Splendour in the Grass and Byron Bay Jazz Fest have made this little, bohemian, beachside town famous for music festivals. But those are the only two and the shire passed a law last year that these are the only two allowed with attendances over 6,000. It seems that the county administrators feel that fests drain resources and that the town cannot support anymore.
Screaming matches between OZ promoter Peter Noble and the town have resulted in him making his own festival site 10 miles out of town and Splendour (selling our 18,000 tickets in 2012 in 42 minutes) purchasing hundreds of acres in the northern part of the state, New South Wales (NSW).
Davidson was hired by a Melbourne promoter to produce a music festival in Byron Bay during Schoolies, every November, the start of their summer, hundreds of thousands of Aussie graduating teenagers storm the beach towns and raise hell for 3 weeks in 1 week waves. The time and the young people are called "schoolies".
Now Byron Bay has passed a secret mandate telling hotel and motel owners to not even rent rooms to schoolies. Within 3 days, Davidson learned of the hostility not only toward schoolies, but toward any new music festivals at any time of the year. Byron was the opposite of their global image, a friendly little festival town.
Draconain, backward, self-serving, narrow minded, placating the area's well- healed seasonal residents, with town rulers like that, who'd want to put on a festival there? The road control lights and barricades, added security and lawyering alone would have totalled more than $200,000.. Few outside Australia are aware of Byron's great paradox. Hal needed another venue.
In recrutiing Splendour's festival consultants, Hal learned of another town 25 minutes south, Ballina, where the airport for both Byron Bay and Ballina is.
But alas, there is also a 105 yr. old horse racetrack in Ballina capable of holding over 100,000 people. The manager there in favor, a former publican (pub manager), all that was required now was endless meetings with the local government, a $30,000 festival plan accompanied by a risk assessment and sound tests from equipment mounted all over town. Usage data explaining how the many buses required to commute campers from the airport property to the racetrack would microscopically wear the road surface was needed and of course the police. State Police were the appointed force and they were not infavor of any music festival welcoming drugs and partying kids. The drinking age in Austalia is 18.
So Davidson waded through the months of due diligence working with a team of festival consutlants, each expert in their own field. only to find the young club promoter hiring him could not come up with the multi-million dollar budget. "At least I learned to surf and bought a really nice bike" Davidson said.
Two years later, Davidson was subjected to the same detailed barage of over-regulation on the west coast, north of Adelaide in South Australia (SA) where he was able to complete a major music festival on the sprawling acres of Monarto Zoo in 129 days. And this time, not only did he have an overbearing police department and alcoholic beverage board on him like glue, but he was dealing with one to the most corrupt and dishonest men he has ever known. Though he tried to resign twice, he continued on and finished LIVE AT THE ZOO next to the lion's den and everybody had a good time, except Hal.
Paradoxically to the dysfunction of his client Peter Rowe, Hal was amazed how good the workers were. Almost every college in Australia teaches music festival certification. It's more of a program teaching how to get through the paperwork than how to choose bands and understand which concepts are best, but this national awareness and education of a business considered unstructured in most other countries, the young people graducating from a "uni" there, were top quality workers, getting things done efficiently without an attitude!
Australia's 48 music festivals have peaked though, with some discontinuing in the last 2 years after a 10 year explosion. The limited population of 22 million, high cost of international talent, long trip for artists to get there, and the need to tour an artist in a number of Aussie events to justify their appearnace at your event all collectively make it tough to compete with major well-funded promoters.
Hal Davidson has continued to consult there, but by skype and email lately. It should be considerably easier in the next destination, Cyprus. Hal was coincidientally hired by an Australian DJ to perform the due diligence for a Yacht Festival there intended for 2015. "I get to meet the President this time." Hal said.
Hal Davidson is a life-long concert and festival producer. He also authors the best books available on the subject of concert promotion and festival planning only available at www.concert-