It’s been a whirlwind 24 hours for the Australian music festival market.

On Monday afternoon, industry rumours began that Soundwave and Harvest festival promoter AJ Maddah had bought a majority share into the Big Day Out, purchasing into the rival festival after founder Ken West had reportedly sold his share.

UPDATE 18/09: It has been confirmed that AJ Maddah has bought an “equal share” into Big Day Out, alongside founder and co-promoter Ken West, who has not left the festival team as previously rumoured. “In short AJ is joining the BDO circus and I am staying. So the BDO team will now be C3, AJ Maddah and yours truly,” says West.

Then late Monday night, Maddah announced the official cancellation of Harvest 2013, confirming that the event – which would be entering its third annual edition this November – would be canned in favour of many of the acts of the Harvest 2013 lineup headed to Australia as a series of headline tours instead.

An unlikely turn of events that has left a lot of details still to be filled in, including which Harvest 2013 acts are still headed to Australia for headline tours – and those that won’t – the addition of bands to the Soundwave 2014 and even Big Day Out 2014 lineups, what bands may have been on the second Harvest 2013 lineup announcement, and the ongoing reports that Maddah has bought into the Big Day Out.

We’re going to attempt to break down what we do know…

Massive Attack & Goldfrapp Are Out For Australian Tour?

Maddah tweeted that he “will be announcing headline shows by most of the Harvest artists in the next 10 days,” last night, but Harvest 2013 headliners Massive Attack may not be amongst them. The promoter has been scrambling for new negotiations with the bands on the lineup since last Thursday, and while he’s been successful in many cases, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that as of last night, “no agreement has been reached [with] Massive Attack.”

Further adding winces to the faces of those looking forward to the triphop pioneers, Maddah previously told the Fairfax publication of the festival’s likely cancellation, “I’m devastated, we got Massive Attack and we’d dragged Elizabeth Fraser out,” referring to the Cocteau Twins singer, who was to fulfil her live cameo as the singer on Mezzanine favourite, ‘Teardrop’.

UPDATE 18/09: A tweet from Maddah appears to have put the final nail in the coffin of a mooted Massive Attack headline tour, tweeting: “it’s not [happening]. They’ve decided to keep the money and stay at home.” Additionally, Goldfrapp are unlikely for a headline tour, following another post from Maddah that reads:

A series of tweets from the British duo of Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory further makes it seem as if they have not renegotiated a headline tour replacement in the wake of the Harvest cancellation.


Goldfrapp then later added: “We hope there will be another opportunity soon. Xx!”

There’s been no word of potential tours from Wallflowers, Walk Off The Earth, or 90s alt-rock heroes, Superchunk – who tweeted to a fan last week: “no new news on our end! still hoping to come down though.”

Other Harvest 2013 Bands Still Confirmed To Tour

Prior to the official Harvest cancellation announcement (and in many ways pre-empting it), leather-clad rockers Black Rebel Motorcycle Club reassured fans that they would still be touring Australia in the near future. “BRMC is still coming to Australia,” read a statement from the band. “Details for the Australian tour will be announced shortly. We will see you soon.” Harvest 2013 bill toppers Franz Ferdinand are also a given for the forthcoming headline tour announcements, following Maddah noting last week he’d arranged new contracts with the Scottish indie rockers and the British duo respectively. Last night, Maddah’s response to twitter enquiries also confirms that Eels, Conor Oberst’s Desparecidos, M Ward, and (much to the relief of long-term fans) the reformed Neutral Milk Hotel are still headed to Australia, “hoping to have shows to announce in the next day or 3,” adds Maddah of the latter lo-fi favourites.

Soundwave 2014 To Get Two Harvest Refugees

As previously reported and hinted at by Maddah, it looks very likely that eccentric funk rockers Primus and New Orleans neo-fusion foursome Mutemath will be absorbed into the Soundwave 2014 lineup. Primus are an understandable fit for the hard and heavy festival, having played Soundwave 2011, though the crunchy mix of soul, blues, and electronic-leaning rock of Mutemath might seem a little more left of centre for the typical Soundwave demographic. Regardless, news from the Soundwave camp has obviously slowed since the Harvest news, but amongst the furore, Maddah has confirmed the second Soundwave 2014 lineup will be announced “early October.”

CSS Going To Big Day Out 2014 Lineup?

Brazilian dance rock outfit CSS (Cansei de Ser Sexy) may not be heading out for a headline tour, but instead absorbed into the Big Day Out 2014 lineup, according to Maddah. “We’re still trying to figure out what to do with [them],” tweeted the promoter last night, while adding that he’d been in discussions with promoter Ken West about having “them join BDO.” Which adds some very interesting, but as yet undetermined, dimension to the reports that Maddah has bought a stake into the rival festival. More on that later…

The Volcano Choir Leak Was The Catalyst For Harvest 2013 Cancellation

Among the flurry of tweets on Maddah’s social media feed last night following the announcement of the Harvest 2013 cancellation was a comment from the promoter noting that it was Volcano Choir that acted as the proverbial canary in the coalmine for the festival’s cancellation. The band, fronted by Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, were originally slated for the second Harvest 2013 lineup announcement, until Vernon leaked their addition to the lineup early, to “much fanfare and media attention,” as Maddah put it. But the leak didn’t lead to a boost in ticket sales; “we sold 33 tickets that day,” the promoter admits, triggering his “crisis of confidence” late last week.

There Were 8 Bands On The Second Harvest Lineup Announce

Volcano Choir were “1 of 8” bands that were being wrangled for the second Harvest 2013 lineup announcement before the ailing ticket sales led to the eventual cancellation. While the Volcano Choir leak and the resultant ticket flop and lack of interest goes some ways into explaining why Maddah didn’t push ahead with the second announcement in a bid to boost ticket sales, some further descriptions better explain why he and the team didn’t soldier ahead. “Once I signed the contracts with 2nd ann bands, paid deposits on hotels, airfares, etc, if tix didn’t sell then… it would fuck with the lives of other innocent people,” tweeted the promoter. These go hand in hand with the financial figures from Maddah revealed last week, facing a loss of up to $5.5 million if he’d pressed on with the event. While plans for separate headline tours still mean personal losses of up to “seven figures,” estimates Maddah, it’s better than “$5.5 million, which would have been crippling.”

Harvest 2013 Lineup Additions Could Be Announced, Just Not With Harvest

So what of those other seven mysterious bands that were being wrangled for the second Harvest 2013 lineup announcement? Maddah won’t say, noting “what does it achieve to announce for a cancelled event?” It seems that contracts were not locked down, meaning that Australian audiences may see the touted Harvest acts tour under other concert promoters, as Maddah speculates.

The Big Day Out Connection

Though some industry reports have already confirmed the rumours that AJ Maddah has bought into the Big Day Out, there is yet to be an official announcement from either party. On Monday afternoon, former Big Day Out co-promoter Vivian Lees spoke to Triple J’s Hack about his former business partner and founder Ken West selling off his stake in the festival, with Maddah buying up the 49% of shares into the partnership with international promoters C3 Presents. Aside from the comments of speaking to West about CSS being absorbed into the Big Day Out 2014 lineup, Maddah only had this to offer about the Big Day Out deal.

Meanwhile, Big Day Out CEO Adam Zammit took to twitter with the following comment, following Lees taking several swipes at Maddah on Triple J.


During the Hack interview, Lees called Maddah an “odious character,” adding he was “dismayed that AJ has come into the picture… I’ve seen him in action. If he doesn’t like the way something’s going, he’ll cancel it,” said Lees; “he’s a gambler. It’s an amazing turn of events.”

Indeed. Especially given that Ken West is no fan of Maddah’s methods either, openly criticising the rival promoter in an interview with The Vine ahead of the 2012 Big Day Out where he labelled Maddah a “financial anarchist.”

“I’ll say it to his face – I don’t think AJ’s got any interest in anything but his own agenda,” added West. “He hasn’t got any interest in the Australian music scene whatsoever… He should go to another country. He’s done more harm to what was a reasonably stable business here by being a financial anarchist. And it’s a bit of a shame really. ‘Cause having 90 international acts come in on one show – I don’t even know how that’s legal. There’s no financial logic to what he’s doing, and I’ve just got to ride that out. That’s all it really comes down to.”

Tone Deaf will provide more information as it arrives to hand.

UPDATE 18/09: It has been confirmed that AJ Maddah has bought an “equal share” into Big Day Out, alongside founder and co-promoter Ken West, who has not left the festival team as previously rumoured. “In short AJ is joining the BDO circus and I am staying. So the BDO team will now be C3, AJ Maddah and yours truly,” says West.

The Big Day Out founder has thrown his support behind Maddah as “the logical choice” for the Big Day Out as it enters a new future. “I feel AJ is a kindred spirit. Crazy in a good way… He knows this event better than anyone and has always been its greatest supporter, even as a competitor… I know him and I trust him,” said West.