This time last weekend I was feeling euphoric. You don’t forget where you are or who you’re with when you feel euphoric. And the last time I felt this way, experiencing such an overwhelming sense of joy and emotion, was immediately after giving birth.
But I haven’t just had another child - that would be a miracle at my age…I was at Splendour In The Grass, Australia’s biggest and most successful music festival in Byron Bay, with 42,500 other music lovers. But Splendour isn’t just about the music, it’s a three-day festival of experiences across performance, food, retail, science, comedy, culture and ideas. To quote the web copy “…the bands, beers, punters, pollies, panelists and performers collide in spectacular fashion”.
There are happy, smiling people everywhere at Splendour which isn't a coincidence because according to a new psychology study by Australian researchers, experiencing live music can make us happier and healthier. People who actively engaged with music through dancing and attending events like Splendour in the Grass, reported a higher level of subjective well-being. And as if that wasn't enough live music regularly, it can play a significant role in boosting your well-being, thereby increasing life expectancy by almost a decade" says behavioural science expert Patrick Fagan* who scientifically measured the impact of several activities associated with happiness and well-being. Living longer thanks to attending music festivals, who knew?
Splendour turns 19 years old this year and last weekend was my second time experiencing (you simply don’t “attend Splendour”) this incredibly well organised, beautiful and expansive assault on the senses.
To say I am a fan is being conservative, I am a serious advocate of this joyous festival - impressed by its scale, how it’s run, its content curation, its creativity, its overt care of all who attend and I am especially in awe of the team of creatives whose guiding principles for success start with collaboration. They make it happen, and they make it better and better, year after year...
So as I reflected on how long Splendour has been running, it made me appreciate how much you have learned when you’re the parent of a 19 year old. You know your ‘baby’ exceptionally well, you have watched them morph and grow into their own being, and you recognise much of yourself as well as delight in their uniqueness and how they are different to you. Importantly, you have also gotten to know yourself better during the process of influencing, guiding and supporting their growth.
Splendour was founded by Paul Pittico and Jess Ducrue and I had the privilege to sit down with Jess last Friday, during a lunch Visa hosted for invited guests to Splendour. I asked her about why their festival not only works, but also how it keeps getting better and what its future holds. The following are my takeouts from my conversation with Jess and my time spent at Splendour In The Grass this year:
- Splendour is already a very successful and growing brand –each year it evolves and today it’s in its prime. According to Jess, they are only at 40% of what they want to achieve – Splendour’s full potential is yet to be realised which makes it an incredibly exciting proposition for not only the attendees and the artists, but also the activating brands lucky enough to be involved in the future.
- It’s not luck that Splendour is so loved by the target audience – there’s strict creative excellence benchmarks when it comes to how Splendour looks, feels and behaves. Jess told me "it is all about building credibility with the audience and connecting with them". She is the missile behind much of this creativity.
- Speaking of the target audience, this isn’t actually a demographic but an attitude. Yes, the majority of attendees may well be in their twenties (Gen Z), but this year I saw many parents with young children in tow and a growing fan base of ‘mature’ people who looked to be in their 40’s and 50s. Some were rockers and rockstars, but many were professionals and entrepreneurs. They come to Splendour in part because they love great music and also because of the clever content curation. Cultural conversations with Emma Alberici hosting Q&A, Dr Karl Kruszelnicki and Adam Spencer presenting workshops on science and academia, and an exclusive screening of Michael Hutchence’s new movie documentary “Mystify” followed by a conversation with INXS music video director Richard Lowenstein were just a few of the offerings this year.
- I expect Splendour to grow its mature audience numbers as more and more people learn about the true value of a festival that brings together great music, creativity, fashion, food and ideas in a stunning nature-filled location like Byron Bay Parklands. Glastonbury in the UK has an average festival attendee age of 39 years^ – people with money who want to experience contemporary performing arts. Jess made it clear, in Splendour she and Paul are creating a festival full of things they love – and just for the record, they aren’t in their 30s or early 40s, proving age is very much an attitude and not a number.
- A select set of brands work with the Splendour team who are very discerning about who they let in and activate at the festival. If you’re not creatively enhancing the overall experience of festival attendees (which means forget pushing product nobody wants!) then you won’t get a look in. Some of the brands who have been on the journey with the team for much of the 19 years are expected to up the ante year after year. For those brands just starting out at Splendour, the very least you need to do is bring your investment – what matters more is your brand’s values and behaviour in the eyes of the attendees, as well as your desire for collaboration and broad thinking.
- Above all, what stood out for me was the fact Splendour compels and engages a very diverse range of people who all come together as one tribe for three days. And they’re an optimistic, informed and connected tribe. This festival is doing something many brands wish they could. It is finding small, niche experiences for many individuals yet doing it on a large scale in one place. As Jess said to me, “ how they’re consuming information is at the heart of the festival experience and we have to lead them in the right direction. I see that as my responsibility”.
So back to the raising of that 19 year old: Jess and Paul, congratulations on being such fine parents because the Splendour I witnessed again this year is inspiring, responsible and making a very positive difference to others. The ultimate creative achievement.
*Online article published by The Independent, 27th March, 2018 ^Online article published by Somerset Live, 1st September, 2018