eFestivals spoke exclusively to Simon Mawbey Creative & Marketing Director at Count Of Ten about their stable of festivals which he programmes including Y-Not Festival, Truck Festival, Brownstock Festival, and Hevy Festival.
Can you tell us a little about Count Of Ten and what your role is within it?
Count Of Ten is a company that handles a small number of small and mid sized music festivals. I head up the promotion and marketing related stuff. So we do Y-Not Festival, Truck Festival, Brownstock Festival, Hevy Festival, and we also a bit of involvement with Tramlines in Sheffield.
Each event is quite different as a marketing person what would you say is each event's unique selling point?
They are definitely separate entities, and we treat them as such, they’re not just commodities. We consider them products of their environments, with the exception of Hevy which attracts a niche market from all over the country, so it doesn’t have any particular regional focus. The other event we definitely consider in a regional context, and promote and program them as such. We have a good understanding of who the people are coming to each event, and we program everything around who is attending.
So that's a main aspect of your job programming the festivals?
Yes, I’m involved in programming, we have an external artist booker who does all the liaison with the agents, but I’m part of the internal team that sits down and plans a hit list, and then are in constant liaison with our artist booker, and he’ll go back and see what we can get.
The line-ups have pretty much been announced for the festivals, do you start putting together a hit list for next year now or is that later in the process?
Funny you should say that, we’ve just started to discuss, certainly for some of the events – not all of them, yes. Not all of them, because it’s difficult enough to pull something together for this year let alone next year. But, for Hevy for example, which we have started opening discussions about, because there are a lot of American bands on the Hevy bill, so it has to be planned some way in advance. You have to think about what their schedule’s like, where they are going be and so on, so we try to plan it around who the hit list is and how long it will take to get each band in. So, for Hevy, we’re already having discussions about who we think should be coming next year.
Another promoter was saying they felt American acts were less available in recent years as there is a greater pull to the American Festival market, are you finding that’s the case too?
I don’t think we’ve found losing acts to America has been a massive factor. One thing we have found is that we’re on the same weekend as a big American festival and that can be an issue, but that’s more than anything a case of UK bands going over to play big American shows. Going back to Hevy again, there’s a lot of international bands from the US hardcore and punk scene that a target for Hevy, and that can be an issue. But, I don’t think we’re losing American artists to American shows, but I’d definitely notice a big rise in the American market in general. It’s not just Coachella and the usual suspects anymore, there’s a lot of big, big high profile US shows, a lot more than there used to be.
How do you find out which bands are touring and available?
It’s just through liaising with the agents, sitting down and meet them, and we do have a bit of an instinct for who is into a cycle of promoting for an album, which usually they are more difficult to book because they usually come with an exclusivity tag. We’re also aware of who is having some time off, who hasn’t been around for a while, who hasn’t played a show for three years, who’s played a lot of major festivals last year so they maybe looking at smaller some smaller or medium sized events, things like that.
How many years have you been doing this for?
We started with Y-Not Festival that was our first event 10 years ago, so Y-Not 2015 is going to be our tenth anniversary, and that’s when it began. For some time it was a part time thing, we were students, and at school. The whole thing has just been a big learning process, you never fully stop learning. Y-Not was what we started with, the others were existing events that we’ve come in to manage along the way, and Count Of Ten grew as we acquired more festivals. I think within the team now we’ve built a fairly solid spectrum of expertise in terms of how we approach the events.
What’s the best thing about doing your job?
Dealing with the agents (joke). The fact it’s different everyday, it’s fun and challenging and interesting. The summer and winter are big contrasts. In summer you’re in a field most of the time, in winter you’re usually writing emails. The worst thing I think is that it can be incredibly frustrating. We’re really proud of the bills that we have put together. But, you build up a hit list and slowly the bands diminish, and it can be frustrating. There are various hurdles you have to overcome in the booking process, it can be a particularly hard thing to navigate.
Are you fan of exclusivity deals?
No, I wouldn’t we say we were fans particularly. It’s a difficult one, I understand why it exists, it would be silly of me to say I don’t get it. But I don’t quite get the extent to which it is enforced. We’ve experienced exclusivities on bands that cost £1,000-£1,500 if you’re a band of that level you clearly are a band in your infancy and , in my opinion, you need to get out and play to as many people as you can, and as often as you can. I don’t understand why it happens at that level, I think if you prohibit a band of that level to playing one show in the summer, I don’t see that makes a lot of sense to me, but then I don’t make the rules.
It makes no sense to me either, a band needs to get out there and play live to partisan festival audiences, because it’s a different craft to playing to your own fans, or building an album in a studio.
Exactly, the way I see it, shows like ours, around 15,000 – 5,000 capacity are where those bands learn their craft and hone their skills, and become better, and if they’re not able to play their shows.
If you take a band, a good example is Catfish & The Bottlemen, who we had last year, and I also saw a small show for promoters and organisers in Derby when they played to about 40 people a couple of years ago. They played our shows, and other shows, and gigged and built a fanbase and learnt to do what they do, and now they’re selling out Brixton Academy. Now, I’m not saying that happens for every band, but I don’t think it hurt them to get out and play in front of people, we caught them at a lucky time. We knew they were good, we got them on the bill, and they built and built through the summer and the crowd was huge in front of the main stage for them, and they had loads and loads of shouts for them to play again this year. That’s a good example.
Have you any hot tips for other acts that are coming through like they did?
Hot tips? Yeah, there’s quite a few bands I’m looking forward to seeing. I think Slaves are a really exciting band, I think Saint Raymond could do really well, he’s a Nottingham artist and recently sold out Rock City there. Rae Morris I think has the potential to have a really bright career. There’s quite a few this year I’m looking forward to seeing.
One of the hot topics at the moment is females not getting enough exposure on festival bills, what’s your take on this?
It’s definitely something that we are aware of, and something we try to accommodate where we can. I think to some extent it’s sort of systematic of a wider issue in the industry as a whole, where there are some amazing female artists, but the number of them in the industry is less, if they’re under the same restrictions of the male artists, exclusivity and scheduling and stuff like that the pool is just so much smaller. And if you’re looking outside the pop world, and not trying to book the Rihannas and Beyonces of the pop world then the types of artists we look for on our bills the pool is so much smaller again. I don’t why that is, I don’t know whether they’re not being given the same opportunities. I don’t know why it is, Hevy being a good example. It’s something that we try really hard to combat, but the pool seems so much smaller. I imagine it’s really hard for female artists to break through if it’s not traditional pop with dance routines. There are some incredible female artists that we’d love to get on all the bills, I’m hoping there will be more of them.We’ve loved having Lucy Rose, Rae Morris, and we’ve tried to get many artists lots of times like Laura Marling, Haim, and artists like those but exclusivity deals are exactly the issue.
As this interview is for a festivals website – if you had a stall what would you sell at a festival?
If it was Y-Not Festival probably rain macs, if it was Truck Festival probably sun cream, if it was Hevy probably beer, and if at Brownstock probably hair products.
What was your first festival memory?
I can’t remember what the first festival I went to was. I think it was probably Download the first year it was Download, and I was supposed to see Limp Bizkit but they pulled out, I think I saw The Hives, and Metallica, who played a secret set. I did go to a few Downloads so I may be getting mixed up, but Limp Bizkit were definitely supposed to play, and I used to love Lim,p Bizkit when I was younger. I loved it even so, I was 15 or so I think, and probably shouldn’t have been there on my own but I absolutely loved it.
Do you think that experience led to what you’re doing now?
It definitely had a bearing on it, yeah. I’ve always loved music and music festivals. I’ve been to music festivals all over the place. These days my job means I do try to go to festivals. We have a pretty hectic summer to be honest with you, a pretty hectic run of events ourselves. It can be pretty tricky trying to find the time, even if you do have a weekend off then you’re setting up for something else. Even if you don’t physically have an event then you may be preparing for an event or travelling or on site, so it can be difficult to find time. But if I’ve ever got the opportunity then I love going to events.
Another big topic of conversation this year is Glastonbury’s mysterious third headliner, who would you guess it could be?
We’ve had many conversations about it in the office to be honest. I don’t know all the people they have already, but it would be nice for them to do something a little bit different. I’d like it to be Daft Punk, I can’t imagine anyone being upset with that one. Or maybe Elton John (who’s in Germany) would be nice. I don’t know who it is, but I’m sure it would be interesting.
Were you surprised at the backlash against Kanye?
Yes I was, I was surprised, I was very surprised. We actually had quite a big discussion about it in the office afterwards. I was surprised, i don’t really know what people are wanting or expecting. Kanye West is a pretty big global artist with this massive, amazing back catalogue. It kind of shocked me, I don’t know what people were expecting, it will be amazing anyway. He will incredible, it will be an incredible headline set, Glastonbury will be incredible regardless, and if you don’t like Kanye don’t go and see him, there are thousands of other things to see there instead.
Thank you for your time, enjoy your summer.
Y-Not Festival takes place from Friday 31st July until Sunday 2nd August 2015 near Matlock in Derbyshire.
Tickets are priced at £89.50 plus booking fees. A ticket for children aged 12 years & Under is free. Early entry Thursday tickets are priced at £14, car parking passes are priced at £7, and campervan passes are priced at £40.
The festival, now in its 10th year, has a capacity of 8,000 people, and aside from the music on three stages, there is a whole host of activities for Y-Notters to get involved in. The festival attempts to have an intimate nature, with many of the bands camping with festival goers, and friendly stewards. Late night entertainment includes a dance tent, or camp fire singalongs and there will be real ales and local ciders available.
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