The two promoters behind Australia's colossal Big Day Out festival tour are going their separate ways. Ken West and Vivian Lees are calling time on a partnership which spans 20 years, and more than 100 BDO shows.
West, who is based in Sydney, will continue to run the BDO ship. While Lees, who is based in Melbourne, will set off for other ventures and spend more time with family.
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Longtime Billboard writer Christie Eliezer broke the news today in Australian music trade publication, The Music Network.
West and Lees built the BDO from a single, one-day show in the summer of 1992, to a monster trans-Tasman festival which is the envy of all promoters.
The pair spotted a gap in the market, and they moved fast to capture it. The second year was a four-city trek, which gathered an audience of 46,000. By year three, the BDO visited six cities across Australia and New Zealand, more than doubling its visitors to 130,000. That figure had reached 210,000 in 1997, the year before BDO took a break, its first and only gap-year. By 2010, the attendance figure had topped 337,000.
Organizing BDO is "not so much (like) driving, it's more like a car out of control," West told this reporter in a rare interview earlier this year. "You can't stop it."
These days, the Australasian BDO entourage has grown to about 850, and there are roughly 20 side-shows.
The BDO is now entering its 20th anniversary series, with Kanye West, Soundgarden, Kasabian and My Chemical Romance among the first batch of artists announced for the 2012 line-up, which kicks-off Jan. 20 in Auckland.
Speaking in January just days out from the 2011 BDO, West suggested he wouldn't rule-out following the lead of Glastonbury Festival founder Michael Eavis, who gives his event a break or "fallow year" twice each decade to allow his site the time to regenerate.
"The main thing is the 20th (anniversary) show. Let's see what we can come up with. Then let's look at it after that. I don't think it would be the worst thing in the world if we had a break," he said.