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Event Spotlight: Stephen Halpin talks Groovin' The Moo and SXSW

Friday 12 April 2013

Event Spotlight: Stephen Halpin talks Groovin' The Moo and SXSW

Stephen Halpin from Cattleyard Promotions chats about Groovin' The Moo festival and his recent trip to SXSW.

First of all. How was SXSW, and what was your aim in going over there?
It was amazing - so much to see. I wanted to check out a few hyped emerging acts to see if they have a good live show, check out the how the Australian acts are connecting, but mostly to network.

It's seen as a mecca for networking, but how much of SXSW is preliminary talks and how much is actually putting deals into place?
I'm sure for band managers and agents there are a lot of deals made, but for me it was mostly talking. Introducing GTM to international agents and managers and explaining how it works and how it differs to other events in Australia. I was quite surprised how many people had actually heard of GTM.

Laneway recently launched overseas, are there any plans to expand Groovin' The Moo in this capacity?
No, but it would be fun. I reckon Laneway in Detroit is a great idea.

What attracted you to the idea of a series of regional festivals?
When we started the intention was a one-off festival in the country so young people didn't have to travel to the city for a festival experience. So the notion of a series of regional shows was never in the original plan. As we survived each year we broadened our horizons and these individual shows morphed into a festival tour. It’s been a very organic growth - a great example of evolution rather than intelligent design!

How flooded is the marketplace in your opinion? Does it make it harder or easier for the established players?
I feel it’s pretty much saturated and think for a new festival to start it would have to find a niche - either genre or location. Festivals are so expensive to run and margins so tight I’d imagine it would be a massive financial risk to start a new festival. So I guess for established festivals this has the advantage of preventing new competitors entering the market. Keeping your festival fresh each year is a massive challenge. With so many festival opportunities here, bands tour Australia much more frequently, so putting together a fresh, exciting line-up each year gets more difficult.

How far ahead do you begin booking the acts?
We start booking about 12 months out, so we've actually begun discussing 2014 options already!

You have an interesting can recycling policy in place in the past. Will this be implemented again this year?
Yes we will have the $1 can rebate in place again. It seems to works well - encourages recycling and helps keep the site reasonably clean.

What's the biggest setback Groovin' has had over the years?
At our second year in Bendigo, which was the first sell-out there, we underestimated the number of people arriving early. As such the front gate was undermanned and resulted in massive queues to enter the event. Understandably, we copped a lot of criticism via social media and plenty of irate emails.

What did you learn from this experience?
Operations on that front have run smoothly ever since. We were much better prepared the following year - earlier opening, bigger front gate, etc. I guess we also learnt how wonderful our patrons are. We explained what happened and apologised, and the vast majority of people were very understanding and gracious. They trusted us and returned the following year.

Groovin' The Moo begins on April 27 in Maitland.