It’s not been a good year for Aussie music festivals.
In a short span of time there’s been a very long list of troubles. Last month alone, there was the cancellation of Harvest and Pyramid Rock, as well as issues with the inaugural Boomerang and ATP’s Release The Bats.
Then there’s the likely cancellation of Summadayze as messy liquidation proceedings get underway for Future Entertainment Pty Ltd, as their flagship Future Music Festival is taken under the wing of Michael Gudinski’s Mushroom Group.
Fat As Butter kicks off this weekend, while festival promoters Mothership Music enter liquidation, and then there’s the alarming number of troubled hip hop festivals and events, including the cancellation of Live Nation’s Movement festival, Sprung’s Melbourne leg, the Rap City tour, and Supafest’s postponement, amidst $17 m owed to creditors and a touted relaunch.
Among that worrying list was September’s news that the iconic Big Day Out had to scrap its second day in Sydney for next year’s edition owing to poor ticket sales.
The flagging interest however is reflective of a much larger problem with the long-running Australian event, according to an article from The Age, citing ‘industry insiders’ as saying that the Big Day Out is “tipped to lose up to $10 million, potentially making the event unsustainable in the future.” Big Day Out is “tipped to lose up to $10 million, potentially making the event unsustainable in the future.”
Those same industry sources say the New Zealand leg, which had secured a new venue for a five year term earlier this year, could also be at risk, with the Big Day Out’s future reportedly in jeopardy from low ticket sales, potentially lost income on sideshows, as well as the high costs of ensnaring the festival’s ‘white whale’ triple-headline bill of Arcade Fire, Blur, and Pearl Jam – estimated to be in a million-dollar, seven-figure mark.
Last month also saw Soundwave/Warped boss AJ Maddah buying into the Big Day Out brand as a co-promoter alongside Ken West, the two working together for the festival’s all-important lineup bookings while West described the shake-up as a ‘passing of the torch’ of the brand, with Maddah being “the logical choice” for the event’s future.
But The Age now reports that “an industry figure familiar with the Big Day Out hierarchy” has indicated that “Ken West has left the Big Day Out building, even though he is saying he’s welcomed A.J. to the circus.” Noting that Big Day Out CEO Adam Zammit had brought in Maddah to help revive the festival (with the two developing a kind-of twitter bromance), “but the Big Day Out face a big hit this year. I can’t see it continuing,” says the anonymous source.
Assuming the rumours are true, one solution could arrive via Big Day Out’s co-owners, C3 Presents, with speculation they could instead turn the Big Day Out into the Australian franchise of Lollapalooza, the Chicago music festival the company presents annually, along with Austin City Limits.
C3 Presents purchased into the Big Day Out following the departure in 2011 of Ken West’s business partner Vivian Lees, who also came out swinging at AJ Maddah prior to the official news he’d moved in on West’s turf, telling Triple J that the Soundwave boss was an “odious character.”
In response to the speculation that the Big Day Out was in serious trouble, AJ Maddah tells The Age that the rumours are greatly exaggerated, stating in an email to Fairfax Media: “If BDO was such a basket case, why would I, the single most sensible individual in this industry, get involved?”
“This is a large sewing circle with people passing on the same nonsense to each other. If these sources are to be believed, then we are all on deaths [sic] bed and a meteor is heading for [Mushroom Music head Michael] Gudinski’s office.”
A recent industry report on the state of the music festival market noted that the biggest hurdles for events was simply providing great line-ups at an affordable price, especially given the huge array of festivals and events offered to punters in recent years.
The Big Day Out will tour the country next January with a lineup featuring headliners Arcade Fire, Blur, and Pearl Jam, as well as Snoop Dogg, Major Lazer, Flume, Tame Impala, and more.
Meanwhile, following the addition of more bands to the Warped Tour for this November and December, Maddah and his team are expected to make the second Soundwave 2014 lineup on the 1st of November.