Ahead of our first visit to Mieliepop we chatted to the founder of the festival, Coenraad Nel, to get some insight into what it takes to host a music festival, what they hope to achieve with Mieliepop and guerillas.
What was the first event you organised and thinking back, why did you decide to get into hosting an event as it’s not as glamorous as many people think?
I stepped into this game without even knowing what the word ‘gig’ meant. It was a long time ago. I got offered an opportunity to roll/unroll heavy (63A) power cables over a stadium turf for a Pavarotti concert. It paid a cool R50 per day. The big guy did a vocal warm up (with no PA system) and Montserrat Caballè tailed. Magic. I figured that the promoters and organisers had a nebulous job so I made it my mission to follow suit and actively pursued the live show business. I remember leaving the library after I proudly discovered and owned the meaning of ‘gig”. This new found, and profound confidence made me subsequently relocate to London where I studied live events. I co organised an “Indy” rock festival in Camden where major chart alternative bands like; Oasis, Blur and Suede… had to spontaneously appear in small pubs and clubs. It was a cool thing to consolidate at my age.
I loved the crazy buzz of organizing something or coming up with an idea out of thin air. Saying that, there is a huge misunderstanding with regards to what exactly a festival promoter does. They make or break an event yes, but ultimately it is not as glamorous as everyone believes it to be, as you have stated. You spend months nurturing an idea and it disappears over a period of three days.
What other events and ventures are you involved behind the scenes?
After fruitfully joining forces with sister festivals we decided to extend our experiences to stunning places where people can connect with the same like-minded crowd. Getting people out of the city into nature is king. Watch this space.
How is Mieliepop different from the other festivals? What is the primary vision or theme of Mieliepop?
I take advice and suggestions from my audience. My job is to give the festival a twist and festival goer’s unreal value for money. The vision for this festival is simply to keep it real in every way. Killer line ups, superb organising and a wicked setting is a winning combo.
With an exclusively local line-up can we say that you are targeting a niche audience?
If you are referring to people loving decent and original music as a ‘niche’, then yes. It took us five years to gain ultimate trust from our guests. We book our acts carefully and with purpose. Most you will obviously know and treasure. I love to stage the newcomers and give people that feeling you get after having viewed an amazing movie you never heard of. Experiencing the Mieliepop line-up live should simulate that ‘opening a Christmas present feeling’ when you were 5 years young.
Where do you stand on the recent social media outrage that saw people divided on the bringing of international acts to our shores?
Water off a rock stars back. We all have our live band bucket list. Support the guys who make it happen.
You have a great guerrilla marketing campaign running online in the lead up to Mieliepop. How important is social media in the event promotion and how did you market events before social media?
Our “gorilla” campaign works because it is fun and our very recently merged Mieliepop partner, Henk van der Schyf from Park Acoustics said it would. A huge big up to the two boys who dealt with the South African heat wave in furry suits. Before social media it was all about flyer brigades, posters… Social media has become an art form in terms of ultimate exposure. Best you leave it to the gurus who are on top of their social information game. And when you say “join”, mean it dammit. There are people out there busy compiling excel sheets for toilet paper usage as we speak.
It’s really difficult to host an event of such a scale without some kind of partnership with a brand. How do you manage the relationships and expectation in a sponsorship agreement and how do you choose a sponsor that fits the ideals of your festival?
…and my credit card pin code is 44356. You asked the trade question. Sneaky. Who would sponsor a yacht that doesn’t sail (yet)? You have to push your idea full on and make good choices for the future. All effective sponsorship deals and relationships work in one order: baby steps. Sponsors receive millions of new festival pitches and ideas yearly. What makes you stand out?
You’re currently building permanent toilets and showers at the Mieliepop venue to ensure the best festival experience for all. What are some of the other hidden logistics that go into hosting this festival which are not visible to the average consumer?
As per any high end establishment, one would expect proper facilities. It is the obvious thing to provide and invest in. Fitting the ablutions with juke boxes might sound a bit farfetched but so does moving 9000 tonnes of ground to create levelled tiers for our campers. We raised the lake outlet wall with 1,2 meters and implemented waterfalls on demand, usual stuff you know.
Is event management (especially within the music industry) the right career path for someone looking to get rich?
It depends on your particular mojo and how much effort you put into in. The same principle goes for someone who actively exports Jack Russel’s to Turkey on government consignment contracts. Yes, money is to be made. Experience and friendship is also on the cards. You can choose. The opulent and diverse people of SA will always be craving ‘out of the box’ entertainment. My wish is that people and generations to come see this as a very viable way to amalgamate people and also in return make some takings as it is a job at the end of the day. Can I retract that Jack Russel sentence?
We host our own Nothing Major events; what are your 3 major pieces of advice for us and anyone looking to get into event management?
- Great sense of humour. 2. Consistent passion. 3. Baby steps. Go for your niche and remember why you love it and want to publicize it. Make people dance! Give them goose bumps. Job done. And then do it all over again…
Personally, which of the artists on this year’s line-up are you looking forward to see live?
Really? That is an unfair question. Don’t get me started on a social media outrage. Refer back to question number, what was it? I have seen them all live. How about you tell me who you liked best after 20 March 2016? #fantasticlineupmieliepop
Check out the Mieliepop 2012 aftermovie and purchase tickets for 2016 below