Big Day Out
|Big Day Out|
Big Day Out Sydney, 2010
|Dates||Late January – early February|
|Years active||1992–1997, 1999–2014|
|Founded by||Ken West and Vivian Lees|
The Big Day Out was an annual music festival that was held in five Australian cities:
The event was conceptualised after the
After the partnership between Ken West and Vivian Lees was dissolved in 2011, Lees sold his stake in the event to Australian DJ and music promoter
Annual music festivals had been gaining momentum for some time, and the United States had launched
In 1994 the Big Day Out was extended further to include
Following the start of the 21st century, the festival was involved in two major controversies. Firstly, 16-year-old Jessica Michalik was killed after she was crushed at a 2001 Sydney show during a performance by the band
The festival celebrated its 100th performance in 2010. In the period leading up to the 100-show milestone, which occurred at the second of two Sydney dates in 2010, Lees claimed in an
Lees also explained the growth and increased complexity of the festival in the 2010 Australian article, stating that, while a crew of 70 people crossed Australia in 1993 for the inaugural event, the 2010 festival consisted of 700 people. Lees highlighted the increased needs of Australian bands in his explanation:
It does get easier but it's also getting bigger and that makes it more complicated ... You're more confident about what you're doing and having some gravitas, but at the same time, because we're having more and more expectations put on us by everyone, the complexities are increasing. Even Aussie bands that used to take five or six people on the road are now taking 11. That seems to be the magic number, even for a new starting-off band. What they are doing is working to put on the best show they can. Through that the festival needs more production, more riders, more hotel rooms, more everything.
Due to the increasing popularity of the event, a second Sydney show was occasionally held. The extreme popularity of
In November 2011, the business partnership between Lees and West was dissolved, and the latter next partnered with
On 17 January 2012, West announced that the Auckland BDO event, held on 20 January 2012, would be the last Big Day Out in New Zealand, explaining that the festival would only be held in Australia in 2013. However, in April 2013, the promoters said that they were seeking to reschedule an Auckland event in 2014 (at
The 2012 festival was beset by difficulties and was described as "disastrous" by the Faster Louder website in June 2014. Headline act
In 2013 the festival received staunch opposition from the
West announced to the media on 17 September 2013 that Arash "AJ" Maddah, a fellow Australian music festival promoter, had joined the Big Day Out enterprise. Although West explained that "the BDO team will now be C3, AJ Maddah and yours truly", Maddah stated to the media: "It's Ken's vision and I'm working for him. For 20 years it's been my ambition to work for the Big Day Out. It's been a great festival for 22 years. I don't need to fuck with that." As of the date of the announcement, Adam Zammit was the CEO of the company and
An October 2013 Fairfax Media article then reported that the company's office space in the inner-city Sydney suburb of
Shortly after Maddah joined the BDO team, the headlining act for the 2014 festival,
Devastated to report that Blur won't be performing at BDO in 2014. It's a shock that it has come to this. Only 8 weeks to go, the band feels that with the constantly shifting goalposts and challenging conditions of the organisers, they can't let it drag on any longer and want to make this announcement, to be clear to Blur fans that they won't be there. We've done our very best to work with the organisers and considered every option to make it happen, but they've let us down and let everyone else down too.
West previously explained in July 2013 that he had attempted to secure Blur for 14 years and their high status meant that they were considered a "white whale" act: "That [securing Blur] was a long negotiation ... Blur were going to be a headliner in various years but they couldn't get it together and more importantly they weren't connecting as a band." BDO organisers were as shocked by the cancellation as those people who had purchased tickets, as they had not received prior notification. Social media was the forum in which the public and media received updates, with Maddah first stating on
The second 2014 Sydney show was then officially cancelled on 26 September 2013 due to poor ticket sales—the show was merged into the first show on 26 January. In an official statement, West explained, "Perhaps we were a bit ambitious expanding to two dates in Sydney for this year's Big Day Out." Overall, the attendance figures for the 2014 festival were equivalent to around 50 per cent of the 2013 event. Approximately 15,000 tickets were sold for the Perth leg of the festival, leading to an announcement that the Big Day Out would not return to the western capital city. Maddah confirmed to the media that 31,000 people attended the Sydney leg on 26 January.
Maddah participated in an interview with the
I was under no illusion that it was going to be [anything but] a financial catastrophe—to say the least—this year. That was not even remotely in my mind, that I was going to walk in there and make any money this year.
Maddah further explained that the festival lost around
When you look through the financial history of most of the national festivals, the east coast has to subsidise events in Perth ... That's another reason why Big Day Out ticket prices were so high this year, because generally speaking you lose money in Perth. You've got two days to get there, three days to get back, all the trucking, all the production... a hotel room that you would pay $180 in Sydney is $320 a night in Perth in the same hotel chain. The price of hiring everything is ridiculous over there. Combine that will dropping public support for festivals over there and attendance figures and then for all your trouble you get a kicking from the local government and state government. It just got to a point where it's become unbearable.
On 25 June 2014, the Australian Music Feeds website published an article after it received documents showing that Maddah "stepped down as Big Day Out director and transferred his stake in the Australian festival entirely over to American partners, the Austin, Texas-based C3 Presents"—the arrangement was effective on 4 June 2014. Maddah's shares (held under the business name "Madjo BDO Pty Ltd") were transferred from West and an unnamed company in November 2013, thereby removing the last remaining cofounder from the business. The documents also revealed that the newly appointed director of the "BDO Presents" company, as of 4 June 2014, is a person named Blake Kendrick, while the company's new registered address belongs to an Australian law firm.
On 26 June 2014, the C3 company—founded by its managers, Charles Attal, Charlie Jones and Charlie Walker, in 2007—released an official statement in which it announced the cancellation of the 2015 Big Day Out; however, the company also stated that it enjoyed its involvement in the BDO festival and intends to "bring back the festival in future years".
In the wake of Maddah's sale and the C3 announcement, differing perspectives emerged in the media. On 26 June 2014, following the release of C3's official statement, Maddah insisted in a triple j interview that he remained involved with the festival and holds the option of buying back his stake in the company for 2016, the year that he insisted the festival will return. However, an anonymous source stated that Maddah is no longer involved, with C3 in control of all aspects of the BDO brand—from social media to intellectual property—while another unnamed source believes that C3 will "bankrupt the company, go back to America and forget about Australia." Lees also spoke with triple j on 26 June and, in addition to stating "It's a very dysfunctional arrangement with AJ [Maddah] being in the driver's seat", expressed an ongoing belief in the high status of the BDO festival:
The Big Day Out has been, and will always be, the festival in Australia. And if people are expecting something better to come along tomorrow, then they shouldn't be holding their breath, because it's not going to happen. Big Day Out set the high benchmark which is not going to be succeeded by a one-day festival in the near future for sure.
After the New York Times announced "advanced talks" between Live Nation and C3 Presents in early October 2014, the purchase of a 51-per cent stake in the Austin company was confirmed on 22 December of the same year. Described at the time of the acquisition as "the largest independent concerts company in its space", C3 reported revenue to the value of US$124 million in 2013 and was targeted by Live Nation for its festival portfolio. The C3 founders told reporters that they were "excited" by the development, but made no mention of the Big Day Out festival. It has not returned since then.