Jim King exclusive eFestivals interview

Rock Ness boss talks about this year's event

published: Mon 28th May 2012

around the festival site (1)

Friday 8th to Sunday 10th June 2012
Loch Ness, Scotland, Scotland MAP
£159 for a weekend camping, or £149 weekend non-camping
daily capacity: 35000
last updated: Fri 25th May 2012

It's under two weeks until Rock Ness opens it's doors and festival boss Jim King speaks exclusively to eFestivals in this interview.

around the festival site (1)
What's your most likely thing to snack on in your pocket when you're walking around on site?
I'm a bit of a chewing gum fanatic to be honest with you, other than that something highland based like shortbread or something I don't know. Running festivals can be quite stressful can't it, and it's better chewing gum than smoking cigarettes.

Who do you consider a must see recommendation for those going to Rock Ness this year?
Well it's a very eclectic bill so I think there's going to be a must see for a variety of attendees depending on what you're in to. But highlights across-the-board, I think Chic's going to be amazing. I have seen them play at Bestival, and Camp Bestival over the last couple of years, and they always bring that classic festival moment. So, I'm really looking forward to seeing them, and I think Mumford and Sons on Friday is going to be amazing. The last few times I have seen them play they have just been out of this world. So, I am looking forward to that and Biffy Sunday night in Scotland with a massive production set they are going for. I have not seen all of it but from what they are saying it's going to be pretty spectacular. I think that's going to be a pretty amazing way to close the festival.

You mentioned Mumford and Sons I am really surprised they are not playing everywhere this summer was it really hard to get them booked?
Was extremely hard to get them to be honest you. We had to work really, really hard, and we are so happy that they decided to come to Rock Ness, because everybody wanted them, and they decided to do a great deal this year. I just think they are a lovely band and I really like the way that they operate as well. The fact that they are not just out there to do everything that they are about picking the right shows and doing them at the right time, and I think they have a wonderful way of working. They are surrounded by some really good people as well. Whilst it was very difficult to get the deal done they weren't difficult to deal with. We are really pleased about having to play and they are a lot bigger than everybody thinks. I remember when they played at Bestival, two years ago I think that was, and they got the biggest crowd of the weekend. I think that's going to be talking point of Rock Ness for many years to come actually.

How are ticket sales for this year going?
We are doing really well, with two weeks to go we are well ahead of last year and we've been slowly increasing sales for the last three years anyway, year on year. We are hoping to keep building on that. Obviously the festival is a long way North and that means that some people on paper might look at it as quite a daunting trip, when actually it isn't when you think that it can take anything from 5 to 7 hours to get to some festivals. If you are coming from Glasgow it is only three hours and even from Manchester is only 5 1/2. It's also one of the most pleasant drives you're ever going to have to get to a festival.

We are also getting a lot of repeat people, coming back and they are telling their friends so it's increasing year on year. For us we already think it's going to be our busiest one for years. I think us having really strong headliners is also helping this year. I think there's also a lot of anticipation to see Deadmau5 and Justice on the Saturday.

The festival is under two weeks away how much more you have to do before the gates open?
Most of the planning is obviously done that starts well before the start of the show that there is obviously still a lot more to do. The site build has just started and that will start coming into shape in the next week or so. But most of it is then it's just a case of crossing t's and dotting i's up until we get to the show now. Primarily it's just finishing the build and selling those last few tickets making sure all the marketing is done and looking after the bands' last minute arrangements to deal with for them.

Do bands ever have crazy riders these days?
You still get some silly ones but not really that often and I think some of those are quite boring these days you try to look for some that are a bit more exciting in there, but these touring bands are very well oiled machines, and I think they are in it to make their lives as easy as possible and everyone else's. Most of the stuff we get through is all pretty reasonable to be honest with you. There's a few grand on the occasional expensive bottles of wine thrown in from a few of them, apart from that it's all very reasonable.

You said you had been putting the site together, are there any major changes this year compared to last year?
Yes what we've done is with incorporate some elements from three years ago and some from four years ago that we really really liked. We thought we had Nesstival a bit too big last year, with putting the Goldenvoice Arena there. Last year was an amazing festival, the best one we have a had, but that was one thing we didn't like quite as much as previous year. So we've made the Nesstival space within the festival, very similar to what it was three years ago with a very large arena now being down at the very bottom of the hill like it was three years ago as well. So you can move between the main stage at the Goldenvoice Arena much more easily, and it means you don't have to keep walking up and down that lovely amphitheatre every time you want to go and see someone else on one of the other stages. What that does is allow the Nesstival area to be a little bit more intimate and more built around the Arcadia UFO structure which is the real late night activity area, that's a good change. We've also changed the VIP camping areas and the Boutique camping areas so they are no longer near the north end of the site near the car parks they are now adjacent to the arena site and it kind of gives you look over the lock itself and will be an amazing place when you wake up in the morning with no better view at a festival in the UK.

There seems to be much fewer international acts appearing on festival line-ups this summer why do you think that is?
I think for many acts not just international ones it depends where they are in their cycle between their own headline touring schedules and album commitments, and there are a lot of international acts this year that have come over and played their own touring shows this year. I think a lot of these big acts are out of cycle they have repeated themselves quite a lot over the last 3 to 6 years and I think some are just naturally staying away and not performing. I think you'll get a lot of the really big international acts coming almost in two seasons consecutively and now they have to take one off and so that's happened as well in the last couple of years. Its doesn't really affect us so much I think we don't rely on that area of the market. I wouldn't read too much into it. The UK festival market is still the strongest in Europe and best in the world and I think it's still incredibly strong in terms of the appeal to any International artist and I think playing at UK festivals is still the highlight of their calendar with amazing audiences, I think they get paid at our shows a lot better than they do on mainland Europe as well.

One of the hot topics at the moment is RFID wristbands have you ever considered them for Rock Ness audiences in the future?
Not this year, I think there's elements of it that a good and I think it's how far you go with it really. There's the very entry-level systems which allow you the access control which I think are great in a lot of ways. I think people are used to using them depending on where they live in the country, with some of the transport network systems around the country relying on them such as oyster card system, or ski passes which have been using them for years.

On an entry-level I think its going to have a lot to offer. And in terms of trying to cut down on counterfeit ticketing, which I think is good for the customer as well as I think it's good the industry. It also speeds up entry and I think that kind of technology is useful if you can get people into a festival or in and out of different areas within it without constantly queuing or having to show security different levels of passes then I think that's a great idea, and I saw it work very well in Coachella.

I didn't see any problems really and on that level of it, I think when it goes up to the whole kind of cashless operation I think then you are really choosing whether it's more suitable for some shows than for others and I think some audiences respond much better to that whole cashless argument than others do and I don't think it's a one size fits all solution to the industry. I think it's about tailoring the technology to your audience.

So you're saying you'd consider the entry system for Rock Ness but not the cashless system would that be correct?
I would never say never, but you have to look at the large festivals that are operating cashless anyway with vouchers that voucher system I think is very cumbersome - you've got to queue up to buy your vouchers and then though you're in a cashless environment it's really a voucher environment. So, you stand a chance of losing them or they become destroyed in your pocket when you accidentally pour a beer in them or all these other factors. I think the concept of cashless I don't have a problem with at all really for any show. I just think some shows depending on the size of them as well, because the technology isn't cheap, work better for it.

The other thing is it's not fair on customers as they get left with the unused vouchers which it's very difficult sometimes to be able to change them back on the last day of the festival is a very difficult system. I think if you go for the whole cashless situation with wristbands where you get automatic top-ups coming through off your debit card and and so on where you can quite easily limit your expenditure and not to go too crazy and at the same time re-credit the unused money that's sitting on your wristband as well potentially. I think there's a whole heap of benefits but I don't think it's a case that they will work at every festival.

What caught you by surprise at last year's festival?
It's difficult to say really, its like giving birth you try to forget about it as soon as its finished. I had a really pleasant weekend last year it was really great fun we had some amazing performances. I think what surprised me was the reaction to Paolo Nutini, when we announced him there was some reaction from the audience online that didn't think he was the right booking for the Saturday night closing set. I think he absolutely nailed it and we had one of the biggest crowds Rock Ness has ever seen and he gave an unbelievable performance and with an amazing band he's got as well, and I think from start to finish it was an amazing performance to close the performance festival with. I wasn't surprised by the performance, because we always respected what he does, it does but I was surprised by the size of the crowd and I think he literally had every person on site watching.

For a second year in a row you have a Scottish band close the festival do you think this will become a regular thing?
I don't think it's a conscious decision in anyway, I think Scotland is a very patriotic country, they're also fortunate to have some amazing musicians, DJs and bands that come through there. With us being in the heartland in the Highlands of Scotland it's only natural we want to tap into those artists to appear at the show. I think it definitely adds something though, I think a Scottish crowd watching a Scottish band close a festival in Scotland is something unique. The reality is we can't have Biffy Clyro close the festival every year, and there's very few headliners like that anyway. It's not like we have to have a Scottish headliner but the fact that we've got it is an added bonus.

Thanks for your time Jim.
Thank you.

Rock Ness takes place on the scenic banks of Loch Ness, Scotland on Friday 8th to Sunday 10th June 2012 where Mumford & Sons, Biffy Clyro, and Deadmau5 will headline this summer. They are joined on the bill by Justice, Ed Sheeran, Metronomy, Noah And The Whale, Wretch 32, DJ Fresh presents Fresh/Live, The Drums, Dave Clarke, Mystery Jets, Admiral Fallow, Claude Von Stroke, Animal Farm, Dave Clarke, The View, Soma Records, James Holden, Ben Sims, Andrew Weatherall & Sean Johnston, Silicone Soul, Sub Club, Pearson Sound, Levon Vincent, Ivan Smagghe, Eats Everything, Subculture Soundsystem, Harri & Domenic, Sensu, Thunder Disco Club, Boom Monk Ben, Tiger and Woods, Yuksek, Annie Mac, Jacques Lu Cont, The Rapture, Bastille, Porter Robinson, Friendly Fires, Tim Minchin, Kassidy, Knife Party, Mylo, Zane Lowe, Jakwob, The Japanese Popstars, Little Comets, Lucy rose, To Kill A King, The Draymin, Filth DJS, Beardyman, Death In Vegas, Chic Featuring Nile Rodgers, Etienne De Crecy, Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, Busy P, Riton,The Cuban Brothers, Filth DJs, Polymath, and more.


For the line-up details, day and stage splits, as available please click here.

Tickets are priced at £159 for a weekend camping and £149 for a non-camping festival ticket. Under 18s must be accompanied by an adult. Under 12s go free. A 3 day weekend camping / non camping student ticket is priced at £145, a 3 day Disabled weekend camping ticket is priced at £79.50 or £74.50 non-camping – please email access@aeglive.co.uk. The RockNess Express is priced at £225, and there are also VIP options available. Day tickets are priced at £64 for Saturday or Sunday.

To buy tickets from Seetickets, click here.

To buy tickets from Ticketline, click here.

To buy tickets from Ticketmaster, click here.
interview by: Scott Williams

Friday 8th to Sunday 10th June 2012
Loch Ness, Scotland, Scotland MAP
£159 for a weekend camping, or £149 weekend non-camping
daily capacity: 35000
last updated: Fri 25th May 2012


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