Australia’s once mighty Big Day Out has been scrapped for 2015. But its new sole owners, the U.S. live event promoters C3 Presents, insist it’ll return in future in some configuration.
Execs at Austin, Texas-based C3, which produces Lollapalooza, say BDO will take a year off to rejig the format. “We love Australia and BDO, and we will be back,” C3 co-founder Charlie Walker tells Billboard.
For two decades, the alternative rock and dance event was the biggest touring spectacle of its kind. For its 2009 run, the BDO pulled some 330,000 partygoers across its six-city schedule.
Since that peak, the BDO has endured a startling fall from grace. And in recent days its partner AJ Maddah has bailed out. Maddah, who runs the heavy-edged Soundwave festival, told Australia’s Triple J radio network today that he sold his share in Big Day Out last week for $1, and that C3 has given him the option to buy back his stake next year for $1.
Maddah had come on board as the self-proclaimed saviour of BDO late last year to partner with its founder Ken West, C3 Presents, and BDO’s CEO Adam Zammit.
Just two months out from this year’s run, headliner Blur pulled out blaming “constantly shifting goalposts and challenging conditions of the organizers.”
Replacements were announcement, but the fest was a money pit. Losses for the 2014 tour have been reported at Australian $8 million to Australian $15 million.
The future of the Big Day Out has been on every Australian promoter’s mind. When asked last month about the bad press surrounding the BDO, Future Music Festival Jason Ayoubi told Billboard, “First of all its really sad. (The BDO) inspired most of us to get into organizing music festivals. Such an iconic event in a lot of trouble is really sad. It’s put an air of negativity around festivals. And it’s had an effect on the tone of what the press has been espousing toward the festival space.”
C3 will need to inject life into a brand whose format had become dated and, some say, bloated. Australia's festival-goers have a lot of choice, and BDO had lost its edge to rival fests which offered genre-specific programming (Soundwave, Stereosonic), an outdoor lifestyle (Splendour in the Grass, Bluesfest), or a boutique vibe (Laneway).
The BDO started life as a one-date show in Sydney. The earliest incarnation of the event hosted performances by Violent Femmes and Nirvana, and played before less than 10,000 fans. The show expanded, and did so quickly. The following year saw Big Day Out visit Adelaide, Melbourne and Perth. The year after, the Gold Coast and Auckland were on the line-up. In 2010, the BDO reached the 100-show milestone with the second of two Sydney dates.
West’s co-founder Viv Lees split ahead of the 2011 run, prompting West to seek out a partnership with C3. He had hinted in the past that he was keen to take a break from the heavy lifting that goes into the BDO. Ahead of the 2011 trek, West told this reporter, “For myself, there’s a few more years then we’ll work out what’s going to happen after that. Whether it’s a change of the guard, or rather a change in the relationship. The coalface is pretty hard. It might be a possibility where we take a break once every four years.”