We Chat To Shaun Duvet – South Africa’s Festival Godfather

Shaun Duvet has established himself as one of the biggest names in the local live entertainment industry and is considered by many as the man who popularised the festival in South Africa.

We sit down to chat with Shaun Duvet about his career, outlook on the industry and what the future might bring.

You first made a name for yourself in the industry as a DJ. What made you take the leap to producer and finally to promoter?

I have always loved the club and party culture. It was a world I just wanted to continue evolving myself in. The natural step from playing music was to make music and then present the music to ensure the party was rocking and people were having a great time. I am still learning more and more every day and excited for what the future holds.

One of your great milestones has to be getting Ultra South Africa off the ground. How did this come about?

Through touring the world’s best international DJs over the years, we noticed that the South African market wanted an international music festival. We were very lucky to meet some incredible people over the artist tours that led us to the Ultra family and the rest is history.

Putting on such a mammoth production has to come with equally large challenges. How do you go about planning for something of that scale and how early does the planning start?

We start planning a year in advance for the festival, but always have a keen eye on the future. We are constantly working on evolving the festival to offer our audience something bigger and better every year.

When it comes to the line-up, is the choice of artists something that you choose freely or do you need to run it past the founders?

We work very closely with our family in Miami and do what is best for the South African market as well as what works best for Ultra as a global brand. There are of course aspects that we have to take into account, such as the artists touring schedule, availability etc. 

Is there a dream artist that you haven’t managed to book as of yet?

Yes. Daft Punk

You have achieved so much throughout your career but what would you say has been your greatest achievement so far?

My family is my greatest achievement, but from a work perspective, I am proud of each and every team member, show and memory. There really are so many fantastic moments to be proud of, but none of them would be possible without my team.

If we talk about achievements, we have to ask; any regrets or something you might have done differently?

In 2016, we made the festival 2 days per city and because of this, the ticket prices had to be higher in order to manage the prices. This was the same year that our currency hit an all-time low, so it was a cascading effect of challenges that cost us a lot of money. I guess the lesson here is to trust your gut and understand your market.

What do you think the future for EDM, house and dance music look like in South Africa?

I have never been a fan of the word EDM. It has bantered around in so many different ways over the years. To me, dance music has many different shades and is going nowhere and only getting bigger and better. As long as there is music, there will be producers making that music electronically. The future is brighter than it has ever been and South Africa is the darling gem of the scene globally and keeps on growing. I’m very proud to be a small part of it.

What would you say is the greatest challenge artists face in South Africa?

Geographically it is difficult for our local artists to travel globally and very expensive for them, much like obtaining a Visa can be challenging for international artists to come to South Africa. Artists often don’t get a full run of shows as they miss out on other opportunities due to the travel time between South Africa and other countries. This is, however, changing with markets opening up across Africa, which is very exciting.

If you could change one thing about the music industry in South Africa, what would it be?

More love & support of each other. We have an amazing industry with lots of love and cross-pollination of talent and opportunity. More love is always a good thing

On top of everything, you are also a club owner. Are there any additional clubs or perhaps a franchise of the club in the near future?

I love my venues, they are the heartbeat of everything. I have looked at franchising COCO, but the model is too unique to the location and I know we could never replicate that. Having said that we have explored expansion for both Goldbar & Souk as the models lend themselves to that. Watch this space…

What made you decide to launch your club in Cape Town as opposed to Johannesburg?

I was living in Cape Town before I opened up my first club and the timing was right as is my home.

What is next for Shaun Duvet?

To refine, perfect, replicate and manage all the incredible brands and properties I work with. I am very blessed to work very closely with ABINBEV and we have some incredible plans for the future across Ultra with Budweiser and the Corona Sunsets Festivals.

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