Words by Campbell Mowat | @campbellmowat
Pitch Music & Arts Festival returns to the Victorian wilderness this March to showcase some of the leading names in contemporary electronic music. In preparation for the four-day extravaganza, we spoke to Festival Director Daniel Teuma about the inner machinations of the event, his personal career path and what to expect at this year’s festivities.
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How did you find yourself in this position, running a festival with some of the biggest names in the electronic music scene?
I started on the hospitality side of this industry, working as a ‘bussy’ (bar runner) at various Melbourne venues 20-odd years ago. I worked my way up into bar management positions and eventually thought that things looked more exciting on the other side of the bar. So I started doing touring and events just off my own back, way before there was Facebook, so it was a lot more difficult to get in contact with people. It was just self-taught really… and I’ve been doing it ever since.
What were the first events you remember running?
It was a trance brand called ‘Storm’ that wasn’t very long-lived unfortunately. It was run at the Hi-Fi Bar – which is now Max Watt’s. I saved up my money for about a year and lost most of it in one night. More importantly, everyone that was there had a great time, but you can lose a lot of money very quickly, so you have to be very resilient to the ups and downs.
When you were at university, is this what you envisaged yourself doing?
No not really, I didn’t have a lot of visions of what I wanted to do after university. I did Accounting and Marketing at VUT so those skills have come in handy, but I fell into the industry by accident.
In such a competitive market, do you have any advice for those trying to begin running their own parties and events?
Try to offer something different and unique within the sphere you’re trying to operate. It can’t be too different that it won’t appeal to people but there needs to be a balance between what the market wants and what is already being offered.
What are the different and unique factors about Pitch Music & Arts Festival?
There’s a whole lot, but I’d say the lineup. It’s quite large and has depth—from high profile, to emerging, to local artists. Unlike other events which may put focus on the social and lifestyle aspects of a festival, our priorities are very much on the music. We want people on the dance floor for as long as possible. Other than that, I’d say the site itself is quite unique with its backdrop of the Grampians.
How do you think the festival’s location influences the music and the overall experience?
The site is really beautiful. It has old blue gum trees, which are hundreds of years old, spread throughout the site, giving off a really nice energy. The area used to be used by the indigenous people for gatherings as well, so there’s a nice tradition of having people gather in that space.
How many people does it take to put together a festival of this scale?
There’s around 20 people working on it throughout most of the year. Then you have 40-50 site and production managers who work on other festivals as well. There’s about 300 volunteers. In total, at the peak of the festival, we’re probably talking 500 people.
Can we get any explanation for the video accompanying your lineup announcement, which plays like a fancy infomercial for an aluminium can?
We try not to take ourselves too seriously. We also try to do things differently than the traditional way of promoting a festival, so its more a concept video than just a lineup video. The video’s futuristic promises of a ‘better life’ are really just a bit of a laugh at ourselves.
Who are you personally most excited to showcase this year?
Off the top of my head, Bicep is definitely one. They are amazing performers and I’m yet to see their live show. On the Monday there’s DJ Tennis who is one of my favourite DJs, and Motor City Drum Ensemble closing the festival, which will be pretty special. I mean there’s so many.
What do local acts bring to the table which the bigger international acts may not have?
They bring local knowledge. They know what’s hot in Melbourne at the moment, so sometimes you’ll hear people’s favourite sets come from the locals, as they know exactly what to play. Ultimately, it’s just great to see some of your local heroes playing on the large stage with their international counterparts.
Other than getting to watch all these amazing acts, what are the most rewarding aspects of your work?
When it comes to Pitch, there’s two. As it is a family-friendly event with specific licensed areas, I get to enjoy the festival with my children, which is really important for me personally. My kids can’t come to other events I run like Let Them Eat Cake… and I’m certainly not taking them to Revolver! And like any other event I do, just seeing the satisfaction in people’s eyes and how much fun they are having is the greatest reward you can get when putting on these sort of events.
When the festival is all said and done, how do you go about looking after the space, so it can be recycled for years to come?
We have a really strong team of people who manage our clean up. There’s some shipping containers which stay on site and a few holes in the ground from where we put our shading, but other than that, the site—which is a sheep farm throughout the year—looks how it looked when I first found it.
Pitch Music & Arts Festival is being held March 9-12 2018. Find out more at http://pitchfestival.com.au/.