what’s happening with the site you guys purchased outside of Byron? Where are things at there? Is that under the Byron Shire Council still?
Paul: We have a property – 620-odd acres – at Yelgun, as some people know. We bought that property after some consultation with the Byron Shire Council. As we went through the approvals process, I think the Byron Shire Council changed their opinion, potentially, about the viability of it. We went through the Land and Environment Court, and there was a zoning issue with some land that made the Council’s approval null and void. It got a little sticky at that point, going forward, and got to be a bit of a political hot potato, wouldn’t you say, in Byron Bay?
Jess: I guess we lost the support of Council when there were a very vocal minority who were opposed to us being at that particular site. I think if you break it down, their objections are really based on that they don’t want to live next door to it. I can completely understand; who would want to live next door to a festival site?
Paul: These people might, the festival-goers.
Jess: We have had the support of Byron Council, and they did approve our trial event, and then we lost over a technicality in court. Since then, the [NSW] state government took on the application and they realised the potential that [Splendour] and other events could bring to that particular region, and so our application for an events venue is about to be lodged with state government in the next week. We’ve spent years putting it together, and a lot of time working on everything from the ecology, to traffic, to noise; it’s a fantastic project, and that will then sit with the Department of Planning for probably six months, and we’ll get a response then as to whether they’ll let us operate back in Byron.
Q: I came in a little late. Just wondering, are you guys here again next year?
Paul: We think so.
Q: Hi guys, Andrew from Mess+Noise. I want to ask you about Brisbane sideshows. Aside from Goldfrapp, and more recently The Pixies, it seems that Brisbane tends to miss out on sideshows. Why is that, and do you see that changing in the future?
Paul: The why is that generally most of the Splendour audience comes from Brisbane, so to keep the exclusivity of our event, we will often not announce sideshows. One of things that we’ve found in the past, also, is that due to Brisbane being a smaller city than some of the others, the ticket trends for bands who did do sideshows were pretty bad. Brisbane could be, for certain acts, quite risky. So it was a combination of making sure that, for the Brisbane market, Splendour was seen as an exclusive opportunity to see those bands, and also a way of taking out a certain element of risk. Will it change in the future? I don’t see it changing radically. A couple of bands did it because they were under exceptional circumstances, so we permitted it. Our policy to this date, is to not [allow Brisbane sideshows].
Like many countries. I know a lot of acts who go and play Glastonbury, or V Fest in the UK, those are their only UK shows, full stop. They don’t play any other cities at all. I know it frustrates music fans in Brisbane, but it’s a slippery slope if we start doing shows in Brisbane, then you’ll probably start off a chain reaction of people who, when Splendour goes on sale, waiting to see which sideshows are announced before they buy a ticket, and then Splendour might not sell out. It’s a chain reaction that we’re probably not too game to experiment with at this point.
Andrew: Have you considered a contractual clause wherein, if Splendour does sell out, then you can announce sideshows?
Paul: Yes, but then people learn to expect that.
Jess: We have done some Brisbane sideshows, but they just don’t work. The reality is that we’ve lost money on every single show we’ve done in Brisbane, because the majority of people come to Splendour. I think if there was a huge demand, and shows were selling out, we would probably run with it. The reality is that there’s just not [a demand].
Paul: The Pixies playing at The Zoo, that would sell out in a heartbeat. They wanted that as a warm-up date, to physically grace the stage before they hit the big stage. I don’t even know if Goldfrapp has sold out; they’re playing The Tivoli. If it hasn’t, that would be an indicator as to what we’re trying to explain.
Q: Looking at the timetable, at a clash like Foals and Yeasayer at the same time, is there a reason you do that so early in the day?
Paul: You know, can I just say that if that bothers you, we’d switch it out, but then it’d bother someone else. We can’t make everybody happy with scheduling. It’s just a fact. We needed LCD Soundsystem to be in the Mix Up Tent at the same time as whoever in the main Amphitheatre, so that we don’t have 35,000 people trying to get into the Amphitheatre at the one time. It’s a safety responsibility.
Jess: It’s just a reality of a festival. You’re going to have overlaps, unfortunately. We really try and keep each act in mind when we’re placing them, and also, some can only play on a certain days because they’re got international obligations. So suddenly you’ve got acts of the same size that you need to put on.
Paul: We have bands that fly out tomorrow [Saturday] to go and play Fuji Rock in Japan on Sunday, so those bands all have to be on the Friday. As Jess said, if they’re of a similar size and they need to be off-site tonight a certain time, we don’t really have much choice.
Q: My name’s Calvin, I’m one of the Splendid artists. I came a bit late, but what’s your reasons for not making this a touring festival? It’s obviously one of the best organised festivals going around. Why have you chosen not to tour it?
Jess: Because it takes us a year to organise this show. Turning it into a touring festival would mean that we’d have to stretch our resources to different cities. I’d rather make this the biggest, the best, the most fabulous experience, [rather] than water it down to make five or six [events] around the place. Also, I’ve been doing events for a long time, and Paul as well, and I just don’t have the energy to do that many shows. It’s fucking exhausting.
Paul: Can I just add: this is untourable. It’s just not tourable. Jess has been on-site for three weeks, I’ve been here for two weeks. There’s people doing works out here, prepping, weeks and weeks in advance. I mean, it’s a mini-city. We have a police station, we have a fire brigade base here, we have a couple of ambulances. We have 38 electricians, 22 plumbers. It’s a city. It’s a little town. You just can’t tour little towns.
Monique: To finish up, what inspired you to introduce the Forum element to Splendour this year?
Jess: I just wanted for all the fun things out there, for there to be some kind of serious platform at the show, and an opportunity; even for us to be here, to be able to answer the questions that must drive you nuts, like the question about timetable clashes, which must shit you up the wall. To have the opportunity to answer those kind of questions is great. We’re trying to have a bit more of a dialogue, rather than people just coming here, having a drink and seeing some bands, if we can extend that experience for them, to talk about it; that’s why we’re here, and why [the Forum] is of interest to us. And if there’s 100 or 200 people sitting here, listening to what we’ve got to say, that’s a success to us. That’s worth persisting with.