Rob Takes AIM For Indie Fests

Radio 1 DJ and Bestival co-founder Rob da Bank has launched a new organisation to represent the interests of the U.K.’s independent music festivals.

The Association of Independent Music Companies (AIM) announced the birth of the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) when it held its AGM conference at London Calling June 19.

AIF will operate as an autonomous division of AIM with its own board and structure, although AIM chairman Alison Wenham will also head the new festival organisation.

"The smaller festivals are often overlooked, and it’s important we now have a voice to influence decisions being made that impact on our business," said Creamfields owner James Barton, who worked with "da Bank" (real name Robert Gorham) on setting up the AIF.

He also has the 40,000-capacity Creamfields in Liverpool, the largest of 12 festivals represented on the board of the new nonprofit trade organisation.

Gorham says the AIF has been "a seed in my brain" ever since the start of Bestival five years ago. He sees it as a way for festivals to communicate on practical issues including sourcing good toilets, stopping campsite theft, being greener, saving money and making the events "as good as can be."

All festival promoters on the AIF board – Chris Greenwood (Big Chill), Chris Smith (Womad), Dave Farrow (Beautiful Days), Franc Gooding (Bloom Festival), Freddie Fellowes (Secret Garden Party), Jim King (Loud Sound), John Reynolds (Electric Picnic-Ireland), Nick Ladd (Glade), Rob Challice (Summer Sundae Weekender) and Tom Baker (Field Day) – were approached by the founders.

The association will operate on an invite-only basis, meaning the board alone will select new association members. The organisation will also operate a Friends Of AIF, in similar style to Friends Of AIM, opening the door to companies ranging from merchandisers to toilet providers.

AIF services provided from launch will include use of AIM’s lawyer Michael Fuller, discounted entry to AIF and AIM networking events, exclusive exposure to companies operating in the festival market, including shared knowledge of service providers around the U.K. and Ireland.

AIF will immediately open up dialogue across music business and government, making itself available for consultation on key issues facing the festival market.

AIF says the move comes at an opportune time for the festival industry as a whole. More than 450 music festivals reportedly make their home in the U.K. alone, with the recent explosion of the last few years appearing to have slowed down.

The AGM wasn’t all celebrations for Wenham, who reported that the public row that led to Ministry Of Sound and Gut tearing up their AIM memberships – although Gut has since rejoined – cost the organisation about £30,000 (US$68,957).

Both companies quit when AIM supported the decision of indies oganisation IMPALA when it agreed to not oppose any bid Warner made for EMI as long as it made certain "behavioural undertakings" to reduce its market share in other areas.

AIM’s loss for the year came to £41,518 (US$81,930), way up on the £2,049 it dropped in 2006. Total revenue for 2007 reached £888,466 (US$1.75 million), which is about £5,000 up on the previous year.

Four new members – Kerry Harvey-Piper, co-founder and director of Red Grape Records; Julie Weir, A&R director of Visible Noise; Simon Raymonde, a director of Bella Union; and Everything But The Girl’s Ben Watt, who is also the founder of Buzzin’ Fly – were elected to the AIM board.

They replace Feargal Sharkey, Echo chief exec Jeremy Lascelles, Absolute Marketing & Distribution’s Henry Semmence and Automatic Songs’ Russell Coultart, who stood down in line with the association’s rotation rules.