Entertainment

Why we'll always have the Blues

Peter Noble, with wife Annika, head up Byron Bay Blues Festival.
Peter Noble, with wife Annika, head up Byron Bay Blues Festival.

"THE business model for music has changed," the man who heads up one of Australia's largest festivals says.

"Bands can't live on record sales any more," he says. "They have to tour."

Peter Noble, the boss of the Byron Bay Blues Festival, should know.

He has been in the industry since the '60s, playing, managing and promoting, here and overseas.

At Easter, he will bring Paul Simon and Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant to headline at the five-day Bluesfest, near rolling hills just south of the Queensland border.

Other acts that will appear include Santana, Ben Harper, Iggy and The Stooges, the Steve Miller Band, Madness, Bonnie Raitt, Wilco, Rodriguez, Jimmy Cliff, the Dropkick Murphys, Rufus Wainwright and Allen Toussaint.

Fewer than half the of the bill for the five-day festival have been announced. Traditionally, Bluesfest rolls out its "artist announcements" from September.

"It adds a bit of drama, yeah," Peter says, "but it really is more about making sure the acts are signed, sealed and delivered.

"I'd wanted Paul Simon to be in the third artist announcement, but because we had not finished negotiating with his management, it became a separate announcement a week later.

"It's the way it works."

And it is a waiting game.

Take Robert Plant.

"I chased him for years," Peter says. "We came pretty close to getting him last year, but he couldn't make his touring schedule fit."

As it turned out, the timing is perfect. Plant, who was voted in 15th in the 100 greatest singers of all time by Rolling Stone magazine, and his band the Sensational Space Shifters, have begun adding Zeppelin songs to their live playlists.

"Plant had refused to play them without Led Zeppelin," Peter says. The band called it quits in 1980, after the death of drummer John Bonham.

In 2007, the organisers for a one-off, single reunion Zeppelin concert in a 20,000-seat London stadium were inundated with 20 million applications for tickets. Scalpers were reportedly selling them for more than $10,000 each.

Paul Simon was different.

He shares the same management as Bob Dylan, who played Bluesfest in 2011.

"We get quite a few acts like that - word of mouth, recommendations."

Bluesfest does have a reputation for treating its artists well.

To be invited to play the festival is considered a privilege - and highly competitive.

"It's hard sometimes because there are so many outrageously good Australian bands and artists," Peter says. "We get thousands of applications every year."

The music business is changing, and it is partly because of the internet. It allows new bands to find audiences more easily, but it has few answers about making music pay.

It is a blessing as well as a curse.

"Because acts can't make the money they could with record sales, they have to tour," he says.

"And make no mistake, touring is hard. I know. I've done it."

Peter not only managed band tours, he also played bass, at one time leading a band for Marcia Hines in the '70s.

"It's no fun pulling up somewhere in the middle of the night, dog-tired, and just looking for a shower and somewhere to sleep, day after day," he says. "It's tough. But bands learn to play on the road."

Touring steels and tempers them.

It turns good artists into better ones, and, at times, into great ones.

Easter's 24th festival is a milestone for 63-year-old Peter.

It is the father-of-five's 21st year as its director. However, it has not slowed him down.

He wants to have the festival's 120ha Tyagarah Tea Tree Farm, just off the Pacific Hwy about 11km north of Byron, declared a koala sanctuary.

And he is hoping to host an indigenous festival - called Boomerang - late next year.

Peter also began talks with the new Byron Bay Council so he can use the purpose-built Bluesfest site for more varied events.

"I'd like to see us hosting a Shakespearean festival, for example," he says, waiting for the inevitable gasp.

"Yeah, people seem to think we're about big, noisy events, and that's not the case at all."

But he is considering putting together a straight edge event - a no-alcohol, no-drugs, punk music "for kids who are into tattoos and vegetarianism".

Last week, he and wife Annika, who also have a home in Peregian, flew to Bali to kick back and prepare for the run-up to Bluesfest, which starts on March 28.

"But I'll be working while I'm there," he says, laughing.

And then there are four more Byron Bay "artist announcements".

"Watch this space."

 

GLIMPSING BLUESFEST

  • WHEN: March 28 to April 1, 2012
  • WHERE: Tyagarah Tea Tree Farm, next to the Pacific Highway, 11km north of Byron Bay, 54km south of Coolangatta on the Gold Coast
  • PARKING: On-site within an easy walk of the venue
  • 2013 ACTS (so far include): Paul Simon, Robert Plant, Ben Harper, Santana, Iggy and the Stooges, Madness, Steve Miller Band, Supertramp's Roger Hodgson, Yes's Jon Anderson, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Joan Amatrading, Wilco, Dropkick Murphys, Luka Bloom, Chris Isaak and Robert Cray
  • MORE INFORMATION: bluesfest.com.au.

DOES SIZE MATTER?

The festivals and the crowds they can draw ...

  • BLUESFEST: 105,000 people over five days
  • GLASTONBURY, England: 525,000 over three days
  • ROSOKILDE, Denmark: 440,000 over four days
  • READING, England: 261,000 over three days
  • COACHELLA, California: 225,000 over three days

Topics:  bluesfest 2013 byron bay music festival peter noble robert plant


Stay Connected

Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.

Ballina koalas faced with extinction

Ballina's koalas are under threat.

About 36,000 koalas left in NSW face an uncertain future

An emotional Mike Baird: 'There was great personal cost'

"After 10 years in public life, this moment for me has arrived."

Surfer calls for second shark net off one coastal town

SIGNS OF SUPPORT: Young protesters make their opinions clear at a rally in support of shark nets at Ballina last November. More than 500 people attended the event calling for the immediate installation of the nets. PHOTO: ALINA RYLKO/ THE NORTHERN STAR

Kids surfing near the Lennox Hotel are at risk of shark encounters

Local Partners

41-year-old playgroup under threat of closing down

IT'S been an important part of the Ballina community for decades, but this playgroup could be forced to shut its doors.

See turtles up close on rescue centre tour

SPLASH: This green sea turtle, held by Australian Seabird Rescue general manager Kath Southwell, splashed some of the children on a tour of seabird rescue's headquarters.

The turtles don't mind giving the tour groups a splash, too

Shrek on stage

POPULAR MUSICAL: Shrek (River Fullagar) interrupts the wedding, shocking Fiona (Hillary Goodsell), the Bishop (Grace Pateman) and a furious Farquaad (Lachlan McGeary) in the Ballina Players' latest production.

The best-known green ogre is the star in Ballina Players production

Humble Cortina expected to shine at show

BOYS TOYS: Members of the North Coast Street Machines (from left) Errol Beaumont, Steven Fitness, Les Eckersley and John Stanford are ready for this Sunday's show and shine in Ballina, with their vehicles (from left) 1964 EH Holden, 1962 S Series Valiant, 1934 Ford, 1969 XW GT Falcon and a 1974 L Cortina.

There aren't many who can say they own thefirst car they bought

Buderim man strips off for speed dating with a twist

RAW AMBITION: Buderim local Jackson pictured with his blind date Candice in a scene from SBS's new dating show Undressed.

People have done stranger things for love

Matthew McConaughey wrongly used as medical example

Doctor tried to steal credit for McConaughey's hair treatment

J.K. Rowling writes through severe back pain

An aching back couldn't stop J.K. Rowling catching inspiration

Elsa voice actor's son hates Frozen

Idina Menzel's son "hates" his mother's most famous film 'Frozen'

Chrissy Teigen likes her "soft" stretch marks

Stretch marks are no problem for Chrissy Teigen

Naomie Harris in the dark over Daniel Craig's future as 007

Naomie Harris has no idea if Daniel Craig will be returning as 007

Thousands of jobs part of $1b retirement village project

THIS YEAR: An artist impression of the new Aveo retirement village in Springfield.

Aveo Springfield unveiled this month, homes ready by July

KNIFE-EDGE: The housing tightrope we now face

Even the smallest interest rate rise will be hard for some to handle.

One if five home owners at risk, according to new analysis

Historical home leaves family's hands after 75 years

SALE CONFIRMED: The Gympie Regional   Realty team which sold the Ramsey property are (back) Mel Gastigar, Dorothy Palmer and Margaret Cochrane, with (front) home seller Terri-Jayne Ramsey.

Ramsey family played a huge role in Gympie's growth.

Pat Rafter's $18m Coast home proves hot property

PAT'S PAD: The Sunshine Beach home of tennis ace Pat rafter is on the market for a record price.

"It's a record for our company and for the Sunshine Coast.''

INTERACTIVE MAP: Which Northern Rivers towns boomed in 2016?

BOOM TOWNS: While Ballina properties continued to attract top dollar in 2016, it was areas to the south that experienced price hikes, including Wardell, Evans Head and Woodburn.

Click on our map to find the median sale price in your town

Ready to SELL your property?

Post Your Ad Here!