herald

Tuesday 17 October 2017

The Go-for-it guy

showman: Concert promoter Zach Desmond talks to Joyce Fegan about his pal Hozier, launching the Longitude festival, and how going to gigs is hard work

Zach Desmond comes from music industry royalty being the son of Caroline Downey and Denis Desmond - the duo behind MCD Productions.

But at just 27 years of age, he can boast two things on his CV: backing singing sensation Hozier when he was just a teenager, and launching his very own music festival.

Zach explained how he and his family were on to Bray-man Hozier's talent years before he became a household name.

"He knows my sister very well. We went to the same school but he was a few years behind me. We had done a few gigs with him over the years.

"Caroline has been heavily involved with him from a very early stage, for years, she was on it early. He's an amazing talent and he's going to be huge," he added.

The Take Me To Church singer made his name only this year, but Zach and his mum always knew he was going to make it big in the music industry.

"You wonder why it takes an act so long to explode, it's hard to explain. But anyone who knew about Hozier knew he was going to be huge," said the concert promoter.

And Zach said Hozier deserves every bit of his success.

"He's the nicest, most humble person you'll ever meet and it couldn't happen to a nicer guy," noted Zach.

risk

Also deserving of success is the concert promoter himself, who took the plunge and started the Longitude music festival from scratch.

"It was a risk because I wasn't very well-known and there's always that fear that if it didn't go well people would say it was nepotism - 'he only got this because of the old man'," said Zach.

"But a lot of hard work went into it. I was nervous it was definitely a gamble," he added.

Zach was the one that came up with the idea of a new festival back in 2012 at the height of the recession, but his risk and hard work paid off.

Last year MCD sold 10,000 tickets to the Marlay Park weekend festival and this year it's heading to 20,000.

"With the recession the pattern is that tickets usually shift towards the end of the week before the festival ,but Saturday is already sold out," he explained.

The idea came about because "Oxygen went away," said Zach.

"We didn't have anything to offer those bands and if we didn't do something it would be very hard to get those bands," added the 27-year-old.

While he might have encountered doubts about his ability to shift tickets to a brand new festival, the punters arrived in their thousands and it went off without a glitch.

"It was an amazing feeling and a lot of relief," said Zach. "It gave me a lot of confidence."

While he did face obstacles in the form of competition from huge festivals in Europe, the young promoter still won over a considerable crowd.

He said the competition for bands and fans is "huge" as the weekend that Longitude is held on happens to be the busiest weekend festival-wise in the whole of Europe.

Zach, who interned in London to cut his music-industry-teeth, still maintains there is nothing else he would rather do with his life.

And when asked what plans he had mapped out for himself post secondary school there were no other options on the table only music.

"I love what I do and it was always something I wanted to do. I was always going to be in the music industry," said Zach.

And while he loves his work he has a word of warning for others who are thinking of joining the fold.

"When you commit to be in the music business it's full on," explained the promoter. "The one thing I'd say is that if you ever doubt yourself, just go with your gut, go for it, commit to it 100pc. Everyone has that doubt but it always works out in the end. Just do your homework," advised Zach.

plan

"I'm not naturally a big risk-taker but if I really thought it was going to happen I'd go for it.

"I'd tell people to do the preparation and go in with a fool-proof plan," he added.

His life is so packed with music that at the weekend he actually avoids going to gigs.

Zach, who splits his time between London and Dublin, goes to as many as five concerts a week but for work-related purposes.

"I look for talent during the week and would nearly go to five gigs a week, but I try not to do it on the weekend. It's always important to see bands live," he said while talking from his office in Dublin.

If he spends every week night scouting for new talent by going to gigs, something most people do for fun, what does he do in his downtime?

"I just hang out with my mates. I just chill out and relax at the weekends. I spend time with friends I've known my whole life," answered Zach.

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