Melvin Benn - A Republic For Festivals
21. Sept. 2017 @ Schmidt Theater (Saal)
Speaker: Melvin Benn (Managing Director, Festival Republic, United Kingdom)
Moderator: Greg Parmley (Managing Director, ILMC - IQ Magazine, United Kingdom)
Go to the programme here.
Festival Republic Managing Director Melvin Benn told the audience at Reeperbahn that he started his career as a promoter when there were just two festivals in the UK: Glastonbury and Reading. The latter had gone bankrupt and Benn and his former business partner Vince Power decided to help revive it. It was a fruitful partnership, which, alongside a revitalised Reading, saw the launch of a number of new events including Tribal Gathering, Homelands, Phoenix and Creamfields. “There was never a day that went by when we didn’t think about creating another one. It was fantastic,” Benn recalled. After a 20 year partnership, the duo split and Live Nation bought a 51% stake in what’s now known as Festival Republic. The amount of competition has risen considerably since Benn’s early days, and there are now 600 festivals in the UK, with around 25 of those owned by his company. Has the saturation made his job harder?
“We have to compete for every act, media space and festival grass that exists,” Benn answered. “The assumption is that it’s easier for us because we’ve got bigger and more events but it’s not. The only people in control are the artists, and that’s the way it should be. You come to see the bands that are on stage and we are just the conduit for that.”
When it comes to launching new events, Benn makes decisions based on gut feeling, and says the last 13 years of working with Live Nation and Denis Desmond - who is head of the firm that owns the other 49% of Festival Republic, MCD, have been the best of his professional career.
“You’ve got to be cavalier bordering on stupid to be a festival promoter, there is no business sense in a festival until it’s working. The risks are stupidly high,” he said. “But when you’ve got a solid festival it brings great enjoyment to yourself, punters, bands and at that point it’s making money as well. But it can take time to do that, and if you have one bad year it all starts falling apart.
“Between Denis and myself, we have a gut feeling about whether something will or won’t work. We ask, Do we want to be involved, is it good, let’s have a go. It’s that simple. You come to regret it on some shows but you can’t win every race.” In terms of what’s to come, Benn is working on a few ideas that could involve launching a new festival in the UK, Ireland and another part of mainland Europe.