June 2010 Issue 130
“Promoting music is like gambling on horses... you need to constantly study the form!”
Date & place of birth:
October 7 1963; London, UK
Your first job after full-time education?
After studying at Durham University I went to New York and worked in the Hamptons, Long Island, as a DJ at a seaside club called Conscience Point where I played a mixed bag from early Cure to Salsa, Fela Kuti, electro, reggae and hip hop. Then I moved to Manhattan and worked for a small independent label called Cachalot. I was fascinated by Latin music and early hip hop as well as the pure disco of the Paradise Garage.
What led you to start organising festivals?
I had always loved dance music from all corners of the globe. When I could no longer work legally in the U.S. I returned to London and started promoting club nights and concerts, like London’s The Wag and Bar Rumba. I got into club PR for a small label called Nation Records then I went on to build my own live music venue in east London, Cargo. My vision for Cargo was to create a venue that mixed live and DJ action in equal measure, had a yard and a restaurant.
I got involved with The Big Chill through the Cantaloupe Group (co-owners of Cargo) because the owners were looking for partners at the time. From there I got involved with experiential marketing at music festivals, developed the bars, grew the label and threw some parties abroad. I also ran B Live for Bacardi.
What was the most challenging thing about being in promotion?
Promoting music is like gambling on horses... you need to constantly study the form! In the UK, a somewhat saturated market at the moment means you have to work very hard to be different. Rising costs and a very value-conscious audience make the margins very tight. In Europe, costs are still an issue, but the market is less clogged up.
What is the USP of the Stop Making Sense Festival?
Sea, sun, eclectic music that is credible but accessible, and Croatia is outside the Euro zone!
Are the Croats good to work with?
They are a brilliant bunch. They have a very positive ‘can do’ attitude about life in general. There is less competition in Croatia festival-wise, for now! As far as I can see, they are just as on it as the UK in terms of health & safety issues such as noise, crowd safety and drink driving, etc., which is a good thing, but they are less heavy-handed on the policing front.
Do you work on any other projects?
Yes, I am running an all-night stage at Glastonbury 2010 in the Shangri-La area with a line up of new French acts. I also manage three artists: Fran and Josh, Longjon La Flecha and Joana and the Wolf.
What lessons are you learning from the first year of Stop Making Sense?
I am constantly learning! But doing your research and involving local promoters is important.
The Icelandic volcano and its effects on flying to and from the UK are causing me some worry! It has made me even more conscious about promoting locally and to territories within driving distance of Croatia (Germany, Italy, Slovakia, Austria, Hungary).
And what are the most important factors when looking for suppliers?
Apart from the obvious (value for money and their track record), I try to work with people that I like and get on with. It’s important to have good relationships with the people you work with.
Do you work with any suppliers regularly?
I always use De Sylva PR for press, marketing and design, and I also use Jo Rowe Design, Urban Essentials, Don’t Panic, Kessel Runners and Robrook Print.
What occupies your free time?
I do a lot of marathon training and ran the Brighton marathon in under four hours. I also play tennis, surf and kick back with my kids, who are aged eight and 16.
Your desert island record?
‘This Must Be The Place’ by Talking Heads (from the Stop Making Sense film soundtrack).
What was the last gig you attended?
I saw one of the bands I manage, Joana and the Wolf, play at The Barfly in London. Their music is art-punk-disco.
What would be your advice to a teenage Chris Greenwood?
Keep your head down! And don’t burn bridges, which is something I keep telling myself as it happens!