As the dust settles on the deal that brought together the teams behind two of Australia’s biggest festival brands — the Big Day Out and Soundwave — some new insight is starting to emerge.
AJ Maddah, who runs the heavy-edged Soundwave festival, has confirmed he’s come on board with the Big Day Out, the giant touring alternative rock and dance event which visits each of Australia’s biggest cities in the early months of the year.
BDO’s founder Ken West has dismissed earlier reports that he’s sold his own stake in the festival he launched in 1992. “I need everyone to calm down,” West said in a statement supplied to media by Maddah. “The world is not collapsing. 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.”
Earlier this week, Maddah cancelled his Harvest Festival tour just weeks out from its third edition.
Meanwhile, Billboard understands at least five Big Day Out staff were let go last Friday. They include Matt Doherty (national production manager), Merv McCasker (national site manager), Jeremy Gordon (national event manager), Sarah Morris (office manager) and Genna Alexopoulos (marketing).
Execs at Soundwave and BDO haven’t responded to requests for comment.
The deal between Maddah and West isn’t finalized, sources say, and it’s been worked on for several weeks by BDO CEO Adam Zammit, who is also CEO of Peer Group Media. When it’s done, the arrangement will bring together a triumvirate of “alpha” entrepreneurs. How all those three get on is anyone’s guess (Zammit and West are close friends). And how Maddah, a tough-talking impresario who isn’t shy of a battle, gets on with BDO’s U.S partners C3 Presents will be interesting to watch.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Maddah said West had approached him to get involved. West would continue, though he’d do less, the report notes. On the big “R” word, there’s apparently no plan for West to step aside. But Maddah said it was “inevitable … I will hand over the reigns of Soundwave one day. None of us are immortal. Well maybe [promoter Michael] Chugg.”
West has 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 BDO, 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.”
Maddah also told the SMH he now holds an “equal” financial interest in the Big Day Out, though the size of that stake wasn’t disclosed.
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 programme. In 2010, the BDO reached the 100-show milestone with the second of two Sydney dates.