“I’ve always loved the Big Day Out for being the Big Day Out. I’m not going to try to change it. We’re just going to try to improve” – the words of touring mogul AJ Maddah. They came just days before Music Feeds broke the news that Australia’s beloved Big Day Out had gone the way of Vegemite, and become an iconic Australian product that was now owned entirely by an American company.
Social media, in keeping with its usual MO, moved quick, and tried to Frankenstein a satisfying narrative out of what were, for all intents and purposes, a collection of disparate facts. All we knew at the time was that documents lodged with the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) indicated that the promoter had sold his share of the BDO to the US-based C3 Presents.
Since then, a report from Fairfax Media has dealt a considerable blow to the hopes of music fans for whom attending the BDO has been a much-cherished summer tradition. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, not only has AJ Maddah decided to abandon what most had decided was a sinking ship, but a lack of venue bookings for 2015 indicates there will be no BDO in Australia next year.
Fairfax also reports that former BDO CEO Adam Zammit‘s employment is believed to have been terminated after this year’s event. But despite multiple attempts from numerous outlets to reach out to both Zammit and Maddah, neither has issued a statement. The Twitter channels of both men remain uncharacteristically silent, as Maddah reportedly recovers from food poisoning in the UK.
The unfortunate outcome of their silence, or indeed the silence of any of the parties involved, is a public who will have to go without answers to some big questions, for now. It’s important then to not only assess the information that is available, but to soberly consider the outcomes of the situation.
Firstly, it’s important to note that while Fairfax is reporting that “it is [understood] the [Big Day Out] will not be held anywhere in Australia next year,” the same report indicates that a spokesperson for the Victorian Racing Club, who manage longtime venue of the Big Day Out Melbourne, Flemington Racecourse, said dates had been “pencilled in” but had not actually been confirmed.
Fairfax‘s “understanding” is based on Peter Thorpe, general manager of the Sydney Showground, confirming that a booking for the venue had been cancelled, and an anonymous owner of a “major Melbourne venue,” who is the only source in the report who states explicitly that “There will not be a Big Day Out in 2015,” since “not a single agent has been approached by the Big Day Out.”
This does not necessarily spell the end of the BDO. Without comment from its new owner, there is no way to accurately tell what the future holds for the event. Only that that future lies in the hands of a company responsible for organising some of the most successful festivals in the United States.
After retiring Parklife festival in 2013, dance event promoters Fuzzy enjoyed a successful and acclaimed inaugural year with their Listen Out festival, rebranding and restructuring into a boutique event with a desirable lineup, aimed at a specific audience – in other words, doing everything right.
The announcement of the event’s sophomore instalment could validate the maxim of Soulfest promoter John Denison, who back in April told FasterLouder, “I don’t think this country can handle big festivals anymore. I think our country is an 8,000 to 12,000 [capacity] festival country.”
Until the silence is broken, the public have little to go on except hope that our beloved festival’s future resembles what its former director described just days after he relinquished his stake in it – that it continues to be the Big Day Out, without changes, just some effective improvements.