“Tainted by no-shows and farcical events”: Can Movement buck the hip-hop trend?

Movement festival co-promoters Niche Productions and Live Nation have admitted that hip-hop tours have been “tainted by no-shows and farcical events” but promise that their event will fill “the void of credible hip-hop events in Australia”.

Last year the Australian hip-hop festivals Heatwave and Supafest both struggled with a series of cancellations angering fans and artists. Heatwave’s promoter later admitted that he was too naive and inexperienced to run the festival, while Supafest is planning a comeback in 2013 despite the fallout from last year’s tour which saw Diddy, Missy Elliott and Rick Ross all disappearing from the lineup and the festival struggling with a reported $2-million debt.

The long list of “farcical” Australian hip-hop tours in recent years also includes Mos Def’s no-shows in 2011, “Flo Rida’s Fat As Butter “hissy-fit””:, and the cancellation of the Ultra Session Beats 300 festival which was set to host Lil Wayne, Kid Cudi and Wiley. The current tour from hip-hop “supergroup” Slaughterhouse has also been hit by cancellations and venue downgrades with support act Schoolboy Q cancelling his visit due to “recording commitments” and Joe Budden failing to board his flight to Australia citing “immigration issues”.

Commenting on his failed Mos Def tour in 2011, promoter Sam Speaight told The Vine that dealing with US hip-hop artists was a “high risk business model”. So how does Movement plan to succeed where similar tours have failed? Roger Field, vice president of promotions at Live Nation, and Niche festival boss James Browning spoke to FL to explain how they plan to deliver “the hip-hop event of 2013”.

The festival market in Australia is extremely crowded. Why have you taken the decision to add Movement festival to the calendar and why now?

Roger Field and James Browning: We felt that there was a gap in the marketplace for a multi-bill event that appealed to fans of more alternative, and cutting edge urban music than current offerings. Given the profile of new acts such as Macklemore, Kendrick Lamar, Yelawolf and Tyga to name a few, there’s definitely been a shift in market focus to this style of music. Unfortunately the genre has been somewhat tainted by no-shows and farcical events, and what we’re trying to do is deliver these shows with the same consistent standards we do all events with our name on them.

What are the ambitions for the festival? Is [US hip-hop festival] Rock The Bells a template?

RF and JB: We want to grow organically and while Rock The Bells is an inspiration, what we’re doing has to be suited to the Australasian market place. We want to become an event that over time, fans of hip hop, R&B and urban music treat as their annual, high calibre multi-bill event. In an ideal world it also gives us an opportunity to present up-and-coming talent in an environment where fans under the age of 18 can buy a ticket to see them rather than be shut out by the licensing regulations that cover smaller venues in a lot of Australian states. We like the idea of a curatorship as well – if it works for a cultural or classical festival, why shouldn’t it work with Movement?

Touring American hip-hop acts has been a notoriously difficult job for Australian promoters with a series of high-profile cancellations. Do you feel that puts extra pressure on Movement in its first year to convince punters that it’s different?

RF and JB: Touring in general is challenging – regardless of the genre and origin of the act. We’re anticipating that our contacts, the way we have structured the events and our resources (supported by year round touring) will help us get over most of the speed bumps that arise. We’re committed to delivering what we promise, but only the result will stand to whether or not we were successful.

Have events such as Supafest and Heatwave damaged Australia’s reputation and made it more difficult to tour hip-hop acts here?

RF and JB: There are plenty of challenges in touring as we said, but there’s no doubt that a failure to deliver on the part of the industry here and abroad impacts fan sentiment and faith in what they’re buying. We have to keep in mind that people are paying up front on the basis of a promise, and we will do all we can to deliver on what we’ve promised.

Niche and Live Nation are very experienced promoters in their own right. What led to them teaming up to promote Movement. How does the collaboration work between the promoters?

RF: James Browning was touring something I’d wanted to tour and I was impressed with the bill he’d put together, so I gave him a call. We partnered on a project of mutual interest being Erykah Badu’s tour which James secured, and since then we’ve worked together on a bunch of things. Niche are a great operation, and James has a great sense of what’s up and coming especially in the alternative realm and especially urban music. James recently secured the Kendrick Lamar and Macklemore tours in his own right, and look at those. We both saw the opportunity here, and decided to seize the day.

The press release says that Nas will “be involved in an artistic and programming capacity for the 2014 and 2015 events”. What does that mean in practical terms? Is he the festival “curator”? How closely will Nas be working with the promoters?

RF and JB: Nas has already been a great contributor. He’s jumped on the opportunity to collaborate with Bliss N Eso, and perform the track with them at Movement – samples have already been exchanged and dates confirmed. While we’ve put some of our own flavour into the line-up, Nas is kicking off our concept of having a curator for the event so that we keep our offering current, fresh and every few years we take a change of course.

How did you manage to lock Nas into working on the event for three years? And what about a new festival in Australia (of all places) hooked Nas?

RF and JB: Australia’s reputation for embracing international hip-hop is well known, but more importantly there’s a fascination around the “home brand” of hip-hop we produce in our own region. Nas was drawn to the opportunity of working with a homegrown staple, and to actually have an impact on the talent that we programmed alongside him and his Aussie collaborators.

Live Nation’s first Australian tour teamed Jay-Z with U2, so can we draw a long bow and start a rumour that he’ll be playing Movement next year? Who is on the dream lineup wish list for Movement festival?

RF and JB: How about we get this one away and then we can talk!

Movement festival lineup:


Bliss N Eso

2 Chainz

Chiddy Bang

Joey Bada$$

Angel Haze

Spit Syndicate (Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth)

Thudamentals (Sydney)

Movement dates and venues:

Friday, April 26 – Hordern Pavilion, Sydney

Saturday, April 27 – Sidney Myer Music Bowl, Melbourne

Sunday, April 28 – Riverstage, Brisbane

Tuesday, April 30 – Red Hill Auditorium, Perth