Lunchtime Series – Andre Hillas

We were excited to catch up with Paradise Music Festival‘s Andre Hillas, an absolute powerhouse coordinator who’s produced events for the likes of Nike and Boiler Room. We’ve asked him about his experience in running Paradise, and what advise he’d give his younger self.

How did Paradise start? What was the vision and what was the catalyst for turning it from an idea into a reality?
Throughout Uni, I found that it was hella cheap to go to festivals if you volunteered, which seemed like a hack to me. So I did that for a few years with my friend Daniel. Then the idea came to us – why not run a little festival ourselves? We convinced his grandparents that their hobby farm was the best spot, and then BOOM, we were running with it. That festival, Inca Roads, ran twice in 2011 and 2012, and then I decided to start a new festival on top of a mountain with stunning views, and aptly titled it Paradise.

What was the market like at the time; which music festivals were you going to, and did what did you feel was missing in terms of their offerings?
The big festival market was shot. Huge ones like Stereosonic, Big Day Out, Pyramid and Harvest were all tumbling. Humpty Dumpty I guess. We were one of a small group of boutiques that were focusing on small bands, which brought with it a great crowd of locals. The small band scene is a beautiful community of friends who were (and still are) intertwined and linked in various ways. Paradise was a space where these communities existed side-by-side for a weekend. Relaxing and doofing.

Who was part of the first Paradise team? How did you navigate assigning roles and juggling responsibilities?
There was a crew of 6 (shout outs to Laura, Antonia, Dave, Tom and Andy) who worked on the festival for most of a year. Then as the the first event came closer we brought on more people who helped us figure out the bars, site and food (huge props to Jack, Jim, The Rooks Return, Massive Weiners and Alia Arthouse crews). The festival was a passion project and we were all so young and inexperienced at the time. People earned their roles through their dedicated passion and interest in learning and developing their skills.

Did the brand change at all over the years of developing the festival?
I think the brand has developed and matured into a confident version of its younger self. We are a music events company on the cutting edge of new alternative music. We are in tune with Australia’s independent music scene.

Can you give us an insight into your approach regarding marketing the festival?
In the early days, we worked very hard to develop conversations with the local music scene – this meant a lot of interviews on local radio, promotional small gigs, ads in Beat and PBS, Facebook ads (early days where you got mad value for money) and street posters. Our focus was on the local Melb young cool scene. We relied heavily on strong word of mouth for sales over the next few years, backed with traditional ads.

Looking over the past three years of Paradise, what is the biggest lesson you’ve learned?
Money money money! We spent a lot to make the event as fantastic as we could, but unfortunately it’s always a struggle. The music industry is not as cashed-up as some people think, so the hustle is real. I think that if I was to give my younger naive self advice early on, it would be to teach him a bit more about budgeting and cashflow.

What led you from Paradise into working freelance for other brands? What’s the end game for you, what’s your ideal role?
I do a lot of work as an event manager and producer for other brands, like Adidas, Boiler Room and Shadowfax Winery. I love working with other brands because every project is unique and has a set of challenges that are fun to work through. Nothing is old, everything is new. It’s energising to be a part of a project that has great team of people with their own ideas that I can sink my teeth into. I love the work so much, so I guess the end game in itself is my personal satisfaction.

What’s in store for the rest of the year for you? Is there a dream project you’d like to work on this year?
Yeah, we’re working on the next festival now. There is a lot under wraps, but it’s an exciting new project with a different twist to the last. Stay tuned!

Thanks for the chat, Andre, we love what you’re doing!