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Big Day Out 2012 Line-up: What Went Wrong?

Written by John Ritchie on November 9, 2011

Big Day Out organisers announced the second round of 2012 acts to join the line-up earlier today and so far fans are not impressed. They also announced the downsizing of the Adelaide and Perth events and they pulled Kayne West and Odd Future off the New Zealand, Perth and Adelaide line-ups, forcing them to refund tickets to unhappy patrons.

Things are not looking bright for Big Day Out organiser Ken West, who also lost his business partner of 20 years last week when Vivian Lees announced he would be leaving.

Ticket sales for the 20th Anniversary Big Day Out have been the slowest in history and the organisers are scrambling to make sure the 2012 festival run doesn’t run at a loss. After the Soundwave Revolution cancellation, Big Day Out had every chance to once again stamp their authority on the Australian festival market. It was the 20th anniversary; their biggest competitor had alienated fans. The big question is, what went wrong?

Big Day Out 2012 Fuck-ups

The bidding war

Big Day Out Organisers ended up in a ferocious bidding war with Soundwave boss AJ Maddah and failed to secure acts like System Of A Down and Slipknot, which would have lead to higher ticket sales as a result of their first announcement. Were the organisers too cautious on budget, forcing the big acts to go with the unpredictable Soundwave Festival?

Rehashing festival acts

It seems Ken West took the lazy option this year, booking Kayne West to come out to Australia after he had already appeared on the Splendour In The Grass line-up earlier this year. Although ticket sales weren’t bad, Splendour failed to sell out for the first time in years.

Nero and Kimbra have also been booked for the line-up after they both played Parklife less than 2 months ago.

Rumoured acts

The Hype surrounding the first Big Day Out announcement was massive; Radiohead and Pearl Jam were strongly rumoured to be headlining the line-up, and thousands of fans flocked to the internet to check it out, but were disappointed to find out that Kayne West was the key headliner along with the already leaked Kasabian.

The staggered line-up announcements

The Big Day Out first announcement only featured 19 bands; Soundwave announced over 70 bands weeks before fans got to see the second Big Day Out announcement. With the Melbourne Soundwave leg already sold out, fans raced to buy Soundwave tickets instead of waiting for the next round of acts from Big Day Out.

The failure to adapt to new media

Big Day Out organiser Ken West is no longer a spring chicken and this showed in the 2012 marketing campaign. Old school West shunned digital and social media, instead choosing to pour thousands into the almost dead street press magazines. If he had halved the street press budget and put that money into online and social media publications, his advertising campaign would have reached 4 times the amount of people with a direct link to the Big Day Out ticket purchase page.

It seems the doors may be opening for young tech-savvy festival promoters in the coming years

Eminem Brisbane rumour

Big Day Out Organisers were stressing when promoter Paul Dainty let slip that an Eminem Brisbane Suncorp Stadium Show might be on the cards. Brisbane punters were holding back from buying Big Day Out Tickets waiting to see if the show would be officially announced, and publicists rang around the media trying to get the rumours squashed. In the end, the Brisbane show fell through and a second Sydney show was announced.

Hopefully this won’t be the last we hear from Australia’s iconic Summer Festival. It’s never too late to learn from past mistakes, and with the costs of booking overseas acts likely to ease as the global economy recovers, we could see Big Day Out back better than ever for its 21st birthday.

Big Day Out 2012 line-up

Second Announcement

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds

The Vaccines






Tonight Only

Abbe May


Cavalera Conspiracy

Art vs Science – East Coast

Dasracist – East Coast

Miss Kittin – East Coast

Kitty – East Coast

Daisy & Lewis – East Coast

Papa vs Pretty – East Coast

Amity Affliction – East Coast

King Cannons – East Coast

Faker – East Coast

Calling All Cars – East Coast

Stonefield – East Coast

T-Rek! – East Coast

First Announcement

Kanye West (East Coast only)



My Chemical Romance

The Living End (Except Adelaide)


Hilltop Hoods (Except Perth)

Boy and Bear

Parkway Drive

Mariachi El Bronx (East Coast only)

Architecture in Helsinki


The Jezabels

Odd Future (OFWGKTA) (Aus Only)

Frenzal Rhomb

Girl Talk

The Getaway Plan

Cage The Elephant

Foster The People

Best Coast

Unearthed Winners

Gold Coast – Dune Rats

Sydney – Underlights

Melbourne – King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard

Adelaide – Honey Pies

Perth – The Growl

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