Soulfest’s John Denison: “Australia Is A Boutique Festival Country”

John Denison of events promotion company IEG, the primary architect of the highly anticipated Soulfest, which takes place this October and is being billed as “Australia’s first ever neo-soul, jazz and hip-hop festival,” has shared his thoughts on the current festival landscape in Australia.

“I don’t think this country can handle big festivals anymore. I think our country is an 8000 to 12,000 [capacity] country. That’s what I believe. There are only a handful of festivals that can handle the magnitude and we all know what those are – your Stereosonics, Futures, Soundwaves, Laneways. Those guys are where it’s at,” Denison recently explained in an interview with FasterLouder.

Denison insisted that he wants Soulfest to be “10-14,000 [people], no more” and is committed to keeping it a boutique event, saying, “If we sell out in 10 seconds we’re not going to grow year two or year three. We’re going to keep it boutique. That’s a commitment I’m making to myself.”

Denison said that the market for his new venture is “probably about 100,000” and detailed the extensive market research that went into organising Soulfest. “Our research was quite clear that it’s a very niche audience that doesn’t like social media much. They’re very introverted,” he said.

Asked about the potential for running afoul of the same pitfalls that saw the cancellation of AJ Maddah‘s Harvest Festival, whose 2013 bill similarly targeted an older, more boutique audience, Denison said, “Harvest year one and year two, you had goosebumps. But they got lazy on the bill.”

He continued, saying that organisers “just got it wrong” with arranging “30 acts” for a largely ’90s-centric lineup, a sentiment Maddah himself affirmed in an interview with Triple J. However, Denison said he thinks “Harvest will come back” and that there is “a big space a festival like that.”

Denison repeatedly stressed the importance of avoiding cancellations with Soulfest, saying, “We can’t afford to have one drop out.” Cancellations are something Denison is unfortunately familiar with, having been involved in cancelled events such as Supafest and last year’s Iggy Azalea tour.

Denison cited inadequate and incompetent management as the reason Australian hip-hop tours so often go under, and praised Eminem‘s Rapture festival for helping restore people’s faith. “I think what will happen next year is that Dre will headline… that’s the only way it’s going to live.”

Watch: Soulfest 2014 Australia

Soulfest 2014 Australia



Aloe Blacc

Mos Def


Anthony Hamilton

Angie Stone


Musiq Soulchild

Leela James


Ms Murphy


DJ Trey

Early bird tickets on sale 9:00am AEST Monday, 7th April

General public tickets on sale 9:00am AEST Tuesday, 15th April

Saturday, 18th October 2014

Victoria Park, Sydney

Tix: Via Soulfest

Sunday, 19th October 2014

Yarra Park, Melbourne

Tix: Via Soulfest

Saturday, 25th October 2014

The Riverstage, Brisbane

Tix: Via Soulfest


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