Festival fund raising - noise

Author: Sharon Longridge, General Manager
Date published: 17 February, 2004
Copyright: noise and the Australia Council for the Arts, 2004

Explores the partnership strategy of the national youth arts cross-media festival "noise".


noise is an Australian youth media art festival that profiles young artists and their new work across radio, television in print and online. noise is unique, hanging creative works across the media instead of in traditional art spaces. The last festival held in October 2003 showcased writing, animation, e-works, moving pictures, images, DJ sets, zines, comics, spoken word and new and remixed music – all created by young Australians and projected to a national audience of over 15 million.

noise reached this sizable audience due to collaborations with over 80 media and arts organisations. These noise partners include Triple J, Channel 10, the ABC (Radio, TV and Online), the National Gallery of Australia, Channel [V], The Australian, the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, and a host of magazines including IdN [International Design Network], HQ, Inside Film, Kerrang, Chik, Design Graphics and more.

The first festival of this kind was LOUD in 1998, followed by noise in 2001. The latest festival built on the profile and success of its predecessors. noise 2003 received $2 millio n seed funding from the federal Government and through cash and in-kind partnerships grew this to $6 million.

Revenue streams

For noise 2003 the breakdown was fairly neat. Approximately:

  • Federal Government: $2 million
  • Cash Sponsorship: $2 million
  • In-kind Sponsorship: $2 million

In-kind support is essential for us. You can’t buy airtime on Triple J, Radio National, Classic FM, ABC TV, SBS Radio etc. This in-kind support provides vital media channels to reach large audiences.


Firstly, here at noise we don’t actually use the term ‘fundraising’ and we don’t adopt the typical sponsorship models you know with gold, silver and bronze partners. For us this area falls into a vital part of the festival – partnerships. noise is predicated on a network of partnership so we can actually create opportunities to exhibit the work submitted across the media.

There is a range of ways an organisation can get involved in noise. Appreciating that every organisation has different needs and resources, the details of each partnership is determined on a case-by-case basis. However there are four basic partnership models which frame how organisations can become affiliated with the festival. The noise partnership models are scalable and based on the principle of reciprocity.

Media Partners
Media organisations are invited to become partners in the noise festival. Since the premise of the festival is to display the creative works submitted across the media, this collaboration model is designed to encourage a range of media organisations to display noise content. There is scope for organisations to be affiliated with a specific project they have helped shape, or simply to receive syndicated noise content appropriate to their media. Their participation could also include promoting the call to action and more generally supporting the festival.

Production Partners
This model facilitates organisations that would like to work with noise to generate content for the festival. In most instances this would also include exhibiting the work they have produced as part of noise. Their participation could also include promoting the call to action and more generally supporting noise and being an active part of the festival.

Arts Partners
Arts organisations are invited to become partners in the noise festival. This scheme is designed to encourage advocacy and support for noise, to generate good word-of-mouth and to enable arts organisations to play an active role in the festival. In return an organisation can enjoy reciprocal advocacy and promotion to an audience of young creative people.

With links to a broad range of young people across the country, noise presents an exciting marketing opportunity for many organisations. There is broad scope for a variety of commercial entities and government departments to get involved in the festival. Sponsors can become affiliated with noise in several ways, for example by funding existing or customised noise projects and content or supply of required goods and services.

The relationship between fund raising and marketing

The partnerships we form impact significantly on the marketing strategy. The core aim of the marketing strategy is to spread the noise as far and wide as possible. Every partner that we get on board that helps us exhibit the artists and their work helps us achieve this. Any partner that assists us create additional compelling content featuring the artists and their work also help us attract an audience and therefore raise the profile of the festival and the artists involved. For instance phase one of the marketing strategy is the ‘call to action’ where we invite all young people [25 and under] to submit their creative work. Many of our partners promote the call out including Triple J, ABC TV, ABC Online, Channel [V], SBS TV and Radio, as well as several print partners.

The sum of the multiple collaborations combined with effective marketing and publicity raises the profile of the festival thus making it an attractive proposition for new partners and sponsors. It’s all very much inter-linked!

Strategy and implementation

Since all the festivals have been funded as one-off events all the partnerships reflect this. Having said that, the majority of our partners have been involved with two or more of the festivals, and are keen to play again!

We devise our partnership strategy based on past experience and building on the success, goodwill and networks of the previous festivals. Each festival has provided us with a rich opportunity to refine your approach, and try new approaches.

We’re a small team so really it’s the Executive Producer, General Manager and Communications Manager that devise and implement the Partnership strategy. Last festival this involved forming over 80 partnerships, each of which is very different.

Our relationship management strategy with Triple J was quite different to the other partnerships. We actually seconded our noise radio producer to Triple J and he worked there 3 days a week and utilised their facilities. In turn they gained a talents part time producer who created quality content for broadcast on the network. He would brief both managers and the entire team regularly and integrated the project into their world. This was very effective; so much so they have now employed him as Assistant Station Manager!

Snapshot was a great example of a noise project that successfully enlisted the support of four sectors: public, private, government and the media. In 2001 noise, the National Council of the Centenary of Federation and Kodak invited people to capture their life on film. Single use cameras provided by Kodak were sent to all corners of the country. Complementing the Centenary of Federation’s themes, the thousands of images developed combined to reveal fascinating insights about the lives and aspirations of young Australians. Then in partnership with News Limited, a selection of these images were presented in a special Snapshot book and standout images were also published in the national network of News Limited Sunday newspapers.

Sonic Allsorts was collaboration between noise, SBS Radio’s Alchemy, Cyclic Defrost – a music and design magazine- in 2003. Sonic Allsorts was a project that invited all young musicians [25 and under] or groups, making music in languages other than English, to enter a track. Selected tracks received extensive media exposure:

  • A professional recording by SBS and release on a CD;
  • National airplay on SBS Radio’s Alchemy program;
  • National distribution of the CD on Cyclic Defrost magazine;
  • Showcased in the noise magazine and on the noise site.
The pitch

There has been a lot of knocking on doors and working the networks doing the pitch over the years. We tend to be quite fatalistic about sponsors if they are hot for it great, if not we move on.

In some instances we go through the potential partner’s marketing or sponsorship department, in other organisations we deal directly with content producers and editors.

We create a noise kit that includes examples of media outcomes from the previous festival, and a booklet that overviews the festival. We either send this to the key personnel, or present it in the meeting.

We tend to first ask the organisation where they are at and what their marketing aims and issues are. This way we can see if there are any obvious ways that noise can help solve their problems. Then we tell them about the festival – its aims, approach and opportunities; talk them through examples of the media outcomes and other partnerships that would be of interest. Since the festival model is so fle xible, generally it becomes apparent pretty quickly if there is the scope to collaborate.

When it comes to the money factor we tend to be straight to the point and at the appropriate moment ask them how much they have to spend on a below-the-line sponsorship of this nature. In this way we work out scalable outcomes that reflect the cash available. If a company only has $50K then we are more likely to expand an existing media outcome we are working on. If they have $200K we are able to work with them to create an entirely new project.

It really comes down to what each organisation has to offer. As I mentioned all our partnerships are based on reciprocity – partners put in cash, production or media space and noise puts in the rest. For us there is equal value in an in-kind collaboration as a cash sponsorship.

Fortunately noise now has a good profile and travels with a positive reputation so increasingly we are being approached for sponsorships. The hard work is certainly paying off!

Lessons learnt

  1. Ensure your pitch material looks really good, less can be more, don’t overwhelm them;
  2. If organisations are cold from the outset, don’t waste you time and energy on them, move on and find the companies that are amenable;
  3. Under promise, over deliver. Delight your existing partners by doing above and beyond what they anticipated this way they will be back and talk you up!
Partner benefits

noise offers organisations a unique opportunity and the reasons why partners get involved are many and varied, including:

a. They share the core objective of the festival, to provide a genuine platform for young Australian’s creative expression;

b. The festival offers a communication link to its target market that was more effective than or complementary to other promotional opportunities that they were undertaking;

c. They saw the opportunity to leverage the extensive media partnerships that noise has to access audiences that would not otherwise be available to them;

d. The festival is an effective and credible medium to communicate with discrete market segments.

e. The festival provides the opportunity to help consolidate loyalty among existing customers/ audiences and increase market share;

As previously mentioned we customise all our partnerships so they meet the need of the various organisations. noise is proactive in identifying and ‘growing’ partnerships. Indeed many of the noise partners enjoyed exponential benefits; as noise identified opportunities to value add to the partner’s contribution.

Communicating with partners

We ensure we are professional, amiable, deliver on time and always provide quality content, that partners otherwise would not get. The other thing is we are very appreciative of their involvement and that goes a long way!

We invite all our partners to the launch of the festival and our wrap party, which provides an opportunity for them to meet, although this is not an explicit aim of the event.

Like with most interpersonal communications, it’s good to find the areas of common interest and focus on those.

We devise the most effective ways to manage each partner/ sponsor as opposed to a one size fits all approach. Some are more informal and a monthly chat is the best approach. Others require the ultra professional treatment and regular eflyers and project updates are appropriate.

As a general principle we aim to make life easy for all our partners. We have observed that most partners are only interested in their part of the festival, not the minutiae of the entire festival. So we are mindful not to overload them with extraneous details. We also ensure that all our correspondence and media outcomes present well, so our partners are clear that we are working with a professional and reliable team.


Where to start… I dare say the cumulative audience reach of 15 million is testimony of the success of our partnership approach.

There are several ways we evaluate our effectiveness in garnering support for noise. For instance last festival [Oct 03] we set ourselves the goal of tripling our seed funding which we did.

Beyond this financial perspective, there are other key performance indicators, these include:

  1. Creating as many mass media and niche opportunities to showcase young artist and their new work and displaying work in an optimal way;
  2. Ensuring that all partners have a positive experience with noise and are keen to collaborate again;
  3. Grow the profile noise and in doing so attract the interest of more partners and sponsors.

We assess our effectiveness by asking partners for feedback and honestly reflecting on how we handled our partnerships and how we can improve our systems and approaches.

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