After nine years of running the Blues Festival in Goulburn, Geoff Bell is looking to new horizons.
His firm, Laing Entertainment, did not lodge an expression of interest when the council put out the call in April.
Councillors unanimously agreed at their recent meeting to appoint Narooma-based Australian National Events (ANE) to run the February fixture for the next five years. Theirs was one of three expressions of interest received during the month-long process.
Mr Bell has no regrets.
"Our business is going very well with some international touring events. There's a lot to be done and we decided not to throw our hat in the ring," he said.
"We enjoyed it and we're very happy with what we did and getting it to a good, solid support base but we couldn't get the money to take it to the next level."
Mr Bell wished ANE all the best, saying he hoped the festival kept going given its major economic injection to Goulburn.
ANE event producer Scott McDuff says his company is champing at the bit to organise the 2020 festival.
"We're very excited about it because our background is in entertainment events," he said.
"The Blues is a destination festival that brings people and a big economic return to Goulburn. We enjoy bringing that cultural and financial return to places and we've started events up from scratch with that aim."
The company has a long list of credits to its name, including this year's Narooma Oyster Festival, the Big Skies music festival in western Queensland, 'Cooley Rocks' in Coolangatta and Tweed Heads, Centenary of Anzac commemorations on Collaroy Beach and much more. It's been contracted to run the Narooma Oyster Festival again this year.
A report to councillors stated that ANE had run events for 550 up to 185,000 people, had a strong track record "and was well versed to deliver the Australian Blues Music Festival."
While Mr Bell believes the festival is best left as a free event, Mr McDuff argues there can be a mix. His company is considering ticketed and non-ticketed acts.
"We've found in the past that free events don't have an inherent value. We certainly won't charge entry for every element but we're re-thinking every aspect. There may be some venues that can be cost recovery," he said.
Mr McDuff said organisers were considering some new venues along with the existing ones.
Belmore Park will remain a major focus for acts.
He believed the festival could make a profit.
"It's about communication and consultation with the community and local businesses, looking at corporate sponsors and partners and building their awareness of the event. We're planning to build the festival up over the next five years," Mr McDuff said.
Mr Bell had previously urged the council to contribute more to the festival. It has not turned a profit for several years but has injected thousands of dollars into the community.
Over the next four years the council will allocate $30,000 annually to the fixture. In-kind support will be considered on an annual basis.
Mr McDuff said there were many corporate and business groups that wanted to invest and "get in on the front foot for that demographic."
"It's not easy and the value of sponsorship dollars is very important but it's the way you go about it and ensuring they get value for money," he said.
The organisers will also be paying close attention to performance scheduling and pedestrian traffic to maximise audiences.
Mr McDuff, a 40-year veteran of the music industry and a drummer, said his team was highly experienced and hard working. It also comprises event director Cherrie Smith, business development manager David White, a series of coordinators and an operations team.
Mr McDuff formerly lived in Canberra and as part of the Australian Army in the 1980s, performed here with the Royal Military College, Duntroon. He left the Army in 1990 and has worked in event production ever since.
"We're really excited about the Blues Festival and we'll be starting work immediately, looking at venues, our strategy and marketing," he said.
Deputy Mayor Peter Walker was on the interview panel and said the company would bring "a lot of fresh ideas into the festival."
The event will mark its 24th year in 2020.
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