PP010 | Steve Butcher | Chilfest | Music Festival Event Planning

    Chilfest plannerspod

    PP010 | Steve Butcher | Chilfest | Music Festival Event Planning

    ChilfestWhen Steve Butcher isn’t busy looking after Universal Event Production, delivering audio and visual hire to blue chip companies such as Nike, he is the promoter and event director for Chillfest. Chilfest  2015 will take place on Friday 10 and Saturday 11 July bringing two days of the very best sounds from the 1980s to the leafy rural setting of Tring in Hertfordshire. The story of Chilfest so far will give you a deep, no holds barred, insight into what it really takes to put on a festival of scale.

     In this episode you will discover:

    • What it takes to put a large scale music festival on.
    • Why a one off event has become an anticipated annual event.
    • What happens when things go badly wrong and how to fix them.

    Links for this episode:

    Universal Event Production


    Download the PDF Transcript

    For Audio Transcript click here

    Steve Butcher: You got to go with your dream, I suppose, at the end of the day. You’ve got to appreciate that it’s going to take up a hell of a lot of your time. It’s not going to earn you – or it’s not going to make you any money for a few years. There’s a lot of luck involved, in all honesty, but the biggest thing is make sure you’ve got the right team around you. Narrator: Toby and James are involved in amazing events all over the world. You’re listening to the Planner’s Planner Podcast, where top event professionals share real world experiences and cutting-edge ideas. Sponsored by metropolisproductions.co.uk. Toby Goodman: Hello, and welcome to The Planner’s Planner Podcast. I’m Toby Goodman, as ever here with James Eager. How are you today James? James Eager: I’m very good, young man. How are you? Toby: I’m very well. Today James talked with Steve Butcher from Universal Event Production, or UEP, who provide event production and tech, such as staging, set, video, and lighting – the list goes on. They have some pretty major clients, and you’ll find out who they are. On this podcast, James, tell us what people are going to discover by listening to this interview. James: Yeah, Steve shares the secrets of how to put a major music festival on, up to 7,000 ticket holds and 350 in the workforce on the show days. I’ve seen this festival for the past couple of years. It’s technically stunning, some of the best lighting and video you’ll see in the business, absolutely A-list acts. I saw Bob Geldof and the Boomtown Rats there last year, which was amazing, and as Steve talks about, he has fans traveling from all corners of the globe to see it. I was really thrilled to have such a frank and honest interview with him about putting this event on. Toby: Yeah, agree completely with that. The honesty and openness in this interview is fantastic, really worth listening to, loads of valuable content for anyone who wants to put on an event of scale like this. Before we get to the interview itself, two things: we’d like to thank you for all your amazing feedback on the podcast, so please keep it coming, it shapes how the future podcasts are delivered to you, and we’d love it if you could pop onto iTunes and leave us a review as well, that would really help us. We’re close to re-launching the Metropolis brand as well by rolling the three things we do onto one site, so if you didn’t know, just to be clear, it’s live music, event planning, and of course, podcasts and new media. So, if you’re ready to take your event business to the next level, we’d love to hear from you. That’s it! So, here’s James’ interview with Steve Butcher, and we’ll see you, as ever, at the end for the debrief. See you at the end, James. James: See you on the other side, mate. Toby: Bye. Narrator: The Planner’s Planner Podcast is sponsored by MetropolisProductions.co.uk and Metropolis-live.com. James: Steve, welcome to the Planner’s Planner Podcast. How are you doing? Steve: I’m well, thank you, thanks for having me. James: Absolute pleasure. Um, couple of years ago you were running a production company, or still are running a production company called Universal Event Production. You got a few pretty mega clients, like Nike and Xbox. Steve: That’s correct. James: Then it all changed. What happened? Steve: Um, well…I wouldn’t say it’s changed, I mean obviously the production company’s still there, and as a company we’re busier than ever, but we were coming up to our 15th anniversary and I wanted to do something a bit different. And, with my sort of age, in my, oh, I suppose in my late forties now, decided to put on a – I suppose, reallym, an ‘80s festival, and Chilfest was born over a few drunken drinks with some friends of mine. James: so, most people would’ve chosen to put a few bands on in a pub garden. How come you chose to book major artists and a huge field and 8,000 people to come and see it. Steve: I suppose one of the biggest reasons is because of the nature of what we sort of physically do for a living with the resources that I have with both other companies and sort of personnel. We know what we’re capable of doing, and it would be very easy to just to sort of start very, very small and sort of build it over a number of years, but I suppose it’s almost a way of our company showing off our talents of what we can actually, and what we are very capable of doing. James: So, can you give me an overview of what UEP actually does do? Steve: So, we’re a live technical production supplier, so anything within sound, stage, set, and lighting, that’s what we do. We can supply a plasma screen for a client, or a huge production. James: Okay, can you give me an example of the sort of work you do for Nike? Steve: Nike, we’ve had a relationship via a couple of very good agencies. We’ve had a relationship with them for probably eight or nine years no, and we’ve done everything from small managers’ meetings to full blown events. We’ve done a lot of events with Nike, when they’ve got teams that are in the champions’ league finals they’ll put on big showcase events, sort of outside of Wembley Stadium, et cetera, and again, we look after all the tech production from that. James: So, have you had much of a background with music then, before now? Steve: Because of the range of blue chip clients that we’ve got, Nike and Xbox were actually a very good example, like all big blue chip brands, they look upon music as being very cool. And because of the size of the companies, they’re able to bring in some sort of big acts, and so as part of a games launch, we might have, for example, Chasing Status, et cetera, et cetera. So, we have that experience behind us anyway, that we’ve worked in Europe and all over really, with some sort of big, big names. James: So, can you tell me a little bit about some of the names that you book for Chilfest, then? Steve: Well, we’re into year three, now. I think up until last year we booked 31 acts, ranging – and a really odd range – ranging from Boomtown Rats, through to Little Mix, so that’s quite diverse, I suppose. I found it important – I’ve got a fourteen year old son – and as much as I wanted to do the whole ‘80s thing, I found that at the time it was important to try and put something on for the kids. So, in year one and year two, it was important that at least one of the nights or days was more child friendly, I suppose is the best way to describe it. And yeah, we’ve had the likes of Little Mix, Union J, Heather Small from M People, et cetera. James: So, can you describe to me a little big about the process of booking those guys? Steve: We sit in the office – and this is all discussed over a period of six or seven weeks – we put together a list of acts that we, to start with, are interested in. We then have to put on our professional hats and look at an act and sort of, as bizarre as it sounds, we can look at an act and go, “Well, we think that act is good for two to three thousand tickets, that act’s good for fifteen hundred to two thousand tickets, or there’s an act here that’ll be good for five thousand tickets.” So, you can’t … The whole process can’t be too personal. It’s got to be done on a very, very commercial way, it has. James: So, do you think that every ticket sold is coming to see a specific act? Steve: Very much so! When you look at where we’re getting ticket sales from, and it really is all over the UK, and in some instances we’ve been lucky enough, we’ve had people fly in from Brazil to see… to see Howard Jones, or Tony Hadley from Spandau Ballet. So, say a Boomtown Rats fan will go on the Boomtown Rats’ website or Facebook page, look through where they’re touring, in that year, and go, “Oh, hold on a minute, Tring’s only two hours from my doorstep. That’s fantastic! I’m going to go to Tring!” And that’s where a lot of it comes from. You’ll also get your very local people that just like the idea of going to a festival where you’ve got sort of five, six, seven, eight acts on. So, it works sort of two ways, really. You get your local people, and then you get your people that are specifically come for one, maybe two, acts. James: So, when you’ve decided that an act is right for Chilfest, what happens then? Steve: Well, you then get into the negotiation process, because obviously it’s all about money, it’s about money and availability, so you have a budget – I set myself a budget for each night for entertainment. So, the next process is to find out how much these acts cost, um, and then from there you then check their availability. There’s always a little bit of haggling and so forth, which is always fun, and that was more difficult to do in year one, because we were a year one, so the price was the price. We’ve not got quite a good cast log behind us, so we can negotiate much better with managers, agents, et cetera, et cetera. And that’s where the process sort of starts, really. And then you spend your budget, and I mean, typically we’re looking between sixty and seventy thousand a night on entertainment. That’s literally just for the acts. And then it’s done. And then you keep your fingers crossed that you’ve made all the right decisions, and then it’s down to the public to decide, and the public decide by spending money on a ticket. James: Yeah, I’ve noticed that you tend to sort of group your acts together, like, I think last year, or the year before, you did all pop acts for the kids on the Friday night, and then ‘80s acts for the next night. Is that a conscious decision? Steve: Yeah, to a degree. It’s quite interesting. We’ve learned quite a lot over the last couple of years. With the style of acts that we’re looking at, in the main we know it’s women that buy tickets, and they will drag along their husband and their kids and so forth. Husband goes along for a few beers. Woman wants to go along, or Mum wants to go to dance around her handbag with her friends, and interesting, what we found, the more pop-y the acts are, the more tickets we tend to sell. If you look at the likes of Boomtown Rats and sort of those sort of acts, they’re huge in one respect, but they’re also…on the other side of it, they’re a little bit niche. And Mum might look at that and think, “Oh, I’m not sure about that.” Whereupon they’ll look at somebody like Jason Donovan, or Billy Ocean, or someone like that, “Oh, Billy Ocean, he’s amazing!” The tickets, in that respect, sell much quicker. James: Right, that’s absolutely fascinating. So, the bands agreed, you’ve all signed it off. What is the process from that point onwards? Steve: From therein, if we’re still talking about the acts, obviously the next thing in is we get the riders in, and that’s basically – there are two riders. You’ve got your technical rider, and then you’ve got your… I suppose, the entertainment rider, really, which dictates what they want in their dressing rooms, what food they want, what drink they want, et cetera, et cetera. So you get two very specific riders. James: So, do you have to set them up in an area backstage where it’s… Steve: Very much so. So, they’ll have their own dressing room, because obviously they’ll arrive, in six cases out of ten they’ll do a rehearsal, then they’ll go back to their changing room, they’ll then get ready to come on. They then go to our green room where we’ll have maybe competition winners that have won the chance to sort of meet and greet and have photographs taken with whoever it might be. Then there’ll be some interviews lined up with press, and so forth, and then they go on stage. And again, with the genre that we’re looking at in the main, especially with the ‘80s, a lot of them tend to hang around, because they know most of the other acts. They’ve known them for twenty, thirty, forty years. And so they do tend to hang around and listen to them on stage. You will, nine times out of ten, at Chilfest, you will always see Tony Hadley on the side of the stage watching Rick Astley, or Hazel O’Connor watching Howard Jones. And its’ brilliant, we love that! And these acts tend to bring along their kids as well, so yeah, it’s brilliant. It’s just a really good atmosphere. James: Is the meet and greet part of their contract, or is that something… Steve. Yeah, we agree… again, we agree at the contract stage that we can do sort of ten to twelve meet and greets, and as I said, that tends to be competition winners and so forth. James: Okay. So, going actually onto the gig itself – the festival itself – you’ve already, I guess, alluded to the fact that there’s a massive machine working backstage to look after the acts when they get there. What are the major, I guess, departments, to anybody who wanted to put on their own festival that they – or the considerations that they would need to make? Steve: Well, it starts very, very early on, because the one thing you need to have is a premises license. So, you have to go through with all the various… You have to go through the licensing with your local Council. So you approach your local Council, they’ll put you in contact with the licensing officer, you’ll be sent a load of forms that you’ll need to fill out. Those forms really then go around all departments, and that includes environmental health, the police, the fire brigade, the ambulance service, and the list goes on. You’ll then be invited by the Council for you, or you and your team, to attend what we call a SAGS meeting, which is a Safety Action Group meeting. At that point, it’s still early days. You’re… They’re trying to deem information from you, and you’re deeming information from them, i.e. what’s important to them when the event actually takes place. And there’s just lots and lots of red tape and guidelines that you have to stick to. James: And then is it at this point they decide whether they’re going to grant you the license? Steve: To a degree. You’re… You put in your formal license. You have to put an advert in the paper. So people that live in the local area have got thirty days to object, if they so feel. They can’t just object for the sake of objecting, they have to have a specific reason why they don’t want the event to take place. We also have to – around the site, within probably a hundred, two hundred yards of the site, we put up a load of signage to say that the event is under review with the Council, et cetera, et cetera. That lasts for four weeks, and at the end of that four weeks you get a phone call from the Council to say that you’ve either got a license or you haven’t. Obviously we’ve been very fortunate. We’re into year three, and we’ve got our license for this year. There will always be lots of stipulations made by the police, the environment health, which we have to agree to. James: Can you give me an example of a couple of those stipulations? Steve: Yeah, I mean, highways is a good one. Basically the biggest concern of any large event is how people leave the venue. You tend to find that people arrive at a large event within a three to four hour window. But everybody wants to leave in fifteen minutes, and that’s always the biggest crux. At the end of the night, the event finishes and everybody wants to leave at the same time. And obviously we’ve got car parks there, so you have lots of people in cars leaving the venue, and you have lots of people on foot leaving the venue, and those two can’t meet…because metal and human beings don’t mix. And so, it’s how we work, like, do we delay the car park by fifteen minutes? Do we put in a full road closure? Et cetera, et cetera. So we allow the flow of people leave the venue before we start worrying about traffic. Or, do we just move the traffic in totally the opposite direction of the general public? So, there’s loads and loads and loads and loads of things that you have to sort of things – and not necessarily think about, well, not just think about, but actually have action and plans in place. We have to have plans in place for absolutely everything. James: Right, that’s brilliant. So, you’ve been through all the red tape, and the show’s been given the green light by the Council. You sold tickets, which I mean, I guess we could do a whole podcast on itself. Steve: We could. James: But you get to the week of the show, you’ve done all your planning, you’ve got all your artists’’ riders in. What starts happening? Steve: First thing to go in is the staging. Well, in fact, actually, just before that, we tend to – we take over the site from Monday morning. So on Monday morning a small team of us arrive on site, and we basically mark out the site – mark exactly where the stage is going, where the temporary roadway going, the emergency services have got access to anywhere on site, at any point during the weekend. So that’s sort of day one. Day two, the staging rocks up. Obviously that’s the most important that. So, that rocks up on Tuesday morning, and probably by Wednesday lunch time, the tech build commences. So all the lighting, main distribution, goes in from Wednesday, lunch time. Thursday morning sound goes in, around about Thursday lunch time, we then go to all of our… food concessions start to arrive, and they’ll pitch up, and so forth. So, in all honestly, by 9, 10pm on Thursday, we’re pretty much close to being show ready. James: For food concession, I assume you mean – Steve: Hotdogs, hamburgers, Chinese… We’ve got a very good reputation for a very, very good, eclectic mix of food at Chilfest, because it’s not just about burgers and hotdogs, ‘cause that is, funny enough, is the first thing that rolls off the tongue, but we’re lucky, we have Chinese, curries, you name it. James: Brilliant. And where do they come from. A sub-contractor? Steve: Again, on that side, people are invited, or companies are invited to be at Chilfest. They are – again, they have to fill out some forms, this, that and everything else. Again, that’s a length process, because we have to send all of their food safety certificates and everything off for approval from the Council. James: Right. So, can you give me an overview of the main figures, I guess, department heads if – we’re working in a theatre – um, who are working on festivals like this? Steve: What, in physical, the amount of people? James: Oh, yeah, well, the main figures. So, there’s obviously you. What would you be, the promoter? Steve: Yeah, I suppose I wear two hats. I’m sort of physically the promoter, but then I’m the event director as well. It’s quite nice, because it’s the only job that my team do in a year that we don’t have a client. We’re the client. It’s very much a… I’ve always looked upon it as, “This event belongs to all of my crew, all of my full-time staff, and all of my freelancers.” So, yeah, there’s me at the top. I then have a deputy. My deputy tends to have the main liaison with the police, my health and safety guys, et cetera, et cetera, because we have to have a full-time team in place over the weekend, especially when the event’s live, so we have a police officer on site at all times. And so we have a team of guys that are constantly monitoring the festival, all the people, you know, et cetera, et cetera. But, more on the tech-y side, obviously… there’s obviously me, there’s a deputy, then you’ve got head of health and safety, you’ve got head of security, and then under that your probably next person in command is stage manager, and then from stage manager you’ve got lighting designer, and then you’ve got all your sound boys, you got your other lighting boys, you’ve got your mains guys, and then you’ve got your subcontractors, the guys that bring in all the fencing, security barriers, toilets, et cetera, et cetera. I mean, within a three-to-four-day period, we’re building a small village, I suppose is the best way to describe it. James: So, how many people, if you know the figure to this, do you think you’re employing to produce this festival? Steve: Roughly, on, say, an event day, with all the security, you’re probably looking at a team of about 300 to 350 people. James: Wow. That’s a serious amount of people. And, on the actual event itself, what do you do? Steve: I tend to run around like blue-arsed fly. I always say, and my stage manager – who’s a very good friend of mine – always says, “Right, now you’re there to enjoy it.” But, I find that very difficult, because I’ve always been a hands on sort of person. I have to attend meetings probably every hour and a half with the police. We have these catch-up meetings right the way through the event. James: What sort of subjects do they touch on? Steve: Anything – they’re looking at crowds, they’re looking, um, whether there’s been any, or much traffic associated with Chilfest, checking there’s been sort of no accidents on site, so they’re always liaising with our first aid teams and sort of everything else. They’ll then sort of start talking about how people are going to leave the venue, et cetera, et cetera. I mean, to a degree, that is to say, these things happen every hour and a half, last year the one act out of all the acts that I wanted to book, was, as I said, I said earlier it’s not a personal thing, but actually last year – I’m a huge fan of Heaven 17 – and I was really looking forward to seeing Heaven 17’s set, and literally as they went on a meeting got called and I had to go to this meeting. I watched Heaven 17 about two months later on one of our edited videos, and they were amazing. And I bloody missed them, which was a real shame. James: Well, you certainly did. So, obviously, you spend six months of your life putting this together. Steve: Well, actually, it’s more than that. I was thinking about it the other day. I mean, in all honesty, it’s quite scary really when I think about it, it’s probably closer to ten months. To put it in to context: Chilfest finishes July, go on holiday in August, and then back for I’ve been very busy September. But by mid-September we’re having to already think about all the acts that we’re going to have on for the following year. So, pretty much, by the end of September, we’ve already signed some contracts with acts, so that by, probably, the beginning of November, those acts are then announced on our social media and the whole circus starts all over again. It’s quite incredible, really. James: So, ten months of work, and you’re, kind of, the main…the head of everything, you’re promoting it. Steve: For my sins, yeah. James: It’s quite a massive, sort of, emotional undertaking, I guess, isn’t it? Steve: It is, I suppose. There’s quite a lot of emotion tied up with Chilfest, because it’s a very, very personal thing for me, and I can’t describe, well, I really can’t, but it just feels a very, very personal…personal thing. James: So, can you describe – I feel, let’s start with the positive sides – can you describe some of the highs for you over the past three years? Steve: Lots of highs. Working with an amazing team. And it’s very easy to say, but I think the guys that know me, and know me well, I’m so proud of the people that either work for me or with me. They really are some of the best people in the industry. And – this is going back to what I said earlier in the conversation – it’s a real showcase for us. We’re all mates, we’ve all been working together – you know, some of the freelancers that work for me have probably been working for me for thirteen or fourteen years now, and we’re a real family. And that’s what Chilfest is about, to a degree. It’s a family event. What’s amazing, I’ve lived in Tring for fourteen years, and it’s amazing to be able to do something of this scale in a village that I love. Yeah, it’s just a very, very emotional, emotional thing, it really is. James: So, any other high points? Steve: I suppose the high points for me is a lot of the acts I’m booking now are the ones I grew up with as a teenager. So, you know, I was listening to, obviously, the likes of Howard Jones, Heaven 17, et cetera, on the radio, and now I’m sort of meeting and talking to them face to face, and booking them, and that’s a real buzz, to be honest. It’s a real buzz to sort of be involved in that side of it as well. James: Great. Have there been any parts of Chilfest which have been a little bit harder work for you? Steve: There’s been one part of Chilfest that’s been very hard. In year one… year one was an amazing weekend up until the Saturday evening, we had some – this has been quite well published – so, we had some huge issues with the bar, which unfortunately, reflects on me personally because of living in a village, I will get the blame. But obviously reflects on Chilfest, more so. We brought in a company, a company that we’d deemed to be a professional company. I’d actually been recommended to use them, so you bring in a professional company, as professionals, and at not one point over the weekend did I sort of think, “Oh, are we going to run out of beer? Will the bars work?” Well, because you bring in a professional to do a professional job and that’s the end of it. And, my God, were we let down on the Saturday night. They were undermanned, they just basically weren’t set up to serve 7,000 people. And on that Saturday, it was from memory, it was the hottest day of the year. Now, regardless of the heat, what do people want to do when they go to a festival? They want to drink. And we let people down badly, and I have to, as the event promoter, I have to take that on the chin. Which is obviously very, very upsetting, because we tried to do everything that we could on the day to appease people, et cetera, et cetera. But that’s probably the toughest side of Chilfest, and with that, you then see the bad side of social media. Social media can be an amazing – and is an amazing thing to be involved with – but it can be good, but my God, can it be bad. James: Yeah, I remember, I think I saw the night before out of it, and my jaw hit the floor how technically incredible it was. It was like it was a smaller version of any of the big festivals out there, and to that quality. And then I saw the social media stuff on, I believe, the Saturday or the Sunday, and I also know some of the guys who work for you very, very well, and so I heard the other story. And I remember tuning into social media the next day and seeing the other side of it, and knowing that there were subcontractors involved, and it couldn’t have been your fault. Yet, it got to the point where people were coming out with some pretty vicious stuff, which just wasn’t true. That must have been – after such a successful festival – it must be very tough. Steve: I think with all of the hard work that we all put into it, it affected all of us. I remember the Sunday that we were sort of de-rigging the job, it was… it should have been an amazing day. We should’ve all been patting each other on the back, and high fiving each other, because it was an amazing event. But with issues with the bar, it certainly put a huge rain cloud over our site, it really did. And I think the sad thing is as well, it shows the bad side of social media. It shows the likes of Facebook, et cetera, are faceless. Because a lot of the comments that were aimed at either me or Chilfest, as a company, came from individuals that wouldn’t say any of that to your face, or had no idea the story behind what actually happened. It’s very, very easy for people to point the finger, anybody can do that without knowing the facts. James: But you obviously kind of picked yourself up, dusted you down and thought, “Year two, we’re going to do it again.” Steve: Oh, you have to! Yeah, I think we then felt…we sort of felt we had something to prove. Although we knew we didn’t, we felt that we had something to prove, to make sure the bars were right, and so forth. And that’s really how year two developed, because the interesting thing was, Chilfest was only ever going to be a one off. It was never meant to sort of go past year one, but because of the issues with the bar, I really got the bit between my teeth, and said, “Right, next year will be perfect.” Which it was, because everybody that attended Chilfest last year… James: So, what did you do to make sure it was perfect? Steve: We spent a lot of time speaking to different bar companies, different suppliers, we were lucky that we brought Carlsberg on as a sponsor, et cetera, et cetera, and that gave me the confidence to move everything forward. James: So basically you dealt with that negative by just taking it to the next level. Steve: You always in life, you try and turn any negatives into positives. It’s the only thing you can do. James: And it sounds like you just came back stronger and stronger. Steve: Oh, we did, very much so, and last year was an amazing event. But it’s now, unfortunately, what is done on the flip side of it, you get bitten by this bug, and head to year three. And I know that we’re already, in our office, we’re already talking about potential acts for 2016. James: Wow. Steve: So, where does it end? I really don’t know. James: That’s incredible, I mean, going from what was supposed to be a one year, one off event, into something… Steve: It’s just, I think from my side – and again, I go back to the amazing team I have working with me, it is the one event in any kind of year, that we all look forward to working on. James: I can see that, totally. Now, there’s another side to Chilfest, which, I guess isn’t publicized so much, and that’s the philanthropic side of it, isn’t it? You do a lot of work for charity. Steve: I do a lot of work for charity, mate. James: Yeah, can you tell us a little bit about that one? Steve: Yeah, as I said, other than the drunken night out on deciding to do a festival, back in…it would’ve been 2011, I made the decision, as a company, we weren’t going to send out Christmas cards. It takes a long period of time, et cetera, et cetera. But I wanted to do something. So we decided to – literally – to send a check to a local company, and we chose Iain Rennie as our company’s chosen charity. James: Iain Rennie, for anybody who doesn’t know, are a fantastic hospice at home service based in, just outside London. Because we do have an international listener base. Steve: Of course, of course. James: Okay. Steve: Early in January, I received such an amazing letter from them, it was a very big thank you, et cetera, et cetera. But also it gave a lot of statistics on what they actually have to do to meet certain targets, and the amount of money that they actually do need to bring in every year for the amount of care that they’re actually providing. And me being me thought, “Well, there might be something more that we can do.” And so we then decided to be Iain Rennie on board as our chosen charity for Chilfest, and in two years, we’ve handed out I think 20,000 pounds. James: Wow. That’s quite… Steve: Which we’re very proud of, you know, it’s worked out, obviously, 10,000 pound a year. James: So…but it’s not a charity event. Steve: It’s not a charity event, and I don’t want it to be looked upon, or deemed upon, as a charity event. In all honesty, 99% of the people that will buy tickets wouldn’t buy tickets because we’re raising money for Iain Rennie. I would hope – I would like they’re buying tickets because they want to see Jason Donovan, the Boomtown Rats, Little Mix, or you know, et cetera. It’s an event in a small community, but Chilfest is much bigger than that, Chilfest could actually be picked up and put anywhere in the country and work as the way it works today. James: Yeah, I remember you saying that to me when we were chatting yesterday, preparing this podcast, that I found that really interesting and poignant that you did that. The watchers is local, I mean, it’s very much centred around the town of Tring, yet you have people traveling worldwide, don’t you? Steve: We do, we do. James: And you literally could pick it up, it is of that standard… Steve: It could never be deemed upon as an insular event because of the calibre of arts that we’re putting on. There are a certain amount of tickets to make it viable. And if we just sort of relied on two or three mile radius of Tring, it wouldn’t – financially, it wouldn’t work. Because in any village, town, city, you’re only going to get a percentage of people that want to go to a live music event. James: Yeah, so, let’s have a think about this year’s event. When is it, first of all? Steve: 10th and 11th of July, we’ve gone back to a two day event. On the Friday, we’ve gone for, I suppose the best way to describe it would be a disco funk night. Which we’re actually really excited about, because it’s a little bit different than we’ve done in the last two years. So, we’ve got the likes of Sister Sledge, Shalamar, Shakatak, Jocelyn Brown, and Odyssey performing, which I think it’s just going to be a really, really fun night. James: Well, I’m excited to see Shalamar, because ((Stelios)) (31:06), one of our guitarists, is also their musical director… Steve: Oh, fantastic! James: …so I know what they do very, very well. I think they’re ((apt to know)) (31:13) we’re making this podcast right now. Steve: They’re doing bits and pieces in the UK, funny enough, as we speak. James: Yeah, so, I’m looking forward to that. What about the Saturday night? Steve: Saturday night we’ve got Billy Ocean headlining, which we’re very, very excited about. In fact, got to be honest, it’s my wife’s idea. She called me into the kitchen last summer and said, “You must listen to this.” And Billy Ocean was live on the radio, I think it was radio tour event in Hyde Park. And I sort of dismissed Billy a year before, but when I heard him, and more importantly for me, I heard the audience reaction, because for me that’s what it’s all about, it was like, “we really need to book this man.” And we’re now very, very excited to say that we have Billy Ocean headlining Chilfest in Tring. James: That’s amazing. And who are the other acts on the Saturday? Steve: Got ABC, who are absolutely fantastic. We welcome back this year Bad Manners, which… Bad Manners went down an absolute storm at Chilfest last year, so we’ve invited them back again, which is a bit of a first, it’s the first time we’ve actually invited an act back for a second year running. So, very, very excited about that. A lot of people will also remember Limahl, so he’s going to be really big on the door. We’ve got Sonia, bless her, and there is one or two others. James: You got the Real Thing? Steve: We got the Real Thing. Which, funny enough, the Real Thing is the first act we actually booked. Again, I listened to them in my car a while ago, and I was absolutely blown away by them. What I was listening to was from another live event that they did, and they just sounded absolutely fantastic. And we got the Blow Monkeys, and again, the Blow Monkeys will go down very, very well. James: Brilliant, brilliant. Where can the festival be found? Steve: Chilfest.co.uk. We’ve also go our own Facebook page, Chilfest. And we’ve got a very big social network, social media following. James: And for our worldwide audience, where actually is Chilfest in the world? Steve: Tring in Hertfordshire, which is around about 30 miles from central London. Very easy to get to from Heathrow Airport. James: (laughs) Love it! So, just a couple more questions. Is there any dream act that you would love to put on at Chilfest? Steve: Dream acts…yeah there are, but they’re dead unfortunately. We’ve had this discussion already in our office. Queen would’ve been one. But, sort of alive…yeah, there’s a few. I’m not going to mention them, because they’re actually acts that we’re looking for possibly next year. James: Fantastic. Steve: So, there are a couple. So I’m going to play those cards quite close to my chest. James: I don’t blame you! It sounds like, yeah, with the round of negotiation you can get pretty much anything, can’t you? Steve: Yeah, we’re getting to be a very well established festival now. James: So, do you find that’s given you – now you’re entering year three – it’s given you a bit of clout in the festival… Steve: It gives us a lot more credibility. Because in year one, it’s like, “Who are you?” And by year three, it’s, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, we know Chilfest.” So, that’s good, and as I said, it does give us a lot of credibility moving forward. James: And is there anything technical that you would… any technical dreams that you want to do, or have you done…or has that happened? Steve: I don’t know, to a degree, yeah, because we went in, I suppose, in year one, all guns blazing, we made sure we had the big LED screens, and this, that, and the latest moving heads, and an amazing sound system and everything else. We’ve just sort of year on year will throw lots of new toys at Chilfest – that don’t necessarily get sort of noticed by the general public but they get noticed by us, and that’s what counts, I suppose. James: Okay. And do you have any advice for anybody who would perhaps want to get interested in festivals? Steve: Don’t do it. (laughs) You got to go with your dream, I suppose, in the end of the day. You’ve got to appreciate that it’s going to take up a hell of a lot of your time. It’s not going to make you any more for a few years. There’s a lot of luck involved, in all honesty, but the biggest thing is make sure you’ve got the right team around you. That’s the biggest, biggest thing that I could tell anyone. At the end of the day, the promoter, event director, has a duty of care to everybody that is at your festival. And if you don’t have the right team around you, you could end up in court, or even in prison, in all honesty. And that sounds a ridiculous statement. But provided you have the right team around you, that’s health and safety, security, et cetera, et cetera. You’ve got to be so well looked after, especially in this day and age. James: So, is there anything you wish you’d known when you started that you know now? Steve: Well, it’s been a really interesting road, because obviously, I come from a technical background, and the whole promoter side of it is brand new to me, so three years ago it was totally and utterly foreign. And so dealing with mangers and agents was all very new to me. And very exciting, very frustrating. In my industry, when a client phones up to talk about a project, you act on that very quickly. When you’re trying to deal with mangers and agents, sometimes it’s like pulling teeth. When you want an answer – I’m a typical bloke, I want answers straight away – but when sometimes you put forward offers for specific acts and so forth, it could take six to eight weeks of negotiation before you get anywhere, which can be very frustrating, because again, going back to what I was saying earlier, with the game I’m in, client goes, “I want X, Y, Z,” you cost the job, you go out and do the job, and that’s the end of it. James: Is that why you stagger doing the acts – launching the acts? Steve: Yeah, because I’ll be honest with you, we had one huge act in mind for this year, which would have been on the Friday. And after twelve and a half weeks of negotiation, it didn’t actually come to fruition. James: Right. Steve: And that’s why yes, we didn’t launch both days at the same time, because we were fairly certain that we had this one big act in the bag for the Friday. James: Right, okay. Steve: Yeah, so after twelve weeks of negotiation, it unfortunately didn’t happen. James: Such a shame. Steve: It was a real shame. James: But, I mean, you replaced him with some killer acts. Steve: I’m very, very pleased, you know. Probably, I would say, this is the year I’m probably proudest of as far as the acts are concerned. James: Brilliant. Well I think we’re just about there. Anything else you want to cover? Steve: No, I think we’ve covered most things. James: Brilliant. Well, I think I’m there. Steve Butcher, thanks very much from coming on the Planner’s Planner. Steve: My pleasure. Thanks for having me. James: Pleasure. Narrator: You’re listening to PlannersPod.com. James: So, Toby, that was my interview with Steve Butcher. Strangest thing happened during that interview at my house. The TV turned itself on, halfway through, completely by itself. So, apologies if you heard an edit point in there. But anyway, what do you think? Toby: Yeah, really great interview again, James, nice one. Three key points I’m going to pick out. Number one: now that Steve and his team have had the two years’ experience, they’re going into this third festival this summer really knowing how to execute a real high end festival and obviously being aware of the pitfalls, and the way it’s put together means it can be picked up and put anywhere, which is potentially really exciting if they decide to take the Chilfest brand somewhere else. Number two: how to tackle and ride out a catastrophic storm on social media, you know, when social media turns against you in the way it did with Steve, you know, the way he dealt with those problems so ethically. It’s so important, and you can’t really fail to respect anyone that just kind of says, “Yep, I had to take it on the chin, this is what I did about it, and I came back, and it didn’t happen again, and I learnt from it.” And that’s just so cool, you know, not to get involved in the sort of misinformed bitchiness that happens on social media. Big respect. And number three: planning – what this podcast is all about – a ten month process! It’s an amazing undertaking, isn’t it? And from the application process to the local authority, right, the very beginning, communication with police and emergency services, through to exactly what goes on once the team are on site five days before the event, amazing breakdown of that. So, I think just so valuable for anyone who’s thinking of doing it. And that’s it, I think, James. Where can people find out more about Chilfest? James: Yeah, they can check out Chilfest at Chilfest.co.uk, it’s worth saying that “Chilfest” only has one ‘L’, because it’s actually short for “Chilton Festival,” something I learnt from talking to Steve, too. But you can find out more about us and The Planner’s Planner Podcast at Facebook.com/metropolislive. Of course, Twitter, we’d love to speak to you on there, that’s twitter/metropolislive1, and of course, the podcasts are available on iTunes and Stitcher. All you have to do is search “The Planner’s Planner.” You can also find accompanying notes, media and links from this podcast, and of course, more about us, on www.plannerspod.com. So, I think we’re just about there. Anything else to add, Toby? Toby: That’s it, mate. See you next time. Got a good one coming up with an amazing chef. James: Brilliant, well, I’m looking forward to that. I’ll see you soon, mate. Toby: Alright, cheers, bye bye! Narrator: You’re listening to The Planner’s Planner Podcast, with Toby Goodman and James Eager. Visit PlannersPod.com.


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    Show Notes

    00:38 – Opening words with Toby & James
    02:30 – Find out what you can do to take your event business to the next level.
    02:58 – Find out who Steve Butcher is.
    03:35 – Discover why Steve decided to put on a festival and why it made sense to his company.
    04:30 – Find out what UEP does as a business.
    04:46 – Find out how UEP has maintained a relationship with Nike.
    05:20 – Discover how big blue chip brands feel about music.
    06:10 – Find out who and what informs the choice of acts that ‘Chilfest’ put on.
    07:08 – Discover the question behind the decision of booking acts.
    07:38 – How far someone is willing to travel to see their favorite music act and where sales come from.
    08:15 – Discover the 2 types of ticket holder.
    08:28 – Find out the 2 key things that determine booking a performing artist.
    09:25 – Find out what defines the order of acts and who buys the tickets!
    10:15 – Find out what genre is the best to guarantee ticket sales.
    10:47 – Find out more about technical and food riders. More on this here: PP002 Chris Turner and here: PP009 Steff Easom
    11:23 – Find out all the things that the performing artists get up to when they are not performing.
    12:50 – Find out the one thing you need to put on a festival.
    13:10 – Who you need to know.
    13:30 – Find out what a SAGS meeting and the importance of it.
    14:00 – Discover the process behind planning a festival.
    15:00 – Find out what major concerns police have about an event.
    16:30 – Discover what happens once the event team takes occupancy of the festival site.
    17:40 – The range of food available at Chilfest and why the reputation is good.
    18:00 – Find out what food vendors need to provide before they can trade.
    18:40 – Find out what Steve’s 2 hats are at Chilfest and how he views Chilfest’s ownership.
    19:00 – Discover the job roles and team size in the small village that is Chilfest.
    20:30 – Find out what Steve does when the show is up and running.
    21:25 – What the Police have to say during the festival.
    21:50 – Find out why Steve missed the highlight of last years festival.
    22:22 – Discover how long it takes to plan the festival.
    23:00 – Find out about the emotion behind Chilfest.
    23:33 – Find out the highs of working on Chilfest.
    24:58 – Discover what went wrong in year 1 of Chilfest.
    25:25 – How Steve tried to appease a very disappointed client base when a supplier let him down.
    26:39 – What happens when social media turns on you.
    27:33 – Find out how Steve dealt with the faceless and spiteful social media storm.
    28:50 – Find out why Chilfest wasn’t a one off.
    29:13 – Find out how Steve made sure the mistake in year one would never happen again.
    30:20 – Discover Steve’s unique and very cool approach to charity.
    31:50 – Find out how much Chilfest has generated for charity even though it’s not a charity event.
    33:00 – Find out who’s performing at Chilfest in summer 2015.
    36:00 – Find out where you can find Chilfest online and the location!
    36:40 – Steve reveals some of his dream acts… but not all!
    37:00 – The advantages of having credibility.
    38:30 – Steve discusses ‘duty of care’ and why the right team is so important.
    41:05 – Closing words with Toby and James.

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