After tweeting about his “crisis of confidence” regarding the festival earlier in the week, Harvest 2013 promoter AJ Maddah has said that pressing ahead with the event is “too risky” and is making other arrangements to salvage Australian appearances by the acts featured on the already announced bill.
Speaking to Fairfax today, Maddah said that he had been negotiating with Franz Ferdinand, Goldfrapp and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club overnight and claimed to have reached agreements with them for headline tours promoted by his Harvest Presents company.
He also said he is looking at adding Mutemath and Primus to the Soundwave 2014 lineup, a festival also run by Maddah. Australian appearances by Massive Attack, Volcano Choir and others are apparently still in negotiation.
Maddah said that, instead of having a stripped back Harvest this year, his preference was to bring out the main Harvest artists for separate tours. The choice, it seems, was made out of respect for the fans. “Without them and their support [more] events will die out,” he said.
“I’m devastated, we got Massive Attack and we’d dragged Elizabeth Fraser out … And we had a good second line-up announcement [to come],” Maddah said. Those who already purchased tickets to Harvest would be refunded.
Poor ticket sales look to be the cause of the festival’s woes, with the promoter telling Fairfax that just 18% of the 17,500 tickets for Harvest’s Brisbane event had been sold, and around 30-40% of the 20,000 tickets for Sydney. Melbourne was selling slightly better at 70-80% of 15,000 tickets.
Maddah said the slow sales left him facing a potential loss of $5.5 million, and even touring some of the headliners as separate tours would still mean personal losses “into seven figures, but not $5.5 million, which would have been crippling”.
Other parties are also at risk of financial loss, with Maddah claiming he doesn’t feel comfortable putting them at risk:
“I’m happy to assume risk when that risk is to me, but there comes a point where the risk is to suppliers and bands and everyone involved… Ethically I can only take risks at my expense … I don’t want to add to the statistics of festivals f––king people over. I don’t want anyone else to get hurt over this.”
Earlier in the week, Maddah posted a series of tweets outlining his concerns about Harvest, saying the Big Day Out 2014 line up, which he previously praised, has more or less cut Harvest’s grass by including acts such as Blur, Arcade Fire and The Lumineers. “Put that next to us and we are dwarfed,” he said today.
At that time he also claimed that “unless we see some kind of sign in the next week we’ll have to consider the worst,” though it looks like it’s taken just a few days for the plug-pulling to swing into action.
The future of the festival now looks grim, though it seems Maddah is taking it on the chin. “There’s always going to be knock-backs when you are trying to create something new,” he said. “Maybe Harvest will be back some day … Pretty f—king unlikely though. It’s been a labour of love but we have a couple of great years to remember.”
(Via The Brisbane Times)