The Big Day Out and Soundwave promoter appeared on Triple J’s Hack on Friday and discussed the struggles of one of the country’s premier music festivals, which concluded last Sunday on a high note in Perth with a special Pearl Jam and Arcade Fire performance.
Reports surfaced earlier in the week that Big Day Out is facing losses in the vicinity of $8-$15 million. While Maddah would neither confirm nor deny the report, saying “We still don’t know…but it’s going to be ugly”, he stated he did not believe the festival had ruined its reputation in Australia.
“I hope not… I think it’s a brand people will come back to,” he said of BDO’s long-tenured run in Australia.
Maddah part owns Big Day Out along with US group C3 Presents (Lollapolooza), but said he knew going into his October 2013 purchase that the festival faced an uncertain future.
“It wasn’t going to go ahead this year until I walked in,” Maddah said.
“They were on the edge of the abyss, on the edge of cancelling the event. To my mind if they cancelled it would be completely lost and it would never come back … It would’ve been very sad to me to watch it die without putting up a fight. That’s why I came on board. I was rowing the lifeboat back to the Titanic, rather than the other way around so to speak.”
The past two BDO lineups brought the likes of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Animal Collective, Crystal Castles, The Killers, Vampire Weekend, Kanye West, Soundgarden and Kasabian Down Under, but this year’s bill was considered somewhat of a letdown by the general public. Maddah suggested he may have held similar sentiments when jumped on-board.
“To be blunt about it, up until I got involved, the original promoters of the Big Day Out are basically old aged pensioners at this point, and they overestimated some of these bands,” Maddah said of this year’s event, originally slated to feature Pearl Jam, Arcade Fire and Blur as headline acts.
After a 25-year history in Australia, the Big Day Out is scheduled to cut back in 2015. Perth is definitely not getting a tour leg and Adelaide is now in doubt thanks to rapidly dwindling attendance figures.
Maddah confirmed high cost of travel and staging, described as “unbearable”, plus ongoing disputes with local government will mean Perth is to be scrapped from the schedule, however he did say he was “pretty confident” Adelaide would remain but could not commit to a 2015 return.
BDO attendance figures took a strong dive this year, supposedly much lower than the festival was stating. The Gold Coast leg was said to have housed 35,000 fans, however the number was probably close to 23,000 with similar stories occurring in both Sydney and Melbourne. Perth drew just 19,000.