Brett Robinson: Serious Biz with the Man

Image Future Entertainment

JUICE figured no one can expound on what exactly Future Music Festival is all about better than the man himself, Director of Future Entertainment, Brett Robinson. So we called him up and had a long tete-a-tete on the FMF experience vis-à-vis other festivals, what to expect of Future Music Festival Asia, and some history lessons on the festival’s rising status as one of Australia’s most widely-loved music fests…

You guys have been around since 2006, how did the decision to bring it to Asia come about after all those years?
The Australian festivals have grown significantly over that period of time, we’ve received a lot of great feedback from Asia and there’s been a lot of demand for it in all types of cities from Singapore to KL to Jakarta to others. We’re very keen on expanding or taking our entire lineup into Asia, for the last couple of years we’ve had aspirations of doing it, but it wasn’t until we met with our local partners and discussed it with them – the Livescape guys – that we put a plan together. Using local tourism, the Malaysia tourism board, and working on a support package to be able to allow us to take the lineup that we have into KL. It’s a very exciting time for us and a very exciting expansion for the festival.

What’s the FMF experience like compared to other festivals? How does the experience compare to other festivals?
I think in terms of locally, in Australia, the lineup is unrivalled, the unique locations of the festival, as it’s farther out than a lot of the other venues, and genuinely I think we put a lot of heart and soul and a lot of thought into thinking about our clients and trying to deliver the best possible product for them.

Can we expect the same experience in KL?
Of course! We’ve done a hell of a lot of research into what the Malaysian people are looking for and in fact what the whole of South East Asia’s looking for in terms of a festival and we see great opportunity in being able to provide probably what will end up being the biggest and the best festival in the region. I know there are a number of other successful festivals in South East Asia but none that would have the lineup that rivals Future Music Festival in Australia and over the next five years I think you will see what will develop from what will be a great lineup into something that may even rival Fuji Rock Festival, one day down the track. We’re very hopeful that what we deliver will be the best festival experience anyone’s seen in that region, and we hope to build on that every year, moving forward.

To backtrack, why the name Future Music Festival in the first place?
Our company is called Future Entertainment, and that was a name that we came up with 15 years ago for music promoting, we thought that we were very forward thinking promoters, and promoters that had a vision for the future. So that’s how the name came about, and then when we looked at branching out, we’ve always run quite a number of festivals and big events, everything from Summadayze, which runs in January, to the Two Tribes festival years ago which was an all-night event, and then when we chose to transform Two Tribes into Future Music Festival. It was an obvious choice that we wanted to be pretty futuristic and pretty forward thinking about the way we present the festival and make sure that we were seen as a festival that was offering something far more sophisticated and far more futuristic than what anyone else had done before. We sort of stand by the name and we stand by our vision for trying to be very innovative and provide the best possible experience that you can get at a festival and I think we’ve achieved that so far with all the festivals we’ve run in Australia. It’s very flattering and very exciting to be able know that there’s a market beyond the Australian shores for the type of festival we’re producing.

You mentioned that Future was actually something that came out from Two Tribes, can you give us a bit more history on it?
Our backgrounds were all in nightclubs in Melbourne. Between all of us there’s three partners involved in the business. We all started touring DJs from overseas at the very beginning when no one had really toured DJs in Australia before. So we were the very first promoters to bring Carl Cox and Roger Sanchez and Sasha and Digweed. We were the first people to ever tour the Black Eyed Peas, De La Soul, Grandmaster Flash, all of those hip hop pioneers. We were the first people ever to tour big techno acts like Richie Hawtin. And the electronic or dance music scene really started with us in Australia and as we grew, the demand for all of those DJs and demand for those artists grew beyond the size of the clubs that we were running. We had to start looking outside of those clubs and going to big warehouse spaces. We did a number of years, back in the early 1990s we were producing events for 20000 to 25000 people in big shipping sheds at the Melbourne Docklands and selling them out.

So it became a huge movement, the warehouse party scene, and then slowly but surely, because the weather was so good in Australia and the summer was such a great time internationally, we ended up seeing nearly every big name artist in the world wanted to come out and spend summer with us. Soon the night time venues became too small and we had to go to big outdoor parks and run them during the day, and as we did start to run them during the day the events became a lot more accessible, a lot more mainstream, and a lot more people were interested in going.

And here we are now in 2012, we’re producing festivals in Melbourne and Sydney for 60000 people per event, and selling over 240000 tickets across Australia for our Future Music Festival in each state. It’s been a very exponential growth. It’s been an amazing opportunity to grow with that scene, and the electronic music scene has developed so much in the fifteen years. We’re very fortunate to have been there from the beginning and to grow with it. Now the next phase of our development really is to start touring a lot more musicians that fall outside of the electronic world.