For most people a music festival is a chance to let their hair down, dance to the hottest bands and relax with their friends. Behind the scenes, though, is an army of people working hard to make sure the festival appears effortless.
Canberra-based Kicks Entertainment has been responsible for some of the biggest music festivals and concerts in the capital in recent years and a regular presence at Academy cemented Kicks as a company that could attract big name acts to Canberra.
The likes of David Guetta, Timomatic, Flo Rida and Tiesto have all been lured to a Kicks event, either at Academy, Foreshore or Warehouse Winter Music Festival.
But it was the success of the first Foreshore festival in 2007 that took Kicks to the next level. The festival now attracts almost 20,000 people and last year brought in an economic benefit to Canberra of about $3.2 million.
Marketing and public relations manager Rubi Piekalns is part of the small core team responsible for organising the company’s festivals and major events, including the recent David Guetta concert.
At least nine months out from a major event, the team is intensively researching which bands and acts to invite to Canberra.
“A lot of it depends on the market and what’s out there and what’s coming up, and making sure you know what’s going to be happening six months ahead, because you can’t book an artist one month ahead,” Rubi said.
Events secretary Ellen Way helps coordinate the setup of the site, a job she said involves a million little bits and pieces. On event day, she is stationed with the communications team.
“There’s all these different sections running – there’s the stages, there’s the artist management, there’s front of house – and things happen really quickly onsite,” she said.
“I need to make sure that I’m across, minute-to-minute, what’s going on onsite, any issues there may be, ensuring things are resolved, problem solving and then being able to provide Ryan with an update on how everything is going.”
Ellen said the best events are when people don’t realise all the hard work that has gone on behind the scenes.
“To everyone else it seems quite chilled and relaxed, and we just plug away,” she said. “People think that working at events is just swanning around with a glass of champagne watching music.”
Artist host Ashleigh Colbert works directly with the artists and her role is to collect them from the airport, drive them to the event, and make sure they have what they need.
“You make sure they get to sound check and the stage on time for their set,” Ashleigh said. “You just keep them happy and make sure they have a good time at the festival and enjoy themselves.”
Besides the chance to work with some of her favourite DJs, Ashleigh loves the atmosphere of Kicks events.
“Music festivals are probably my favourite thing in the whole world and I know how fun it is to go to one and just knowing that you’ve made someone’s day, or 20,000 people’s day, is amazing.”
Ashleigh and the other artist hosts will report to Rubi, who is also the artist liaison manager at Kicks major events.
“It’s my role to look after all the artists, all the crew, their welfare, their wellbeing and all the drivers as well. It’s a big job but I’ve got a fantastic support network,” she said.
“Having an unhappy artist can lead to the risk of having an artist not wanting to play on stage. We’ve never had that before because there’s always been a great team of artist liaisons and drivers who’ve been able to meet all the artists’ needs.”
She also is in charge of fulfilling their riders – a list of items, and sometimes demands, each artist needs.
“Some of the more interesting ones we’ve had were on this year’s list of things to get – blow-up animals, blow up pools and there’s always a few requests based on ambiance, so making sure they’ve got candles and no florescent lights and things like that,” she said. After years of working at concerts and festivals, Rubi makes the effort to stop for a moment and enjoy all her hard work.
“When I do get those windows of opportunity I’ll rush to whatever stage I can and I’ll just sit there and bask in the ambiance of some of the most amazing performances on stage. You’ve got the crowd out there swelling and singing along and you just get tingles and it’s like this is why I do this,” she said.