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Stereosonic is one of the biggest dance events in Australia. This year, its five date tour includes artists Tiësto, Avicii, Carl Cox and Laidback Luke.
We caught up with the organiser of the event, Richie McNeill to see what Stereosonic is all about and what has gone into making it one of the hottest tickets down under.
1. When did you first start listening to dance music and when did you begin to run your own events?
In the mid 80s, at high school I started to hear Joy Division, Cure, Depeche Mode, whilst being a massive hip hop fan. In my last year of high school I got a job as a glassy/bussy at Melbourne's premier nightclub. Started to DJ a bit, and threw my first club night at beginning of 1990 and first rave on New Year's Eve in 1990. It was in town, by the city river, in a rowing shed. 400 people, and nine pesky possums came, it was awesome and Hardware events were born.
Over the proceeding years I threw techno parties for the likes of Laurent Garnier, Cosmic Baby, Richie Hawtin, Jeff Mills, Sven Vath, Ian Pooley, Damon Wild, Steve Stoll, Lenny Dee and Paul van Dyk. In the summer of 1997 I produced with other companies Australia's first electronic festival, Apollo. It lost $1m but musically was ahead of its time. We had Daft Punk, Basement Jaxx, Speedy J, Jeff Mills, Juno Reactor, but it was an epic fail. The following year the partners didn't want to do it again so Two Tribes was born. Then after 10 years of that festival I didn't like where it was going, and how it was being run so left, closed it and started Stereosonic with a new team and it's the best thing ever. And it's fun!
2. You became Director of Music of Mushroom Records when you were just 19. What was this experience like at such a young age and how has it helped you?
Well for six months I packed boxes and started sales, as they thought I was this crazy young kid DJ who just liked to party. They were wrong! I was already a hard worker. My dad taught me how to work hard selling raffle tickets in a Bingo Hall when I was 15, and three years before that I was on $2 an hour at 7/11 at aged 13. My mum lost it and took me out of 7/11 when I was found working their on a Sunday afternoon on my own renting out (R) rated DVDs and dealing with petrol sales, 18+ video rentals and louts hanging out the front.
I think I was so young the local hangers just kinda looked out for me! Mushroom taught me a bit about contracts, and sent me to Midem and places like that, and more the nitty gritty of that side, but business wise and relationship wise, I think I was always on top of that. I did bring some great labels to Australia and met some great people. Some I still chat to, from time to time.
3. For people in the UK who may not be familiar with Stereosonic Festival, can you sum up what it is all about?
It's just a bloody good day out at the beginning of summer. We get a lot of UK people come down for the Australian summer, in December. The NYE/NYD period of events are now on the decrease, because at the start of summer is where it is at. We try to keep it good value for money by keeping our ticket prices as low as possible, and doing things like crediting back punter leftover drink cards. It's the peoples festival. Carnival atmosphere, great weather, awesome music!
4. Stereosonic 2012 boasts an impressive line-up this year. Are you pleased with the roster?
Yeah. It's always hard to put it together. Australia is competitive and prices are therefore high. It's really frustrating managing acts/agents expectations. I mean for an act like Rudimental for example, his single is all over the radio here, and he should have been playing on a mainstage in front of like 35,000 people in Melbourne. But the dates didn't work, so now I drive home and I see a poster and they're playing in a club that is the worst venue in Melbourne. That stuff really annoys me. But yes I am super happy with the bill, and so are the fans hence why I guess the sales are up again about 40% on last year, year upon year. It just keeps growing.
5. Is there anything new or different that has been done for this year's events compared to previous editions?
This year we have been working on our production team. We think this year's layouts will be better. And the event as a whole will be another step up. We try to improve every year, learn from mistakes and just keep developing as a team and as an event. We have 20 staff now, and they are all fantastic in their own way and it's so nice to come to work and be around great people. We are trying to convince artists to do artist signing this year, to give more back to the people. I think this personal time is really important for artists to give fans some time. I mean they are being paid A shitload. These fans are paying their bills, so give back I say.
6. What are your plans for Stereosonic in the future?
We've been discussing many things here amongst the partners and staff and fans. I would like to personally do more. As in more acts, and like Europe and USA, make it more of a weekend and go two days. I'd also like to go later, till around 3am but that's impossible here, in this nanny country which over-restricted like hell.
7. Do you have any plans to expand globally with Stereosonic?
We have had a lot of interest from overseas. But we're not interested in taking over the world like some brands seem to be. If we like someone (a promoter), the venue is right and the time is right, who knows? We do have plans in discussion and you'll just have to wait and see.
8. Sum up the festival in three words.
Losing. My. Hair.
Stereosonic takes place between November 24 - December 2