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AJ Maddah Needs “A Dollar” For BDO v2.0

Written by Nastassia Baroni on June 26, 2014

Following the news that festival promoter AJ Maddah had sold his stake in the Big Day Out, Maddah has insisted to triple j‘s Hack that he will still be involved in the running of the Big Day Out which he says will return in 2016, though in what capacity remains unclear.

“The essential of the situation is that we put the festival on hibernation,” Maddah told the program’s host Tom Tilley. “Yes I’m still involved, yes the Big Day Out will come back in 2016 and the festival is alive.”

Yesterday, Music Feeds reported that AJ Maddah had sold his stake in the Big Day Out to Austin-based company C3 Presents, after only being named as a co-investor last year. Maddah confirmed to Hack today that he has sold all his shares to C3 for just $1 but said he has “the option” to buy them back at a later date, provided he throws in some extra capital.

“I don’t have a financial ownership in the Big Day Out, I have the option to buy my 50 per cent shareholding back for a dollar once we start to recapitalise for the Big Day Out in 2016,” said Maddah. He also explained that he lost a total of $5.5 million on the Big Day Out in 2014 and that C3, who became part owners in 2012, lost “marginally more”.

Maddah also told Fairfax Media in a report today that he is already working on a 2016 instalment of BDO in collaboration with C3, but Fairfax also claims an anonymous senior music industry source told them that “as far as C3 was concerned AJ is completely out”.

“They’ve shut down the offices, taken over social media…they’ve control of all intellectual property [connected to] the Big Day Out,” said the source. Today C3 Presents, who also produce US festival Lolapalooza, released a statement confirming BDO 2015′s cancellation and stating their intention to bring the festival back “in future years”. The short statement made no mention of Maddah or his involvement.

The two stories seem to contradict each other. Maddah’s claims that he’ll be part of Big Day Out 2016 are precipitated on him raising a substantial amount of money in a very short period of time. There’s also no evidence of a secret agreement between C3 and Maddah to allow the Australian promoter to buy back in at all.

In his triple j interview, Maddah reiterated that things were on the rocks with the Big Day Out before he was ever involved. He said when got involved last year they were already “75 per cent” certain that the BDO would have to take a year off.

“Things obviously fell apart last year at the point where I was asked to come in,” said Maddah. “We always had to build a new team for it [BDO] and re-concept the festival.” Maddah told the program he was certain the festival will return in 2016 with many changes to its structure.

When asked by Hack if his decision to give up his ownership stake in the Big Day Out was motivated by trying to financially protect Soundwave, Maddah said his other festival was never looking doubtful but he didn’t want to get investors involved. “I didn’t want to compromise on the quality of Soundwave and I didn’t want to compromise on what we deliver and this has been very helpful, and C3 have been very, very good.

Maddah also admitted that losing $5.5 million left him financially tight. “As a promoter you don’t have that kind of money lying, you know, you don’t have cash lying under the bed, so to speak.” This does raise questions as to how the promoter will manage to raise enough capital in time to buy back his stake in the company before Big Day Out 2016 goes ahead.

Despite this, Maddah told Hack listeners that both he and C3 are committed to the Australian festival and said when it returns in 2016 “people will see the reboot of Big Day Out Version 2.”

“We’re continuing as the Big Day Out and not changing to Lolapalooza,” explained Maddah. “I believe that the BDO – presented properly, with new concepts and making it more modern, will work out.” Exactly what that means, time will have to tell.

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