Page 21 - We Rave You Magazine | September 2022
P. 21


                “We realised there was a huge potential for festival tourism
                and from there we became more creative and ambitious

                about the projects we were going for”
                                                                               – GERALD DEBONO

           Firstly, tell us a little bit about 356, its history and how it   Was the aim to bring more tourists in general to Malta, or was
           started, and why you felt that Malta needed these events.  there an intentional focus on drawing younger crowds in?
           GERALD: 356 is an evolution of what Trevor and I used to do   GERALD: 20 years ago Malta was for the older demographic,
           many years ago under Fresh Music Events. The aim back in   as it was sold as a sunny island to come to with nice beaches,
           the day was to get international standard events to Malta as  nice churches; a very relaxed atmosphere. However, focusing
           it lacked them. Some events were happening, but we came   on good festival tourism, we have created extra appeal and
           up with the idea of building high-production events, during   brought awareness of the island to the younger generation
           a time when there weren’t strict technical riders yet. So we   even though there’s a very good nightlife scene happening
           were free to build the shows we wanted to build, and even   here as well.
           book world-class talents such as Armin van Buuren, Paul
           Van Dyk, David Guetta and Tiësto, so we went straight to the   TREVOR: With regards to general tourism, a while back
           top! We used to do other events too but we went straight   when we did arena shows, we would be selling the majority
           into arena shows as they were our speciality. Then as things   of tickets to locals. Now, they make up about 2% of our
           progressed, we acquired Malta’s biggest open-air venue   audience as most of the festivals we put on are made with
           and festival tourism became our focus, starting with Lost   foreigners in mind as the artists we book are targeting more
           & Found. We took some risks in the early days, but without   of a UK market than a local market; they are very different.
           those, we wouldn’t have been able to achieve what we have,
           and that’s how 356 was born. We realised there was a huge   How did you come to be able to work with big event brands
           potential for festival tourism and from there we became   such as the likes of the BBC, Creamfields and people like
           more creative and ambitious about the projects we were   Annie Mac for example?
           going for. I would say we were the first to take things to a
                                                             TREVOR: Well, we started doing Cream shows back in the
           different level, let’s say so because there were the other
                                                             late 90s or early 2000, then we escalated it to Creamfields
           promoters before us, but they were still just promoting
                                                             festival, in 2004 or 2006. Back in the days we also used to
           techno. When we started doing events, we introduced
                                                             do Cocoon and Renaissance shows, which were also big
           trance and house to Malta.
                                                             brands at the time, but that might be us showing our age
                                                             as that was quite a long time ago! But at that time it was
           Did you face any challenges considering you were one of
                                                             more that we’d pay a brand fee and organisers for the local
           the first or if not the first to be doing this in Malta?
                                                             circuits. Nowadays, we need our partners to be involved. We
           TREVOR: The risks we faced occurred to us in organising   wouldn’t just pay for a brand fee, and just come up with an
           our first event, which was Lost & Found with Annie Mac. It   event, we would want the support to be ready and want to
           was the birth of festival tourism in Malta, having joined   work together.
           forces with UK promoters. Before it used to be a dream for
           our company to attract foreign customers to come to our   GERALD: It almost became a policy that if we’re partnering
           events, and once Lost & Found arrived, it sold out at 8000   up with someone, it had to be one of the top international
           people in a day. We thought it was a fluke. The risk at that   players such as the BBC, Cream, Defected, DLT, Abode or our
           time was more the culture shock, and the Maltese people   UK partners for Lost & Found and even other brands from
           and residents seeing 8000 clubbers at one time. Apart from   other sectors that we deal with.
           that though, it was the start of something very big as it drew
           in a significant number of younger people, whereas Malta   Are there any other collaborations we can look forward to?
           had had this previous reputation as being somewhere for
                                                             GERALD: To be honest, we have a long list at this stage for
           the older generation due to the history of the island. To add
                                                             next year, but we know that we can’t do all of them, so we
           to that 94% of the people that travelled to Lost & Found were
                                                             will have to make a shortlist so that we don’t oversaturate
           coming to Malta for the first time. It had a multiplier effect in
                                                             the summer. Lately what we realised is that we can branch
           relation to the economy, with the focus put on taxis, restau-
                                                             out beyond house and techno and bass music and like we
           rants, and hotels, and it started stretching the summer
                                                             did this year, we’ll branch out into different genres like rock,
           season longer and put Malta in the spotlight. From a
                                                             for example, to make it more diverse.
           promoter’s point of view, it’s nice to see these festivals give
           a lot back financially to local businesses and communities,
           and to the country itself.

 20 we rave  PC: SUMMERDAZE FESTIVAL  PC: 356 ENTERTAINMENT                                      sep 2022  21
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