Louise Terry of Strut & Fret Production House is Festival Programmer for Melbourne’s illustrious Brunswick Music Festival (BMF) and related fiesta Sydney Road Street Party (SRSP). Brunswick Music Festival is a celebration of both home-grown talent and quality international acts, with an inclusive, multicultural focus. Also a multi-talented musician herself, Louise is a fan of eclectic music, and has worked with Strut & Fret since 2013. With a huge amount of responsibility on her shoulders, some might call her something of a production powerhouse. Louise kindly took time out from her busy lead-up to BMF last Friday to speak with us via phone about the week behind her.
I work at Strut and Fret on Brunswick Music Festival and Sydney Road Street Party as the Program Manager. That job pretty much entails looking after all the artist bookings and artist logistics across both of the events. It also involves a fair amount of artistic direction, exceptional administration skills, and loads and loads and loads of communication. Financial management and negotiation as well – budget management, and negotiating how each show turns over. Brunswick Music Festival is composed of ticketed concert events that happen in music venues throughout Brunswick for that one week. And Sydney Road Street Party, a little over a week before BMF, is the big, free party that we get to put on. There’s a road closure, so it’s all foot traffic, music, market stalls, street performance, eating and drinking in all of the local venues.
The festival director (Natalie Lidgerwood) and I work with each other to pull the programs together. We’ve also worked with Shadow Electric this year, so we’ve been able to get some input on the program with them – and Wick Studios in Brunswick, which is a recording and rehearsal studio. So we’ve done a little bit to broaden some of the program and work with a couple of outer entities on programming. Apart from these few shows it’s basically myself and Natalie who deal with all of the responsibilities of running this festival. I share those with her. But, at the end of the day, I look after everything to do with the artists and their engagement at the festival.
Each day for me starts out, at the moment, with me checking in with the sales reports for all of the shows, because the whole festival is on sale now. I keep across where we’re at with all of our sales, and let people know if things are moving well or not. There’s a lot of email communication that goes on. I jump onto contacting some shows, presenters and agents, to let them know if we need to do a bit of a marketing push – ‘Maybe it’s time to take out that street press ad’, or ‘Have you done anything on social media?’
Basically, right about now it’s a lot of artist logistics and marketing, now that it’s two weeks out – making sure that all of the artists’ information is out there, and we’re continuing to get our shows out there in front of the public eye.
I get an email from Triple R – we’ve already got two radio ads with them, and they’re giving us the option of changing the content. I quickly shoot off an email to them with some content for new BMF ads. I work with the marketing team here to put together a press release – we’ve got three blues acts, so we’re trying to do some target marketing to the blues communities. We pass that to onto our PR company to distribute.
I keep working on getting the call sheets for each individual show out to the artists, which in itself takes ages to pull together – it’s all the information like their accommodation, their airport transport service, their load in time and sound check, and all of the contact points and specs. Sometimes we also organise artists’ flights. It feels like a real achievement, to be able to start sending some of those out to the artists with all of the confirmed details of their engagements and their performance with the festival.
I’m receiving my contracts back from artists, for their engagement in the festival, and for Sydney Road as well. I’m also getting a lot of emails with all of the artists’ tech specs and invoices; we’re starting to collate all those things right now. So basically I’m filing them where they need to be for the production manager, for the finance department and sending them off to be processed, all of that kind of stuff.
In a nutshell, Monday is coming in and checking my gazillion emails from over the weekend, responding to all of those emails, setting up some appointments for the week, and just getting onto artist logistics, call sheets, contracts, and the marketing stuff. Sometimes I end the day, and I’m like, what the hell even happened? Did anything happen? I just stayed in front of my desk the whole time!
I rock into work, and again, get on top of the things that are coming into my inboxes from artists. I get in touch with the PR company again, setting up some actions for them in terms of community radio, which artists we’re going to target for interviews and appearances on community radio, and setting up some more meetings. Especially at this stage, it’s mainly making sure that things are ticking over, because a lot of the creative work is already done with the festival programming. Now it’s just about keeping that information incoming and outgoing.
Orientation Week in Brunswick was happening on Tuesday, so I sent a couple of assistants who had been working on the festival to hand out programs and liaise with the students there. As per anything that you might arrange, you have to be prepared for things not to go to plan. We rock up there and there’s no marquee – people don’t know who we are, even though we’ve had all these conversations with the organisers. There’s about five phone calls until we can actually work out where we’re meant to be. Sometimes you find yourself dealing with these time-consuming, random things that pop up. We’re incredibly time-poor right now, so those kinds of things are a bit tricky.
I then head off into Brunswick to meet up at La Poloma Café with the people who work at The Boite World Music Organisation. We catch up about the Sydney Road Street Party – we’ve set up a world music open mic stage there for The Boite to manage and run, which will be the front of La Poloma. La Paloma café is quite a character café of Brunswick – it’s a really open, community-vibe South American café. It attracts a very broad, loyal mix of stalwart Brunswick people –all the characters. We hang out there and chat, ironing out all the fine details of the production, of the running of the day, who needs to be where when, what the festival is doing, what The Boite are doing, what La Paloma are doing. We basically just all get on the same page.
So that’s a little perk of the day, and then I go to a production meeting at The Mechanics Institute, which is a theatre that’s directly opposite the Brunswick Town Hall. We put on some family shows for the SRSP there, and we also program some shows throughout the BMF there. I meet up with the manager of the theatre, as well as the production manager and my production manager. We do a similar thing that we did with The Boite, where we just make sure that we are crossing all the T’s and dotting all the I’s – they have our production schedule, and we all now know who’s responsible for what. So that’s pretty much the end of my Tuesday – it was a forty-five degree day here! Having fanged it from the city to get to The Boite, and almost spewing by the time I got there because it was so hot and I was so dehydrated, I slowly ride home on Tuesday night.
I start the day with a meeting at the Strut & Fret warehouse space in North Melbourne, where we have a lot of our furniture, signage, Spiegeltents and production gear stored. Strut and Fret is a really big production company that sets up festival hubs, bars, performance events, spaces and festivals all around Australia, particularly at the fringe festivals. So the warehouse is pretty much a treasure trove of all the things one might ever need to put a festival together. I meet up at the warehouse with the production manager, the core SRSP team, festival director Natalie, and the marketing manager, and we go through the warehouse to make sure the things that we require are there. We work out whether we need to order things, and what we need to get from elsewhere.
We get the new ads back from Triple R. They sound really awesome, so we approve the ads to go to air.
We prepare a CD mailout with a Brunswick Music Festival compilation CD, along with one of the headlining artists’ latest albums (an artist from Canada, called Digging Roots). We send out a CD in the post to select radio announcers – ABC, 3CR, all of the local radio stations, and some bigger radio stations that would find this music appealing. So we’re still driving the marketing. And there are more contacts coming in, more production tech specs, more invoices.
I also get in touch with the chair of the Performing Arts Moreland board and the Council regarding the Moreland Mayor’s speech, and the Performing Arts Moreland speeches that will kick off the official opening of the Sydney Road Street Party. We had some last minute additions to the SRSP programme. There’s a really awesome new space that’s opening up on Saxon Street, called Saxon Street Gardens. It’s an old community school that’s going to be turned into something more like an engaged arts & culture space. There’s a gallery on there called Blak Dot Gallery, and they’ve been really keen to be a part of the festival. I get an email from Kimba at Blak Dot Gallery with two awesome indigenous artists that they really want to put on the stage at Saxon Street Gardens for SRSP. So we work together to get those guys into the program, and get everybody in production across these new additions – because it means that the program will now run later, so we need to change the website, all of that kind of stuff. There are lots of last minute things like that.
We get some posters and flyers printed up for one of the shows, called Cumbia Massive. It’s one of those shows that we think probably requires a bit more of a grassroots marketing campaign, so we’ve got flyers printed up for the Cumbia Massive team to go and distribute to their community. I get the artwork for those and organise them to get printed up.
I set up more meetings for later in the week, and I start sending out the welcome packs for SRSP, so all of the artists get all the information on their final conformations. It’s a bit like the call sheets for BMF, but it’s more general info on the festival – what they should and shouldn’t bring, what they do in case of an emergency, what time they load in, how they park on site, all that general info. It feels really good to get that ticked off. There are about eighty artists, so it’s a big job just doing those logistical things. There’s a giant to and fro of answering questions.
I end up leaving work a little bit early to go to a rehearsal for a two-piece I’m in called Sawtooth, which is electronic music. We have a really awesome jam, preparing for some recordings that we’re going to do sometime in April. I’ve got a solo project, and I’m in a six-piece band as a backup singer, as well, which is a very busy band – I’m performing all weekend with them. I try to keep some creative flow going throughout my week, so life doesn’t just all become about work. It’s all good to invest in the career part of my life, but I feel like things get a bit out of balance if I don’t get to have some creative outlet throughout the week.
I jump back into my emails, and there’s lots of promo stuff that seems to be coming through – questions from artists, letting us know what they’ve been doing, and us contacting some more artists to say stuff like, ‘Hey, we’ve noticed that you haven’t got this stuff on social media, can you please promote the show?’
We deal with some press giveaways – we’ve been rolling out lots of different giveaways through magazines, blogs, even through some local databases of community collectives. We connect up with the PR company and get a check-in from them as to what actually they’ve got coming up for some of the artists with press and radio, and there’s lots of good opportunities that these guys are drumming up on ABC 774, Radio National’s The Music Show, Triple R’s Superfluidity – lots of awesome things there, so that feels pretty great.
I have a meeting with two women who are a part of a collective called Still Nomads, which is like a spoken word collective for the African and East African community. I meet up with Areej, who’s one of the core people who organise it, and a spoken word artist, Bigoa, comes to the meeting as well. Bigoa is going to perform at the festival with Alsarah and the Nubatones – Alsarah is a Sudanese-born but American-based musician. Alsarah is premiering in Melbourne at the BMF at Howler on Friday, 18th March. We have put together a line-up that tries to reach out and include some of the East African community within the events as well. It’s her first time in Melbourne, and she doesn’t really have a profile, so we’re trying to link up those communities together. Still Nomads and I chat through the event, we talk about how we’re going to work with them and emcee the event, and how Bigoa is going to do some performance throughout the event as well. We discuss how they might be able to assist us in reaching out to their community, and we set up some discount offers for their community as well that they can extend out. So, that was a really great meeting in terms of developing these shows.
We’re working with a lot of international artists who, I suppose, don’t necessarily have huge profiles all the time. We’re often choosing things based on a lot on what we think is really awesome music, and stuff that will have an appeal here. So we sometimes set ourselves a bit of a hard task in how we bring an audience to those artists.
Thursday really is just a great day for me. I get most of my SRSP welcome packs out to the artists, and it’s a great day for doing some repetitive, meditative administration work, getting some things ticked off that have been looming over my head.
The day ends with following up on the meetings that I’d had in the week, and following up on some of the points that we needed to action from that, making sure that we’re ticking things off. Also, starting to compile the notes for the emcees at the stages of the SRSP – the things we need them to say, and the information on all of the acts for them to be able to refer to.
This morning I get to Brunswick at eight thirty, and the core SRSP team do a letterbox drop, all up and down Sydney Road. Plus all the back streets where the road closure’s going to happen for SRSP. What we’re dropping is the event notification letter – making sure that all the official Council event notification goes out about the road closure.
I then go to Saxon Street Gardens and meet up with the new site managers, who’ve been contracted by Moreland City Council to run it for the next five years – Joe Norster and Millie Cattlin from Testing Grounds, which is a really amazing pop-up arts space near the Arts Centre in the city. They’re going to do a similar thing in Moreland, so I meet with them and we discuss how we’re going to work together. They’re really fresh in the position, and they’re not actually officially opening their running of operation until May. So they’re just coming on board and doing a soft opening with us through SRSP and BMF. We have a chat, and then I come into the office.
On my agenda for the rest of the day is making a volunteers plan for the vollies that we engage for SRSP – who we need, how many we need, and where we need them to be doing what.
I’m going to also start doing some of my budgeting stuff. I’ve been getting a lot of invoices in from lots of different avenues. By the end of the day, I aim to have my invoices all updated and my budget updated, good to go. Today I’ll also go through the emails that are still waiting for me, ‘cause I pretty much only got in the office when you called!
I think I’ll feel really great when I leave tonight and my budget’s all in order, all of my welcome packs are out, all of my call sheets are out, and I have a plan for next week…which is production week before the SRSP!
Wednesday was probably the best day – getting into the warehouse, getting a bit physical, and then going back and doing a bit of admin. Also getting to nip off early, and go and have a great rehearsal. It was definitely my favourite day of the week
To be totally frank, I would have to say, trying to manage the general stress of the workload – and being efficient within that. So, not getting overwhelmed, and managing those moments where your brain just kind of feels like it’s not being very logical or working very efficiently. Just managing how overwhelming the workload gets, and not letting the stress interrupt the work you need to do.
We all have lives outside of these lives as well. There are always things going on, and sometimes there are stressful things happening in other parts of your life. This can be a really big time. I think keeping everything in balance is important.
Words Of Wisdom
If you like communicating and you like to work with other people, then this is probably a really good field for you to work in. If you’re good at being organised and you like communicating with a broad, diverse group of people, then this is a really fun avenue of work to choose.
Advice for this job…you have to be prepared to take some risks. Whether it be on an artist, or a choice of how you want something, or even an overarching change that you want to do to the festival program, or a new idea or concept. You have to be prepared to take risks. And I think that my advice would be don’t underestimate your capacity to make well-informed choices when you are taking a risk. Reach out there to the broader industry around you, and get lots of advice on the kinds of risks that you want to take, so that you don’t underestimate yourself and limit yourself from taking risks. It’s a part of the job, and you just need to build the support around you that you can lean on when you need advice on how to take a well-informed, well-considered, calculated risk. The program can be quite a gamble.
Things can happen that are absolutely out of the blue. It’s ‘risky business’! So build your support around you, and don’t be afraid to ask for advice.
Brunswick Music Festival will run from 15 – 20 March 2016, with its free opening fiesta Sydney Road Street Party on 6 March. Performers this year include Mia Dyson, Kylie Auldist, Karl S. Williams, and a range of exciting, eclectic international acts.