HomeInterviewEXCLUSIVE: Percept Chairman Harindra Singh Talks Sunburn Klassique, Their Long Awaited Return To Goa, Future Plans & Much More Rajrishi Murthi January 29, 2019 Interview Indian entertainment giant Percept Live’s flagship property, Sunburn Festival has placed itself at the center of the dance music movement in the country ever since its ambitious debut back in 2007 on the sands of Goa. And while the festival has gone on to become one of the most popular brands to come out of the dance music scene in recent history, it suffered a major blow in 2016 following its eviction from Goa. Having found a new home in Pune since then, 2019 is set to mark the beginning of a brand new chapter for Sunburn Festival as they gear up to make their highly anticipated return to Goa with their newest property, Sunburn Klassique. And to get an idea of everything that has transpired behind the scenes till now and what the future holds for Sunburn Festival, we caught up with Percept’s Chairman and MD, Mr. Harindra Singh for an exclusive chat. Read on. TBB: Thank you for speaking to us, Mr. Harindra Singh. To start things off, can you tell us a bit about how the concept behind Sunburn Klassique came to life? Harindra Singh: Sunburn Klassique marks the homecoming of Sunburn to its state of birth. Goa is the birthplace of Sunburn. We started Sunburn in 2007 in Candolim Goa as a 3-day music festival and over the years Sunburn grew to become an iconic music festival that showcased an eclectic mix of music, entertainment, experiences, celebration and lifestyle that has seeded music tourism in India starting with Goa. 2015 saw the last edition of the Sunburn Festival in Goa at Vagator. Yes definitely, we missed Goa every moment. We left Goa in 2016 with a very heavy heart. We tried really hard to recreate the magic of Goa across other destinations, however Goa is Goa….incomparable to any other destination. It’s impossible to create the Goa magic anywhere else. And Sunburn is as Goan as the Goans! Recently we sensed an opportunity to return to Goa and were lucky to tie-up with Mr. Shailesh Shetty, Klassique who will be representing Sunburn in Goa and taking on the onus of handling all the local logistics, permissions and licenses for ensuring a smooth and successful homecoming of Sunburn Klassique in the State. The weekend of 23 & 24 February 2019 will be the first 2 day Sunburn Klassique showcase at Vagator. The plan is to start with one event and based on the success and feedback increase to 2 events. Ideally we would like to have one in the first quarter, one during the monsoon and one in the 3rd quarter. Sunburn Klassique will bring back the original vibe of Sunburn that is legendary and iconic. Sunburn Klassique is all about nostalgia, emotions, fond memories and having a great time with friends. Just the way it was from 2007-2015 in Goa. And we are very happy to be back home. TBB: Ever since Sunburn Festival moved away from its birthplace in Goa in 2016, the departure from its home ground has remained a constant topic of discussion for every single dance music fan in the country until now. Can you shed some personal light on how the whole journey has been like since then, be it finding a new home in Pune or even trying to emulate the experience that was on offer for fans back in Goa? Harindra Singh: In Goa we were only focused on growing the scale, size and content of the festival year on year. However, once we were forced to shift in 2016, the dynamics and the content of the festival had to massively change, innovate and adapt in multiple ways. This was a massive learning curve for us as we learned on the go, implemented, tied-up with the biggest names on the international scene and grew massively across various areas of Technology, SFX, logistics, Safety norms and many vital guidelines that matched and even surpassed the biggest and best global festivals and events. In Goa we had only grown organically, but our shift from Goa had elicited both an organic and inorganic growth in the festival that now offered us a tremendous advantage. We will definitely be implementing this learning curve into the upcoming Sunburn Klassique which will see the best of sound design and engineering, state of the art SFX, remarkable pyrotechnics and the best of curated content. Our homecoming with Sunburn Klassique will definitely raise the bar across all parameters and wow our fans like never before. TBB: With Sunburn finally heading back to Vagator for Sunburn Klassique, can you talk to us a bit about the recent challenges and triumphs associated with its long awaited arrival? Safety of our fans is and always has been our prime priority. We work hand in glove with all authorities to ensure we have all safety measures in place. We also have a ZERO drug tolerance policy and ensure no BANNED substances enter the festival arena. Sunburn along with our promoter Klassique will also ensure no norms or laws are violated and the event is incident and glitch free. Often people misunderstand what it is we are trying to do, then it becomes our responsibility to educate and demonstrate what we truly represent – a massive, open, collaborative platform for the Youth of India to connect, engage and express themselves. We have always strictly followed the laws and it has always been our top priority to provide a safe and secure environment for our fans. From the setup to the stages and the artists, Sunburn Klassique will truly stand apart. Sunburn evolved to a much bigger and commercial format post exit from Goa. But we all missed the original Goa Sunburn. It was cooler, more intimate, more emotions, experiences, pre post parties, shacks, local food and flavours. Sunburn Klassique will bring all of that back. We will always be very committed towards positioning Goa as the ultimate destination of choice for Entertainment, Lifestyle, Creativity, Fun and Business through our initiatives with Sunburn. That’s our way of paying back and thanking the beautiful destination of Goa and its people for all their love and support they have given us into making Sunburn the super global iconic success that it is today. TBB: Sunburn Klassique marks the beginning of a long term partnership between Percept Live and Goa-based nightlife and promotions giant, Klassique. What can we expect from this ambitious association in the near future? Harindra Singh: Goa is Sunburn’s home but we are outsiders despite having spent years here. We faced challenges understanding the local ecosystem, rules, needs, expectations etc. We were lucky to tie-up with Mr. Shailesh Shetty, Klassique who will be representing Sunburn in Goa and taking on the onus of handling all the local logistics, permissions and licenses for ensuring a smooth and successful homecoming of Sunburn Klassique in Goa. He knows Goa better than we ever would, he knows the business well having been the Supersonic partner since inception, and he will help us give the world a better Sunburn. We are aiming to provide a truly memorable and magical festival that can once again build Goa into a thriving music destination. We will curate and deliver the most intrinsic and enhanced fan experience without compromising on our production and experiential ethics. A massive festival like Sunburn is built on creativity, foresight and passion, and we will be going in all guns blazing to make Sunburn Klassique an even bigger festival than ever. The event will definitely bring back a lot of memories to fans who have been a part of Sunburn since its inception in Goa 12 years ago. TBB: A long time has passed by since putting together the first Sunburn on the sand in Candolim Beach 13 years ago? Do you feel like Sunburn Klassique will open up a new chapter for Percept Live and dance music events in Goa? Harindra Singh: Sunburn Klassique is all about the original vibe of Sunburn. Right from the flea markets, experience zones, adventure activities and setup, the overall vibe will strike a chord of nostalgia. It will bring back memories of the good times fans have experienced in the past when Goa was home to Sunburn. The artist line up will reflect the very same sentiment. We will be bringing down artists that are iconic and reflective of the vibe of the earlier days of Sunburn Goa. The Sunburn Klassique format will be completely different from the Sunburn festivals taking place in different cities. From the setup to the stages and the artists, Sunburn Klassique will truly stand apart. Sunburn evolved to a much bigger and commercial format post exit from Goa. We all missed the original Goa Sunburn. It was cooler, more intimate, more emotions, experiences, pre post parties, shacks, local food and flavours. Sunburn Klassique will aim to bring back all of that. TBB: We’ve already seen how Sunburn Festival has directly contributed towards tourism promotion and revenue generation in the past. Did that play an important role in making things smoother for Sunburn Festival’s re-entry into Goa this time around? Harindra Singh: At the time of its exit from Goa in 2016, Sunburn’s direct contribution to the Goa economy stood at close to Rs. 700 crores, besides generating employment and creating an entire ecosystem. Apart from putting the state on the world music tourism map as a preferred destination, Sunburn benefits and supports local businesses across hotels, F&B, travel, shopping and transport. We were waiting for an opportunity to return and host Sunburn in Goa. And when we read a recent statement of the Tourism Minister lamenting the exit of EDM Festivals and its associated impact. We saw a glimmer of hope and attained the confidence to look for a viable partner to bring back Sunburn into the State of Goa. In business there are bound to be differences. However both parties were proactively trying to seek solutions and arrive at a mutual resolution. It feels great to have arrived at a consensus to bring Sunburn back to its State of birth and continue to engage proactively to narrow past gaps and close. I can state clearly that we are close to resolving all matters amicably and the gaps will soon be a thing of the past. It’s a surreal and nostalgic feeling to witness Sunburn’s homecoming after a long gap of 3 years. We will work assiduously with the authorities to get all the requisite permissions to ensure the event goes off smoothly without any glitches, and also adds tremendous value to the local eco-system. We are very thankful to the Government for its support and recent announcements. TBB: Sunburn has become such a staple part of the country’s electronic music scene. After doing shows and festivals for more than a decade now, how do you continue to deal with the fans’ expectations when it comes to the artist lineups or the show production on offer and beyond? Harindra Singh: I think the music genre and fan’s tastes and expectations are very wide. We keep shifting the needle depending on how consumer tastes are evolving. It’s changed a lot from 12 years ago and we rapidly keep changing the pace of the acts. Sunburn associates itself with the latest and the best, whatever is trending today. The artists we’re bringing down are ranked absolutely top in the world, and that’s the only way to be atop the game. If you’re in that 18 to 25 age bracket we make sure that we are focused on you. It’s quite scientific, we have a constant online exercise to monitor and study music preferences, what’s shared, and what videos are trending. That’s how we pick and program our selections. We stay absolutely current and topical. We stay connected and involved with our clients and consumers through the entire process of conceptualizing, curating and executing all our events. In a consumer interfacing business like Sunburn one must stay connected. We cannot distance ourselves from the consumers because risky decisions have to be made swiftly by us. We can’t rely on spreadsheets for those decisions. We go to all our events, interact with the young crowd, make friends, listen to and embrace their feedback to improvise and evolve. We give them what they want, not what we want. This applies to artist selection, stage, SFX, Safety, Security, F&B, Activations, Campsites and the works. And that’s how we stay not just relevant but ahead of the curve. TBB: Sunburn has played an integral role in helping electronic dance music find an audience within the Indian sub-continent. With various showcases including Sunburn Campus, Sunburn Reload, Sunburn Arena and its flagship event, the festival brand has brought a wide array of international acts to Indian shores over the past several years. In terms of the artist roster, can we expect to witness the debut of more international artists and the inclusion of up and coming Indian acts in your future events? Harindra Singh: Sunburn started off in Goa in 2007 and grew organically and reached a sizeable scale by 2010. In 2011 we expanded and started doing Arena shows in different cities. Each following year we started introducing newer and more formats recognizing the potential of Sunburn across the entire country. We now have Sunburn Arena which are massive concerts with top headliners in the big urban cities; we have Sunburn Campus through which we take over several leading college festivals; and we also have Sunburn Reload through which we reach out to 30+ tier II & III markets in India with more mid-size experiences. In terms of line-ups, we work with the best in the business, and we have brought down most of the world’s leading artists to India such as Martin Garrix, Hardwell, Tiesto, David Guetta, Avicii, Chainsmokers, SHM, Axwell, Armin, Snake and Afrojack, to name just a few. Sunburn became a launch pad for many new local talents who have now become big names in the global and domestic music business. A very encouraging trend is the acceptance of original home-bred music. People are moving out of their comfort zones of willing to pay only for an evening of recognizable, popular music. Today an unknown local musician has a good chance of finding a paying audience – something unthinkable of, several years ago. Over the past 12 years Sunburn has served as a platform for many fresh acts to perform on stage and debut to a massive domestic and international audience, therein creating huge awareness for these independent Music Artists and local DJs and helping them promote their careers in a big way. We will continue to bring in and debut many more international artists in India as also stay steadfast in our commitment to showcasing many up and coming new Indian talents in future editions of all our Music Fests. TBB: Electronic music has grown exponentially within the Indian sub-continent since the start of Sunburn Festival. But moreover, it has also led to the development of a dedicated community which includes people from around the country and international shores. What are your personal thoughts on that? Harindra Singh: Sunburn was one of the first Intellectual Properties we launched in 2007. Being pioneers in the Indian market in the EDM space we realized that this genre of music clearly had an edge as there are no lyrics hence appealing to a wider audience. In a country where language changes every 100 kilometers we realized we need to play music that is language neutral. Sunburn has come a long way since then and is a great Youth Engagement platform today. Social Media has created a distance between people as they disconnect & push buttons on a screen; Music Fests like Sunburn are truly encouraging a ‘healthy social’ experience. At Sunburn you can camp out with friends, play volleyball, football, fly a kite, climb a man made rock, read a book or just dance. It’s your time and you can spend the hours doing exactly what you like with family and friends. A great place for like minded people to meet, chat, connect, have a great time and make new lifelong friends. Sunburn encourages people to come out of their homes, get off their couches, take their fingers off their phone’s keypad and TV remote controls, forget about the office workload and have a good time outdoors. It aims to get you enveloped in a complete 360-degree social experience that cannot be felt on any social media site sitting in the confines of one’s home or office. And that’s being truly social. Today, it comes as no surprise that Sunburn is amongst the top 3 attended global music festivals; ranked amongst the top 5 music festivals across all Social Media platforms globally; classified as the No. 1 youth platform in Asia; and India’s leading Live Media Asset. TBB: The music festival landscape in India has always been an interesting, yet highly exciting domain for all players involved, and most importantly for the fans. With the arrival of multiple festival brands, each of whom have been trying to deliver their own unique experience, what is your vision for the future of Sunburn and how do you aim to take it forward? Harindra Singh: Given the dynamic audience pulse and partner brand expectations, we have constantly innovated, experimented, broken the mould and introduced newer and more formats recognizing the potential of Sunburn across the entire country. From a singular festival in December, we multiplied our formats to reach a diverse geographical footprint across Tier II and III cities. We have always focused on the experience of our fans, and we will continue to give them an even better, bigger and importantly more varied experience moving forward. There is so much potential in India with so many markets to tap into – the possibilities for expansion are endless. We will also be introducing new formats like U21 which is completely targeted to the youth Under 21 age bracket as the name suggests. These shows will be held at more accessible venues and at a much lower price point which will make an outing for a Sunburn U21 experience similar to the cost of going for a movie or a meal. And we are confident that this format will enable us to tap into a new audience segment altogether and achieve really massive numbers. Given our massive popularity overseas, International growth will see the brand extend its geographical footprint into more countries across Asia, Europe, South America and West Asia. Digital reach is targeted to scale up to hit over 50 million views this season with Live Streaming and other innovative Technologies backing our endeavor. On popular demand we are definitely interested in getting into some new business lines with Sunburn in the next 12-24 months. Sunburn Klassique is set to take place in Vagator, Goa on February 23rd and 24th, 2019.