By Robyn Morrison
If you’re anything like me, your social news feeds have been clogged by various news posts about music festivals announcing line-ups then going belly up or being postponed. There’s a lot to theorise in that opening sentence but you’ll have to keep an eye out on the next issue of HEAVY Music Magazine in February.
The gang at Unify have posted a very promising, positive message about Unify – A Heavy Music Gathering edition for 2016 and beyond. And whilst many have claimed to be transparent and upfront with fans, unless you can execute the event you’re promoting there’s really no point to telling people how to suck eggs or deliver a list of excuses as to why it didn’t work out.
So without further ado, here’s a TL;DR post from UNIFIED’s Luke Logemann. You’re going to want to read it to the end because the last paragraph just about sums up everything we’re thinking and been (possibly) too scared to articulate (damn those blacklists, hey?).
Kudos to the UNIFIED team and all those who made Unify happen this year. You guys are awesome.
So by now, most of our punters and bands have all headed back to their homes, most of the site is packed up and most of our staff have finally had some sleep after working so hard for the last week. We can see so many positive reviews from media, and so much nice feedback all over social media and in our email accounts. It really is overwhelming to hear and read so much love coming from everyone who was a part of the experience.
I wanted to talk about our event in a larger sense, and touch on why we started this and where it is going. Obviously, the Australian festival scene has taken a hit recently. And it feels like not a day goes by without our social media feeds being inundated with negative stories about festivals being cancelled and falling apart. And while everyone is drawn to clicking on this endless stream of failure, I hope the media sites and people around will take the time to highlight what a successful and rewarding transaction just took place.
UNIFY 2016 sold out. We just paid all of our artists well and looked after them with all the food, drinks and special requests they could want, and more. Our punters were able to BYO drinks and food, and then were still charged reasonable prices for those things once they got in ($5 beers!) as they watched a lineup of some of the best bands around. The local community also were looked after – last years income for the football club enabled them to get a solar panel to run their buildings and enabled them to run a bus for young kids to travel to play football each week – the local bottle and food shops were all stoked on how much business they did. The staff were rewarded and looked after with whatever they need, media were given amazing access to the artists, the security guards were treated with respect and dignity and they treated the fans with the same respect… even the Tiger Snake we found under the stage was caught and released into the wild.
Now I will say that no one is perfect, and I’m sure there will be individuals with different experiences, but my point is that the music and festival business can be something where no one has to lose. It can be something that is done with the right attitude and ethics, and it can be something that maintains integrity and improves as years go by.
In our first year, we sold 3000 tickets in 3 hours. We could have sold more, but we didn’t want to bite off more than we could chew. Thats been the UNIFIED / THE HILLS ARE ALIVE model since forever – we grow slowly and we do things with attention to detail and make sure we can achieve what we set out to achieve. We would never take for granted having 3000 people’s lives in our hands. Our second year, we grew just a little more – another 2000 people, and another few bands. We took suggestions from punters and staff, and applied them all for year two for improvement.
Now we will do the same for Year 3. Consider this your official announcement – THERE WILL BE A THIRD YEAR OF UNIFY in January 2017.
It will naturally be bigger and better than last year, with the key word here being “naturally” – we’ll grow it slightly, and we’ll improve and tweak the things we need to, but we won’t be trying to expand it beyond what it needs to be. This is an event based on people being comfortable and feeling safe and feeling rewarded for being part of a community. We want UNIFY to exist for 20, 30, 40 years and beyond, and we won’t be exposing this event to the kind of risk that could stop that happening. We have plenty of plans in the works, but we’ll only make announcements when we have 100% locked everything in and know what we are doing. We will continue to listen to your feedback and we’ll continue to improve every aspect of the experience until its absolutely perfect.
I’ve been asked probably a hundred times now whether we will try and replace Soundwave and fill that space. We all loved Soundwave and I personally attended at least two cities every year the festival was on – it was one of the highlights of my year. But thats not what this event is supposed to be. Obviously via our various business ventures in the heavy music space (UNFD, 24 Hundred, UNIFY) we have a wealth of experience, and we will be exploring how to use that to cater for heavy music festival fans all around the country. But for now, UNIFY will remain what it is – a professionally run community experience in country Victoria by the fans and for the fans.
I hope the spirit of this announcement is recognised as one of gracefulness and positivity. This was an experience none of us will ever forget, and its only the beginning of something beautiful.
I want to leave you with one more comment. The festivals that have shut down here aren’t an indication of the fans not showing support or complaining too much. The fans were always there, and they deserve to not be scrutinised for what they choose to attend. This has been an industry problem first and foremost.
– Luke Logemann, and Team UNIFY / THE HILLS ARE ALIVE / UNIFIED