We recently had the pleasure of asking Jay from Breaking Bands Festival a few questions to get a better understanding of what happens behind the scenes of running a festival of that magnitude. Check out the interview below to find out how the venue was decided upon, what makes an applicant band stand out and more…
Musicology: What are your main struggles running the festival?
Jay: Logistics of running 3 stages with a small dedicated team can have its struggles. Communication is key as we have only 1 band playing at any 1 time so any over-runs can knock the whole day off schedule. The planning is done to military precision to hopefully stop that from happening. Obviously finance can be a key struggle for any festival. We are lucky as we came into this eyes wide open knowing we needed a big budget for year one so we saved up for the first years event. That means ticket money for each year is the finance for the next year rather than banking on ticket sales to plan a budget.
M: What is your dream booking for a headliner?
J: We have pushed for 3 years in a row and even asked one particular band more than 12 months in advance if they will headline but due to agents, management and the band waiting on big festival slots to confirm we have missed them each year. We don’t really have aims of big names as that is not what Breaking Bands Festival is about. We do have a list of special guests and one which we have already asked to come for in 2018. If that is confirmed then that is my dream booking completed! Sorry… no spoilers!
M: What festivals inspired you to create your own?
J: Our team have been attending and working festivals for over 20 years. From working at Monsters of Rock to being roadie with Guns n Roses during the Use Your Illusion tour we have managed to see the good, the bad and the ugly along the way. Download and Sonisphere are the bigger festivals that stick out. We looked at what we’d enjoy more out of those to make BBFest but also we were inspired by the likes of SOS Fest, Hard Rock Hell and the one that made us go for it… Beermageddon!
M: What made you decide on Bromsgrove as the venue?
J: As mentioned previously, Beermageddon. We went in 2014 when we were still in planning stages for BBFest. We had everything sorted including Breed 77 as special guests but no venue to hold the festival. We were close to running out of options but then we saw what we had been searching for at Stoke Prior. I approached Jim Beerman and told him of our plans and firstly asked if he’d mind us putting our festival on at the same location. Jim was more than pleased as we could work together on individual events at the same venue to draw people in and cross promote.
M: How does a band get on the bill?
J: There are 2 ways to get on the bill… 1: apply via the website. Applications usually open in June but only for 2 months. We get inundated so we close the applications strictly after this time. Sometimes we will re-open the applications again for 4 weeks in August. 2: bands should come to the festival as punters and support other bands. We choose around 20% of our line-up based on bands attending in previous years and showing that they want to be part of the festival. There is no guarantee (as the music might not fit the festival) but we look at those who have attended before we open applications. As the festival grows more bands will get the opportunity to play (2016 we had 33 and 2017 we have 47).
M: What makes you choose specific artists in particular?
J: We look at several things when choosing bands. Have any of the team seen them live in the last year? Are they busy gigging and touring? Are they interacting with their fans on social media? There are other things we look at but we keep some parts of our choices close to our chests. As long as its rock, punk or metal and from either unsigned or independent bands/artists then they peak our interest.
M: How would you say your personal music taste has influenced bands booked at the festival?
J: Personal music tastes were definitely a big part of the first festival. The team is made up of 4 directors and we all have a varied taste of music ranging from good old AC/DC style rock n roll to the goth and alternative styles of the 80’s as well as the punk and extreme metal. After the first year though we took on board a lot of views from the rest of the staff as well as the general public. They wanted more punk, we brought more punk. They wanted more gothic so we have brought that in too. A lot of people say that small festivals are put on by organisers putting their own favourite band list together but you cannot do that otherwise it could be too samey. A festival needs variety otherwise those who are more interested in the metal may not get much or those who are more into their rock n roll will be bored from too many similar bands.
M: What is usually your favourite part of the event itself? What is your favourite part of the preparation?
J: It goes without saying that announcing the bands and seeing the public reaction has to be something the team enjoys. Knowing that people are as excited about seeing small bands on a big stage just as much as we are. The sold out sign going up is also fantastic. First 2 years this has happened so we are hoping for 3 out of 3 in the new year. Finally, the build. Getting to the site 2-3 days earlier and seeing an empty field and knowing that its going to be packed full of people from all over the UK coming to have a party with you for 3 days. Getting stuck in and building from zero to a full event gives us such a buzz. And of course, seeing everyone’s smiling faces as they arrive and those same faces smiling 3 days later as they leave.
M: What makes your festival unique in the modern market?
J: We feel our experience and attitude in what we want to achieve is what makes Breaking Bands Festival unique. Having just 4 people who make most of the decisions means we can chat every single day of the year (and we do, sometimes for many hours) coming up with thoughts and ideas having seen things work/not work at another event. Listening to and genuinely taking on board the view of the ticket holders. They give us feedback the week after the festival and we ask them to be open and honest about every part of the festival. We have made many changes already in just 2 years based on what the public have said.
M: What is something festival-goers can do to make running the festival a better experience for you?
J: Having a good time is all they need to do. Support the bands that they may have not heard of rather than just the ones they know. We always ask people to come in and try out one new band each day. Promoting the event via word of mouth to their friends and family to help us grow the festival and buying their tickets EARLY – the earlier the better!!!
M: What would you ask fans to keep in mind when considering festival line-up announcements?
J: We have to be practical. Its hard for us to get bands in from outside the UK to Bromsgrove. Even from Scotland, its a very long and expensive trip for bands and the same goes for Northern Ireland. It costs a lot of money for a band to travel over the water, whether from Ireland or Europe. Bands that are bigger than our festival are not going to play. We get asked for big name bands each year but we would rather share the bigger bands fee on smaller bands than one big band. Also, bands that are already playing festivals and events within a month either side may not be first in line for Breaking Bands Festival. We don’t want to penalise bands but if bands are already doing many festivals they doing well on their own. Our first priority is to get bands in that many people haven’t seen yet and give them that full arena to showcase their music to an audience they have not played to.
M: How did you go about getting your sponsors?
J: With 25 years in retail, Mucka has some great sales pitches that are hard for sponsors to turn down. Joking aside, having a well written pitch, a 10 year plan and building trust makes sponsors want to get on board. Showing you are financially stable, having a well documented website, high profile on social media and good feedback from the media sells the festival to sponsors so these things are key.
M: When booking bands, do you do it for the audience or book bands you’d love to see?
J: As mentioned in an earlier question, we did start out booking bands ‘we’ wanted to see but its not about us its about the bands and the audience so we have to fit a balance of who we think is right for the festival and who the fans really want to see.
M: What’s it like putting all that hard work into it and seeing it pay off when everything’s finished?
J: The feeling is amazing. From the moment the cars roll in Friday morning and all the crew are hung-over from our pre-festival party through to Monday afternoon when the field is empty and we sit down and have a brew with the team and finally say well done to each other. There is nothing better than seeing hundreds of people bouncing along to bands they have never seen and running up to you afterwards saying ‘that’s the best band I have ever seen’ then an hour later they say it again, and again.
Head over to Breaking Bands Festival webpage to check out the lineup for 2017!