How Sunburn Founder Brought Every Millennial’s New Year Party to Goa

The increasing popularity of musical festivals has been the reason behind the gradual swelling of the industry organizing such events with over-enthusiastic youths traveling far and wide to experience live music.

These fests cover all genres, including blue, folk, jazz and classical music. From Sunburn to NH7 Weekender, every music festival witnesses overwhelming participation from a large section of the urban audience. Winter season and especially New Year eves are usually chosen for these fetes.

For over a decade, Electronic Dance Music Festival Sunburn, organized by Percept Company, has been drawing EDM fans to the beaches of Goa.’Sunburn Festival 2017′ will be moving to a brand new venue in Pune itself and will bid farewell to its previous editions’ Sunburn Hills concept.

Karan Singh, CEO of Sunburn Global, started organizing the events in 2007 with the belief that India is a country where language changes in every 100-km-space and playing music is necessary as it is language neutral. 

Singh in a chat with Entrepreneur India explained how Sunburn gradually branched from a singular Goa Festival in December to multiple formats like Arenas, Reloads and Campus Tours across India and abroad, round the year.

Musical Transformation

“We were the pioneers in the Indian market in the EDM space and this genre of music clearly had an edge over others as there are no lyrics as such to understand. So, we had to take the tough call of dropping Metalfest as an intellectual property and continue with Sunburn. But, continuing with Sunburn had risks associated with it. In the first two years, as is the case with any intellectual property build-up, we lost money. But, by the third year Sunburn was a rage and we broke even,” he said.

In 2011, Sunburn had 120 artistes performing on 7 stages across two across two acres. Over 1,00,000 fans had flocked to the place to be a part of the show that was being viewed by 2 million people across 100 countries on YouTube.

By its 10th year (2016-17) Sunburn had grown massively to register a global attendance of 850,000. With a Compounded Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 90% over the past four years, Sunburn’s sponsorship revenue in Financial Year 2017 stood at INR 100 crores. The facts and figures bore testimony to the value that this unique ‘Live Media Asset’ offers.

Is Future Uncertain?

Sunburn was an uphill task for Singh as it didn’t make money initially. But Percept Company was inspired by the growing response and popularity and started to believe that EDM could be relevant in India.  And so instead of scaling back or exiting, the company decided to raise the game further

“The idea of an EDM Festival, as a music festival, has long been a dream for those trying to improve the music scene in India. With Bollywood’s stranglehold on people musically, this has been tough. Many events and pseudo festivals were planned, some were held, but basically, nobody was willing to show any sustained long-term commitment. Sunburn started off in Goa as an international music and dance festival for people from all over the country. In 2007, the EDM wave hit the entire world,” he said.

The story was thrilling since then. “We are extremely contented with the way the festival has grown, and how the movement is spreading,” Singh explained. It has broken the shell of being called a mere music festival and is now recognized as a global lifestyle brand with a cult following across the world.

Finding A Niche Is The Key To Success

Electronic Dance Music (EDM) is basically music without lyrics — it’s groovy and trendy. The absence of lyrics helped Sunburn Festival cut across regional, linguistic, political, religious and ethnic boundaries to bring together a diverse mix of music lovers from countries around the world to India. Besides, the music has a magical spell over young and old alike.

For Singh, the massive advantage with organizing EDM fest was that everyone could get up, enjoy and dance to the sound of music. While EDM is a popular music genre internationally, it was a relatively undiscovered in India.

“Sunburn, being a pioneer EDM festival launched in India in 2007, had many advantages since its inception. It’s easy to get noticed when you are the lone payer in a revolutionary niche space. The success of Sunburn can also be attributed to a lot of hard work, research, investment and other tangible factors. However, luck also plays a key role in determining its success,” he stressed.

Beyond Sunburn’s First Decade

As the Sunburn Festival is going to enter a new decade, the company is going to completely reinvent and renew the experience for their fans.

“Sunburn Season 11 will definitely break barriers to double in both size and scale with a host of new assets and formats being introduced therein catering to a wider audience both globally and domestically. We intend to double in magnitude and numbers from 750,000 to reach 1.4 million fans via amplification of engagement and events by targeting more markets across India and overseas as also introducing new formats,” Singh concluded, adding that they have a big focus on digital content reach for Sunburn 11.

Their viewership is targeted to double from 22 million online views to 50 million, with Live Streaming extending beyond the main Festival to become a key part of the other Sunburn formats.

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