2020 has been a rough year for us all, especially in the music industry. COVID-19 has turned things upside down and everyone has been effected. Summer hasn’t quite felt the same with music festivals on pause. Offering a sense of community, deep connection with music, and a magical escape, they’re one of the biggest things fans are longing for. What the future holds for festivals is still largely uncertain but we are eagerly anticipating their return (once safe). In order to get a better outlook into the future of live events and more insight into the festival world, we connected with Gabriel Mattacchione, the founder of Ontario’s Ever After Music Festival. We spoke to him about finding longevity in the festival market, the ups and downs of being independent, COVID-19’s impact on events, his outlook for the future and much more. Check out our full conversation below.
We’ve seen a lot of festivals come and go in Ontario, what’s the secret to Ever After’s success and longevity?
I believe the secret to our success and growth is and always will be the focus on the attendee and their experience. We really believe in giving a true festival experience that provides much more than just music and talent on the stage as entertainment.
We have the ability to give the fans what they want as we listen to their feedback and suggestions. This gives the festival its own personality and vibe that gives it its own identity that can separate us from the rest.
Ever After is a completely independent event. What are the benefits of operating this way?
The benefits of operating and owning an independent festival are complete creative freedom. We have the ability to give the fans what they want as we listen to their feedback and suggestions. This gives the festival its own personality and vibe that gives it its own identity that can separate us from the rest.
What unique challenges have you had to overcome as a result of this independence?
I believe the biggest challenges we’ve had to overcome from being independent is competing against major corporations and blockbuster sponsor events. Independence relies on a trustworthy fanbase for support in order to execute competing aspects as ticket sales revenue is our lifeline and strict budgets must be adhered to in order to preserve longevity. This sometimes constricts our ability to give our fans everything we want to in a short time period.
When did you know that you would have to postpone Ever After to 2021? What factors shaped the final decision and announcement?
It really felt like it all happened overnight. As event producers and promoters it is in our natural DNA to do everything possible to make a show happen, and we are always in the mindset that the show must go on no matter what obstacle is in front of us. Postponement really became reality when it became clear how severe the situation truly was, and the only factor of importance was public safety – and not being able to provide that was all it took for our group to make the final decision.
What differences do you see between the industry in Canada and the US with regards to impacts of the pandemic?
Though there may be differences in regards to the impact of the pandemic between Canada and the US, and in some cases even province to province and state to state, I don’t believe there are major ones. The pandemic really has shut down our entire industry worldwide in what seemed almost overnight. I think the main differences really lie in the recovery process, some states have the luxury of more warmer months than Canadian provinces, which makes shifting planning efforts an easier task. Here in Canada, and specifically Ontario we do not have the luxury and the timing of the event and planning process must align for a summer month hosting.
What’s your outlook for the future of live music for the remainder of the year and early next year?
I believe we will not get back to what we all love and miss until there is a certified vaccine that can be distributed without interruption.
You can not truly obtain that festival experience through a screen in your living room.
Are you pursuing any digital oriented events? Why/why not?
We are currently not pursuing any digital oriented events because it is in my opinion that this goes against the experience we attempt to create and sell. You can not truly obtain that festival experience through a screen in your living room. I do believe that a digital aspect will be a part of live entertainment for future events but will never be the main source to obtain live entertainment.
How confident do you feel that Ever After will be back for 2021? What needs to happen to ensure this is a reality?
I feel confident that we will be able to bring Ever After to life in 2021, for this to happen I think a mass distribution plan for a vaccine will need to be in place through our governing bodies. Even with this in place we will likely have to adapt to new rules and new normals. Bringing festivals back next year will certainly be a collaborative effort not only from producers and city stakeholders alike, but also with the fans.
What changes do you expect to see in the music industry and live events space post-pandemic?
We are preparing for more on-site changes as we have already begun the planning process for 2021, we expect most of these changes will be in regards to sanitary issues and health regulations. We want to keep our events as safe as possible on all fronts and we are ready to embrace the changes that will allow us to execute a great festival.
The repurposing window for Ever After tickets is now open.