[Interview] A Glimpse Into the Rise of 'Festival Riverside' and Its Founder’s Career
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be the mastermind behind a music festival? This inquiry was always something that piqued our curiosity. So, we decided to sit down with the 'Festival Riverside' founder for an exclusive interview. Spoiler: he answered even our most untamed questions!
Before we unveil some of our most coveted findings, we want to extend our appreciation to Marc-Antoine Massicotte for taking the time out of his busy schedule to meet with us. We were delighted to a get better glimpse into his impressive career as well as the rise of Festival Riverside.
It's not every day that we get to be in the presence of greatness - therefore, we didn't take this opportunity for granted. We asked the hard-hitting questions, and soaked up all of the wisdom that we could. As a result, we were left ready to tackle even the toughest of dilemmas thanks to his truly fantastic advice.
Whether you're passionate about the music and/or events industry, or you want to learn some of the best tricks of the trade to perfect your own profession, you'll want to check out our below article! Unquestionably, Massicotte was born to produce events - it's a pleasure to share his story with you all...
Firstly, thank you for taking the time to chat with The Flag Gang.
We want to start off this interview by congratulating you on your most recent nomination for 'Leader of the Year' regarding the noteworthy role you played in the acclaimed Casino du Lac-Leamy fireworks competition.
Truthfully, the praise you received did not come as a surprise to us as your hard work and passion for events has continuously been made evident throughout the years.
1) In your opinion, what makes a good leader, and how have your past experiences shaped your career and Festival Riverside as a whole?
Thank you so much! [In all honesty,] I've been pretty much a ghost on socials. However, I wanted to share this [accomplishment] because even though it's an individual recognition, I also wanted to make sure that I congratulated my team. [In my opinion,] being a good leader is about having good people to guide.
Leadership is quite a special beast as it has really evolved in the past few years. [In the past,] a leader was someone who would simply make decisions and kind of bulldoze everyone. [In other words,] lead the way, but not necessary think about how their actions would impact others.
In our modern world, most individuals want a more transparent and open leadership. People want to collaborate, and be more involved, especially when it comes to the decision making. [On that same note,] they also want to take risks, learn, and improve.
[Additionally,] a good leader is someone who can guide a team to do all of the things they're seeking - [ultimately,] to encourage them to jump on opportunities to learn so we can improve together. Trust, patience, and being attentive, are all equally key factors to ensuring efficiency.
[Moreover,] recruiting great individuals, meaning they're able to consolidate the culture that we're trying to build, is crucial. For me, I'm continuously trying to fill in the gaps with people who I know can bring a lot to the table. With all that being said, I would say this would be my definition of a good leader.
[Festival] Riverside will always have a special place in my heart because it was the first large-scale project that I started. It's incredible to think that was almost 10 years ago now! To give you an idea, ÎleSoniq didn't even exist back then, so it makes me happy knowing that I started something that became so big.
[Furthermore,] it was cool to have a hunch that starting an electronic dance music festival was the right path to take in this market. [Nowadays,] I'm looking forward to involving our new team members so that they can bring the overall event and experience to a whole new level!
As for my past experiences, I've always been passionate about the EDM scene. There came a point where I had to slow down from going out as often as I did so that I could pursue other events and business ventures; and eventually, build my company the way I envisioned it.
Also, now that the pandemic has seemingly been put behind us, it's just so much fun to get back into what I love to do - bringing people together at events. I feel like my passion has been reignited! [Additionally,] I like where EDM is going right now - a sort of back-to-the-roots connection in the past year or so.
2) Although you seem to effortlessly juggle several different varieties of events, when it comes to the realm of dance music, what are some of the biggest challenges you've faced, and can you share some of your tricks to overcoming these obstacles?
As you can imagine, the events industry had been one of the most touched due to the pandemic. It was very trying to keep my employees in house and busy during this unknown period of time. I certainly didn't want them to leave to pursue another job opportunity, but I understood their uncertainties.
Today, I am very proud to say that we've kept our staff. We even hired new employees that has resulted in our team being stronger than ever. If you were to have told us that this would be the case during the pandemic, we might not have believed you. We're thrilled to have such a solid team of people.
On that same topic, we also feel for our vendors because most of them have staff and supplies shortages, not to mention, they are dealing with inflation. Don't get me wrong, we're all dealing with this together, and we have a mutual understanding that things may not get back to "normal" for some time.
[That said,] my best advice to overcome challenges would be to keep surrounding yourself with people that you fully trust, and take care of them in any way that you can. I would encourage others to make their team members feel valued and heard - it will make all of the difference!
Over the past 10 years, I've always [dreamed of being] the guy that you would want to assist; not because you had to, but because you truly wanted to help me out. So, everything that I have, and that I've built, is out of respecting others. [As such,] having others support has been essential to overcoming obstacles.
If we go back to your first question, I am not the type of leader who is conflict-driven; I would describe myself to be very positive. In the events industry, we deal with a lot of organized chaos, so remaining positive and setting boundaries are important "tricks" for me to implement as well.
Finally, having an in-depth understanding of the roles you encounter can be extremely beneficial. In the events industry, we work with all kinds of people such as artists, media, marketing, logistics, production, etc., so we need to be open-minded about their different realities - and them of ours.
Despite encountering these often difficult occasions, the positive results unquestionably speak for themselves. We want to personally thank you and your team for organizing nearly a decade's worth of memorable festivals.
3) What have been some of your proudest moments when you look back on the admirable progression from year one through year nine? Is it possible to share some of the items that are left on your ultimate goals list for the future of the festival?
Those are great questions! I actually encountered two of my proudest moments [on the Saturday of Festival Riverside]. The first one that stands out involves Oliver Heldens. He's someone that I've respected for such a long time because he's a pioneer in the music industry. He has created his own sound and has really perfected his craft. So, finally booking him was a dream come true!
The other moment that brought a lot of pride for me was welcoming GRiZ to our [Festival] Riverside stage. I believe he is the next wonder in the music industry, and it was also cool that this was one of the only shows he performed in Canada this summer. So, to have him play such a great set was really special.
I also want to say how much I appreciated GRiZ's comments about how much he enjoyed his time at our festival. He shared how much he loved our venue and our team's energy. Hearing this kind of feedback really resonated with me and the team as it reinforced that we're doing great work.
Other things that are worth mentioning are, of course, some of the milestones since the very beginning. One that immediately comes to mind is in 2019, we were sold out for a couple of days. Another is the fact that we're able to keep this event alive in a public institution and in an urban set up right downtown - I mean, that's really special on its own because it's not easy to sustain.
Also, I find [Festival Riverside] is in a sweet spot because we're the biggest of the smallest events, and the smallest of the biggest ones, which means we can tailor more to areas like the overall experience. This also helps us better manage the value for money that our attendees encounter. I'm very proud of the quality/price we're able to offer our participants, especially in an urban setting.
As for the remaining items on my goals list, there are so many! For one, we just celebrated the 25th anniversary edition of the Fireworks Competition. Of course, I wasn't involved that long ago, but this experience reminded me that milestones are a great excuse to try new things...
With that being said, festivalgoers can count on some new added elements during Festival Riverside's 10th anniversary! Our team is looking forward to getting together for some strategic planning. It's also exciting that we have a full year to plan, this time around, now that the pandemic has ended.
4) Is there anything else that you'd like to share with The Flag Gang?
I'd like to thank everyone at The Flag Gang for their support. To see many of you in the crowd was a beautiful sight to witness. I'd also like to extend my appreciation to all of our partners and everyone else who made this 9th edition possible. Lastly, I'm aiming to bring many of my projects to the next-level - I can't wait to share them with you all soon!