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"We will be introducing a brand new format of Sunburn this year called Sunburn U21" - Karan Singh, CEO, Sunburn Global
19 January, 2018

"We will be introducing a brand new format of Sunburn this year called Sunburn U21" - Karan Singh, CEO, Sunburn Global

The Hash Mag got into an exclusive interaction with Mr. Karan Singh, CEO, Suburn Global, to know more about their recently-concluded Sunburn 11 and upcoming innovations at the event.

When Sunburn was started Electronic Dance Music (EDM) was a new concept back home. How did you come up with this event and how much preparation was involved?

The Electronic Dance Music Festival Sunburn was one of the first Intellectual Properties we launched in 2007. At the same time, we launched a couple of other properties in the music domain viz. Metalfest (Rock Music) and Bollywood Live (Bollywood Dance Music). By the second year, we only had the capital for one and at that time rock music was faring much better than EDM, but one factor told us that Sunburn was the property to focus on. Rock music requires you to understand English, and with Bollywood music, we had no differentiator in the Indian Market. We were the pioneers back home in the EDM space and this genre of music clearly had an edge as there are no lyrics to understand. In India where language changes every 100 kilometres, we need to play music that is language neutral. So, we had to take the tough call of dropping Metalfest as an IP and continuing with Sunburn.

The risk was associated with the continuance of Sunburn. In the first two years, as is the case with any IP build-up, we lost money but by the third year Sunburn was a rage and we broke even. Given its growing popularity, Sunburn branched from a singular Goa Festival in December to multiple formats such as Arenas, Reloads and Campus Tours. In 2011, Sunburn was the pride of a nation with 1,00,000 fans, 120 artists, 7 stages across two acres of land, and 2 MILLION people across 100 countries watching us live on YouTube. By 2012, Sunburn Festival witnessed 120,000 fans descend from every part of the globe and groove to the best DJ’s from around the world at Goa. And by 2013, all records were surpassed as 150,000 visitors attended Sunburn Goa! In 2014 Sunburn was ranked as big as Tomorrowland and Ultra Miami festival as per the IMS APAC Business Report 2014. By its 10th year (2016-17) Sunburn had grown massively to witness a global attendance outnumbering 850,000.
 
The OLA Sunburn Festival 2017 has certainly gone down as the biggest scale of Sunburn in its history of 11 years. This year fans got completely a new experience in every aspect - right from the parking lot to the box office and into the venue. There were internal shuttle services kept for the attendees from the parking to the BO. Attendees were welcomed by the Aroma’s of fresh food cooked live and experience the best of cuisines from Iconic local and national establishments along with culinary delights from around the world with 50 plus food stalls which were curated by Eat Play Love. For the first time ever, Sunburn had a sit-down dining experience too. Sunburn also hosted on-site luxury camping options for the attendees, experience zones, flea markets, and chill zones among other things.
 
After completing nine editions in Goa, what made you shift to Pune?
 
The Sunburn Music Festival had grown organically in the state of Goa since its inception in 2007 to 2016 despite the change in Government and stiff head-on competition from competitive brands. For the first time in 10 Years, we decided to shift Sunburn from Goa to Maharashtra in 2016, given the lack of infrastructure in Goa, rising costs and levies.
 
The decision to make Sunburn Hills, Kesnand as the destination for Sunburn 10 was taken after consideration of many relevant factors including a greener, pollution free climate fit for the sunburn experience, vast Infrastructure amenities, critical connectivity to the main city with a drive time of 20 minutes to the venue, health and safety amenities, and a beautiful verdant setting in the lap of nature.

You recently completed 11th edition in Pune and how was the response from the crowd?
 
Given the promise to our fans in this new decade, we moved to a new venue – the stunning Oxford Golf Resort, surrounded by a breath-taking view of nature around the festival area. The venue with its natural charm and greenery attracted more people than we expected, the accessibility and connectivity to the Oxford Golf Resort played a major role in driving footfalls. It was astonishing to see the magnitude of the crowd on the very first day. Over the 4 days of the fest, we saw an astounding attendance of thousands of attendees pouring in from different parts of the world and the country breaking all previous benchmarks spanning footfalls, production, activations, artist line-up and ambience.
 
The sprawling 100-acre land gave fans a wonderful Sunburn experience. The 11th edition of Sunburn was also streamed live on the official Facebook Page of Sunburn and the Tata Sky Mobile App thereby reaching millions of fans globally. The festival also offered fans a wow world class food experience, curated by Eat Play Love, on-site luxury camping options, food courts, experience zones, flea markets, chill zones among other things. The response to the 11th edition of the Sunburn Festival from our fans has been amazing …
 
With Sunburn 11 you brought new technologies, modern stage designs and themes, giving fans an array of festival experiences, please tell us more about it.
 
The 350 ft Sunburn Main Stage went down in history as the largest stage ever created with over 15,000 sq.ft of LEDs complete with pyros, SFX, lighting, state of the art AV, confetti’s, installations crafted by artists from all over the world making it the world’s largest stage and many other experiences for the fans. The World watched as the biggest artists took the stage at the Festival on the biggest stage thus concreting Pune’s place In the Global music map as a destination for World class music events. Three of the World’s Top 10 DJs and the best live act of this year, all performing at the same festival making it a historic event.
 
Pune got the top honours of hosting India’s biggest NYE event with the biggest attendance and a memorable performance by the World No.1 DJ, Martin Garrix. We offered fans a range of engaging and elaborate zones built by partnering brands. In addition to the on-site luxury camping options available, visitors also experienced more than 50 plus food stalls, flea market and fun experience zones at the festival venue.
 
Huge events call for bigger responsibilities, be it a venue, traffic, food or space. How did you manage all this and what kind of cooperation was received from the local authorities?
 
This was the biggest scale of Sunburn in its 11-year history and we certainly had to scale up massively to deliver on our promise to our fans. We had a clear requirement of over 100 acres of land, (i.e. 400,000 sq. meters) amidst nature with infrastructure and set in the right socio-economic environment, and that’s how we zeroed in on The Oxford Golf Resort at Lavale in Pune.
 
We set about constructing massive infrastructure including roads and parking which would forever benefit the city and the state for years to come. During the event, we ensured a Smooth inflow and outflow of traffic at the venue with minimal congestion. There was no sound or light pollution caused with every aspect having been conducted under permissible limits. The entire event was an incident-free event with Zero incidents of Drug, alcohol or Intoxicants abuse. On a positive note, we increased tourism massively with the influx of International and Domestic Tourists to the state and boosted the economy by directly and indirectly contributing to the state in the F&B, hospitality and transport sectors. 
Festival schedule also plays a vital role in attracting the audience. How do you plan your schedule to keep the momentum going by maintaining audience interest?
 
A successful and popular Music Festival will have perfect the mix of popular artists, genres of music, sounds, multiple stages, a good build up in terms of music, amazing visuals, state-of-the-art SFX and many on ground activations and experiences to cater to diverse audience expectations.
 
It started as a three-day event and now we have four days of extravaganza filled with music, fun and masti. There must be some reason behind this shift. Would you like to share it with us?
 
Our fans and audiences couldn’t get enough of Sunburn, so by popular request, we added one more day! And this move has received fantastic feedback from our fans with attendance levels peaking on the 4th day.
 
Sunburn is a great mix of Indian-international artists and Sunburn 11 also witnessed some great performers - Martin Garrix, Clean Bandit and Nucleya, how is the audience responding to such a great mixture?
 
The response has been fantastic, and our audiences have appreciated the diversity presented at OLA Sunburn 11. The World watched as the biggest artists took the stage at the Festival on the biggest stage thus concreting Pune in the Global music map as a destination for World class music events. Sunburn hosted India’s biggest NYE event with the biggest attendance and a memorable performance by the World No.1 DJ Martin Garrix with world-class artists such as Afrojack along with electronic dance music legends Infected Mushroom. The festival also featured Belgian duo and world #2 DJs, Dimitri Vegas and Like Mike on 28th December.
 
The stellar line-up also included the best live act of 2017, KSHMR along with the ‘Rockabye' hitmakers Clean Bandit. DJ Snake also made a comeback to the festival with his performance on 29th December. Sunburn Festival 2017 also featured performances from Kayzo, Coon, Nucleya, Justin Mylo, Ten Walls and a host of others over the span of 4 days. The largest stage with technical arrangements and state of the art SFX, VFX and fireworks with 3 of the World’s Top 10 DJs and the best live act of this year, all performing at the same festival made OLA Sunburn 11 a historic event.
 
From Goa to Pune, what changes Sunburn has gone through and what innovations audience can expect for upcoming events?
 
Over the past decade, we kept shifting the needle depending on how consumer tastes evolved. It’s changed a lot from 10 years ago and we rapidly kept changing the pace of the acts. Brand Sunburn associates itself with the latest and the best, whatever is trending today.
 
The artists we’re getting are ranked absolutely top in the world, and that’s the only way to be atop the game. If you’re in that 18 to 25 age bracket we make sure that we are focused on you. It’s quite scientific, we have a constant online exercise to monitor and study music preferences, what’s shared, and what videos are trending. That’s how we pick and program our selections. We stay current and topical.
 
Going forward, we will be doubling up in both size and scale with a host of new assets and formats being introduced therein catering to a wider audience both globally and domestically. We intend to double in magnitude and numbers from 750,000 to reach 1.4 million fans via amplification of engagement and events by introducing new formats and targeting more markets pan India and overseas. Sunburn Reload will expand from 25 shows to 50 large format shows across 26 cities. Sunburn Arena will also witness an expansion into 15 markets as it gets introduced into Tier 2 markets this year.
 
We have a big focus on Digital Content reach for Sunburn 11. Our viewership is targeted to double from 22 million online views to 50 million, with Live Streaming extending beyond the main Festival to become a key part of the other Sunburn formats.
 
We will be introducing a brand-new format of Sunburn this year called Sunburn U21. This will be completely targeted to the youth Under 21 age bracket as the name suggests. We have realized that we need to make the experience more accessible and affordable to the youth across India. These shows will be held at more accessible venues and at a much lower price point which will make an outing for a Sunburn U21 experience similar to the cost of going to a movie or a meal.
 
We initially plan to target the youth across the key cities of Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Delhi, Bengaluru and Hyderabad. We are confident that this format will enable us to tap into a new audience segment altogether and achieve massive numbers.
 
Sunburn CSR is another initiative. The rationale behind it is that every company and every brand should strive to do its bit for society and we are no different. We did have a successful charity project last year and we are looking to do the same each season. In addition, we have some other interesting and unique ideas as well to engage the fans and artists alike for the purpose of doing good for society.
 
Sunburn CSR will not only ensure that fans monies are being used wisely for causes aimed at the greater good of society but can also win them some amazing and exclusive prizes and once-in-a-lifetime opportunities that money cannot really buy!
 
International growth will also see the brand extend its geographical footprint into Australia, Dubai, Colombo, Asia and the Middle East. Beyond this, we are definitely interested in going into some new business lines with Sunburn, which again we plan to do in the next 12-24 months.
 
Today, no event is complete without social media. For Sunburn 11, have you deployed any specific social media theme?
 
We are very strong on social media, in the Top 5 globally on each platform, and our Engagement levels are very high. We are at the forefront of all social trends and put out really cutting-edge content that gets great organic traction.
 
You also have a Sunburn Group on Facebook. Please tell us more about that.
 
Sunburn currently has a whopping global fan base of over 5 million music aficionados across social media platforms. Sunburn Season 11 recorded a cumulative 12 million video views, 2.1 million fans on Facebook, 15 million reach on Twitter, 331,000 followers on Instagram, 1.3 million followers on Google+, 30,000 followers on Snapchat and a 55 million reach via the Facebook Live Streaming platform.
 
Over the past 5 years, leading lifestyle and consumer brands have associated with Sunburn as a powerful marketing channel to successfully see a substantial increase in both their engagement and sales numbers. With a Compounded Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 90% over the last 4 years, Sunburn’s sponsorship revenue in FY’17 stood at INR 100 Crores, bearing testimony to the value that this unique Live Media Asset offers.