Rock ‘n’ rolla’s ready for Oppikoppi onslaught.

Posted: July 16, 2009 in Theatre & Event Reviews and Interviews
Tags: ,

Dirty Skirts; Photo by Grant Gifford

Dirty Skirts; Photo by Grant Gifford

First published in the Event newspaper: July 2009

A Hell’s Angel is pummeling a journalist for taking photos of his girlfriend, half-dressed bodies in various states of recovery are lying under thorn trees, a lone guy wearing only silver spray-paint and a security tape loincloth washes his breakfast down with a warm beer; and this is only the first morning after a typical Oppikoppi music festival.

The anti-establishment music festival, which is celebrating its 15th year in existence, will be rocking the dusty Limpopo town of Northam from 7-9 August. Organisers expect around 15 000 revelers at this year’s gig. President for life and self-proclaimed very Primed Minister, Carel Hoffmann, recalls how, during one of the festivals, his brother-in-law drove over someone’s knee with a double-decker bus, “The contraption they used to fix it still hangs in the bar,” Carel laughs.

In 1994 Boors and Tess Bornmann, who owns the Oppikoppie farm, started organising band weekends in Northam. Carel had just been posted at platinum mine next door to work back his bursary, and he and his varsity friends piled into the Bornmanns’ weekends. These were chaotic and wildly hedonistic rock ‘n’ roll affairs which lasted for three or more days.

“In 1995 Tess said we should try to get a festival going,” Carel remembers, “And that was really the start of it. We booked every single original music band in the rock ‘n’ roll arena. We did flyer and poster marketing for months, and in the end, attracted roughly 2000 people with 27 bands.”

Carel confesses that things still get pretty crazy at the festival. What had changed is that Oppikoppi has grown into a fully fledged events company with a very active booking and touring agency, sponsorship management divisions, and a below-the-line advertising agency.

Carel says the idea then (and now) was just to have a good time. “It sort of gathered pace, and a life of its own,” he laughs. Oppikoppi started branching out when people were asking the organisers to produce events for them. Soon, brand managers were enquiring about tours, activations, and all kinds of gimmickry around the country. “Oppikoppi was establishing itself as a brand name and people wanted a piece of that,” Says Carel, “At first we just had to get ourselves employed year round. We built up event after event to try and get a network going. From around year four or five; we were working on music full time.”

Oppikoppi’s artist booking agency is one of the busiest in the country. The company has also added rentals to their long list of services; offering production office infrastructure, two way radios, fire extinguishers, beer benches and tables, fencing, flag poles and much more.

A fairly recent division added is KoppiTV, which, in collaboration with other specialists, enables the company to create advertisements, television productions, and almost any form of audio visual work required.

Carel says that in South Africa tickets sales very rarely cover the full costs of any music show. They realised that in order to survive, they had to develop a way of working creatively with brands, whilst maintaining the integrity of the events. “I think this has been to a large extent what has kept us afloat in the last 15years,” says Carel. “It’s often much more tricky than people think to just cover costs on these events.

“We have a very open attitude to agencies and clients. In the last few years we have come to almost view ourselves as a type of media channel,” he explains, “Agencies buy activation rights from us to access certain target markets…it becomes a bit abstract.”

Oppikoppi has enjoyed long-time relationships with companies such as Vodacom, Levi’s Brandhouse, Old Mutual, and many others. “The fact that we have such a wide network allows us to do some pretty nifty stuff at cost effect rates,” Says Carel.

Oppikoppi must be doing something right. Carel confesses that they aim to grow their ancillary business with 20-30% per year. Last year saw around 300 000 people at the accumulated shows and the organisers are estimating that these figures will reach around 400 000 in 2009. “It’s a really exciting time to be in music,” says Carel. Some of the other events that Oppikoppi run are the Deurriemikke Carnival, the Emmarentia and Durban Music Series and the Rage for the Revolution music festival; to mention just a few. Carel confirms that planning for each year’s Oppikoppi starts as soon as the last one finishes, with organisational activities intensifying during the final eight months.

Carel feels that a strong entrepreneurial team with an unwavering love for the local music industry is one of the main ingredients of Oppikoppi’s success. “I think few people know how many hours go into these things,” says Carel, “ It often feels like the financial rewards are not really worth the risk or hours, but then you stand in front of a stage somewhere, with 10 000 people going apeshit, and you remember why you got into it all. I think people who don’t love music will not last. It’s just too much work.”

During Oppikoppi 2009 Smoorverlief, music lovers can look forward to around 80 live acts, which include established artists such as aKING, Parlotones, Koos Kombuis, Fokofpolisiekar; as well as promising new acts.

The End
Astrid Stark

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