Behind Thailand's Ambitious Big Mountain Music Festival

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club perform at the Big Mountain Music Festival, held in Bangkok, Thailand December 7-8, 2013

The Big Mountain Music Festival (BMMF), held at the Khao Yai Bonanza Racetrack about 2 hours northeast of Bangkok, has grown into the largest music festival in Southeast Asia. The fifth edition recently took place December 7-8, hosting 65,000 attendees each day and over 200 acts performing across 8 stages.

The fest has become a focal point of the music industry in Thailand. Managing director and creator of the event Yuthana “Ted” Boonorm explained: “BMMF is the main music festival of Thailand, so it should represent how the music scene was in the country that year. It should also reflect the cultural scene overall in Thailand for the year.” As such, the fest featured Thai acts that had a huge impact on the industry, including pop singer Da Endorphine and rock acts Big Ass, Paradox and Tattoo Colour.

Da Endorphine, performing at BMMF 2013

The fest is put on by GMM Grammy, a major Thai corporation that controls 70-80% of the Thai music industry and has a hand in terrestrial radio, satellite and digital TV, the film industries. Surachai Sensri, VP of International Business Development at company, explained: “The creation of Big Mountain Music Festival is a combination of both business and creative aspects. There was no proper festival before and we have a lot of artists in our group, so we have been thinking about doing this fest for a long time.”

The festival is a major venture, with full price tickets going for 1,900 baht ($59). Billboard estimates that ticket sales from the festival brought in around 79 million baht ($2.47 million) and that sponsorship accounted for approximately another 31 million baht ($968,000). Pepsi is the title sponsor, with Nissan, Chang Beer and Spy wine cooler having significant footprints at the event. Adding in ancillary income, Billboard estimates the festival generated about 112 million baht ($3.49 million) in revenue.

Boonorm knows events like this take time, and he determined to grow it properly. “Building a festival is like a building a house. The first year is like the foundation. After that you see what the problems are and try to solve them. Every year I try to expand it a little bit and add something.” The ultimate goal is to make it into a major world festival. “Next year we will expand and try to use more land. By the 10th year I want to make it more international and invite big, international artists. By expanding we can afford to invite them,” Boonarm told us.

The grounds at BMMF 2013

Currently the fest typically invites a few mid-level artists from the US, Japan and Europe. The LA-based Black Rebel Motorcycle Club led the way for international acts this year, and they received a frenzied reaction despite being on the third stage.

GMM Grammy has over 500 recording artists on its roster. Said Sensari: “We have a record label, management company, Music publishing division, collection society, karaoke company, manufacturing, distribution and retail divisions… Everything you can think of in the music industry we do.”