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For someone who loves travel and music, Alex Jukes has landed himself the perfect job. Culture Trip spoke to the founder of lifestyle and music festival company Jukebox PR to find out more about the challenges facing the industry at a time of crisis.
Having covered hundreds of festivals in dozens of countries, Jukes is no stranger to travelling around the world. The industry, however, faces uncertain times, and Jukes has felt the repercussions of the Covid-19 outbreak more than most.
When Culture Trip first invited Jukes to join us at our London offices in late February 2020, coronavirus had already began to impact some of the international music events the globe-trotting entrepreneur was planning on attending.
At the time of writing, Jukes has cancelled 10 events, with more facing postponement. “There are bans being put on events with over 1,000 people in Europe. I suspect this will get worse, but hope it’s been dealt with before we reach the peak festival season from June. It is very worrying for the industry, but health and well-being come before anything. I hope we can get this sorted before it gets out of control,” Jukes says, offering a glimmer of optimism at a time of genuine concern.
Jukes pursued a career in music PR after initial plans of being a PE teacher didn’t work out, and he displays an unshakeably positive attitude that one suspects is a prerequisite for his line of work. He won use of a penthouse for a year during his time at university in Coventry, thanks to his marketing skills, and a future in PR beckoned. At first it was the classical world that drew his attention, but it was ultimately his love of dance and electronic music that led to the creation of Jukebox PR.
“I love travelling and going to new places,” says Jukes. “Over the past 10 years I have been to over 300 festivals and to over 50 different countries. I did start to find the travel boring, but now I make sure I take my friends with me, as the experience is better when your friends see what you do and can experience it with you. We are also in a great position where we take media on press trips as well, so we get to form some pretty strong bonds.”
Brazil and Saint Martin in the Caribbean are two of Jukes’ favourite places to visit, so it comes as no surprise to learn that both these destinations are going to be hosting festivals that he and his team are involved in organising. As a UK resident, Jukes is well aware of the environmental impact of travel to far-flung destinations. The movement towards improved sustainability within the travel and tourism industries is growing, and it’s something that Jukebox PR is keen to acknowledge.
“I am getting on a lot of planes to festivals around the world, so I’ve started to be a bit more conscious – especially in poorer countries – of how we can give back. A lot of our festivals are now doing initiatives such as beach cleans, only using wooden straws and reusable cups and leaving no trace. I think this is really important and helps to give back to the communities where the festivals are taking place,” says Jukes.
He also believes it’s each artist’s responsibility to champion more practical initiatives. “Plenty of people on the scene are putting their money where their mouth is: various DJ agencies use carbon offsetting schemes when booking global tours for their artists, and Berlin DJ and Reef promoter Darwin, along with others, has launched a similar scheme called Clean Scene, which includes a carbon calculator for DJs and agencies. In early 2019, Kompakt outfit Blond:Ish launched Bye Bye Plastic, which aims to encourage venues to stop using single-use plastics like straws, cups and bottles and also asks artists to demand eco-riders at shows.”
With the industry evolving at a rapid pace, Jukes is aware that he, too, has to change with the times. “This year we will hit 100 large-scale events that we work on, which is a massive achievement for us. I recently launched a new travel solution platform called The Festival Travel Shop. It is an all-in-one stop where you can buy your flights, search thousands of hotels in a city, buy your festival tickets and add on excursions. From working in the festival industry for a long time, this is something I feel we can do to help drive more international tourists to destination festivals.”
If he’s not on a plane or at a festival, Jukes can be found on Instagram.