A music festival is a fine thing. I’ve been to ’em all, starting with smaller events like The Push in Albert Park featuring Spiderbait and Regurgitator (remember?!) before graduating to Rock Above the Falls circa 1997 where my long-suffering Dad sat through hours of Pennywise (torture) and Dave Graney and the Coral Snakes (less torturous) as my chaperone. What a bloke. This year I’m covering my favorite festival – The Queenscliff Music Festival
– and am pleased to feature QMF Festival Director Michael Carrucan as this week’s Business Ninja. Project managers – this one is for you!
1. How did the Queenscliff Music Festival develop into the popular event it is today?
Michael: When the QMF started it was a community-based initiative run by a small group of people. Organizationally it is still community-based, but it has grown. We now have 550 volunteers and 45-odd teams, peopled mostly from the Bellarine Peninsula or Geelong – people come from all over to help run the festival.
I’ve only been involved with the QMF for a few years – prior to QMF I worked on in a small festival in North America, in Colorado called the Telluride Blues Festival
2. What skills did you take from your previous roles and apply to your role in orchestrating the QMF?
Sensible business practice is the core skill I’ve taken from one organisation to the next. Festival events are selling in a very competitive environment, trying to put on a unique and memorable experience for people. It’s a tough market and there’s a lot of things out there for punters to choose from. Putting yourself in the shoes of the punter is an important skill to have – looking at the event from their perspective. From booking the bands through to servicing the punter, customer service has to be the focus. We’re lucky with the QMF as our location is a huge benefit – the festival can be enjoyed as a single day experience or a weekend away. Queenscliff is convenient to the city – you can catch a ferry from Sorrento and be home for dinner if you purchase a day ticket. There’s also low-cost camping available, offering a competitively priced festival experience to a bigger audience. There’s also accommodation at Beacon, BIG4 Bellarine (where Ruby Slipper is staying) and in towns nearby.
3. Who have been the most floor-filling, heart-thumpin’ acts to have graced the QMF stage in its history?
Everyone has a favorite, don’t they!? Highlights for me include having RockWiz live at QMF, the Triffids (reformed) and Kimbra just as her career began gaining huge momentum. Eskimo Joe, You Am I, Missy Higgins and Billy Thorpe also have to be on the hit list.
4. Does the festival have a theme each year? How do you go about selecting acts that will create an unmissable festival schedule?
We try to keep it current and contemporary each year. It’s favorable is a band is coming to the fore or particularly if they’re releasing a new single. A mix of old favorites and fresh talent is a happy balance – John Butler is coming to play QMF, and he hasn’t been here for a decade – so he’s a mix of both.
5. Do you think that entrepreneurs like yourself have one particular quality in common?
Whatever the cultural festival you’re orchestrating – Sculpture by the Sea, Melbourne Festival, Indigenous Arts Festival – you must have an ability to work with a variety of interest groups to get the festival ‘across the line’. At heart, being the Director of a cultural festival is project management – organising people in an efficient way.