In March 2016, Buloke Shire Council cancelled Maitreya Festivals permit application which was to be held at Wooroonook Lake in Charlton. More info
A decision that sent shockwaves throughout the industry and divided the Charlton community. Charlton residence and businesses had struggled through drought and floods in recent years and could have greatly benefited from the estimated $2.5m Maitreya would have injected into the economy.
Between 2014 - 2016, Melbourne-based tech entrepreneur, Joel de Ross had been researching festival failure drivers and methods to improve the permit application process. The research involved analysing the planning documentation and processes of several festivals, with some event plans consisting of 400 - 500 pages. Extensive analysis went into stakeholders relationships, supplier chain, operations, production, accounting, marketing and safety. External factors such as political, economic, social and technological trends were also studied.
The conclusion was that most event producers/crews had little to no formal event management qualifications or business, marketing, accounting or project management skills. These were developed through trial and error over many years.
However the biggest issues stemmed from a lack of cash flow. Every year the costs associated with organising events go up, profit margins shrink, red tape and bureaucracy gets harder to navigate and competition increases. There are few, if any, sources of revenue outside of ticket sales resulting in a severe lack of working capital. Securing financial sponsorships is very difficult and almost every event that was analysed was operating at a loss. Any profit made was used to pay off debt from previous events. This includes festivals like Big Day Out, Future Music and Soundwave which had accumulated a combined debt in excess of $40 m.
Without cash flow and excessive debt, promoters are unable to pay a professional to assist in ensuring the permit application process is done correctly, instead opting to do it themselves.
From this research, Joel developed Metavents. A festival planning solution focused on simplifying the permit application process and creating new revenue streams. It allows event producers to visually communicate their creative vision, risk, logistics and strategies to councils, emergency services, core team and other stakeholders through 3D visualisation, Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence.
“You could compare Metavents to SimCity, if the land were real world locations, objects were connected to real world suppliers and Jarvis from Ironman calculated the risk of every decision you made, such as moving a stage 10m to the left or right, and informed you of how the risk profile has changed.”Joel de Ross.
Recently, Esoteric, (the festival that replaced Maitreya), and Buloke Shire Council met with Joel, to discuss piloting Metavents in March.
Joel expects Metavents to cut months out of the planning process and potentially generate millions in revenue, even after an event is over. This is achieved through a “Pre-Event Simulation” and a “Post-Event Archive”
A Pre-Event Simulation is the festival scene that was used during the planning phase, repurposed as a promotional tool. Users will be able to explore the festival much like they would a video game such as Grand Theft Auto from their computer, or immersively with Virtual Reality. Users could acquire free and paid content exclusive to the simulation. This might be digital content such as unreleased music, art, videos and games or 360 content.
The Post-Event Archive acts like a time-capsule, preserving the content captured at the event. The archive would be more like an interactive 3D Wikipedia. A promoter will have the ability to monetize their archives in different ways and share revenue with artist who performed. With each Archive, a new revenue stream is added to a portfolio with the contents gaining value the older it gets.
For example, 2016 was to be Maitreya’s 10 year anniversary. Had Metavents and today's technology existed, 10 years ago, they would have 10 Archives generating continuous revenue. The larger the online reach the more potential revenue could be earned.
Only 10,000 people were permitted for the last event, but Maitreya has 44,000+ Facebook followers. Of their 80+ acts, the combined reach of only two, Ace Ventura and Captain Hook is 1.2m. If 10% of that fanbase made just one $5 purchase a year, the 2016 archive would generate about $600,000 per year. If we consider the total reach of the full line-up that figure might be closer to $1m.
Even a small event with just a few hundred people could attract similar numbers. An unknown artist might have their first ever gig preserved in an Archive. 5 years later they may become as popular as Justin Bieber who currently has 99m Twitter followers. An archive that may have had very little engagement for several years may suddenly start generating tens of millions thanks to obsessive fans that would sell a body part if it meant they could feel like they are within touching distance of their idol back before they were famous.
This would solve the biggest problems events have which is lack of cashflow and access to capital. It would also address the issues of continuously increasing ticket prices for punters and suppliers not being paid when festivals don't break even. There is no reason why we couldn't one day have a situation where festival archives are generating so much revenue that festivals such as Rainbow Serpent or Falls Festival are free to attend.
Joel believes strongly that the problems of the music industry could be fixed as a bi-product of solving the problems of the event industry.
Such a capability will have significant implications for tourism in regional economies. Because an Archive can reach a global audience through a digital channel, potential customers can be exposed to local products, service and tourist attractions. Buloke Shire Council will be the first regional council to trial Festival Archives as part of their economic development strategy.
On left, Mark Ludbrook on right, Joel de Ross from Metavents with James Goldsmith - Head of Economic Development at Buloke Shire Council