Big Day Out Facing Major Losses, Internal Turmoil

The much-plagued Big Day Out festival is in hot water once again, with emerging reports and rumours suggesting organisers have inflated attendance figures and festival owners, AJ Maddah and Texas-based company C3, are facing profit losses between $8 million and $15 million.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports the Australian legs of the event, promoted by Mr Maddah, achieved numbers believed to be around half of the 2013 attendance figures. The Herald claims Sydney is believed to have drawn 27,000 people instead of the festival’s reported figure of 35,000, Melbourne is slated at 26,000 people and the Gold Coast around 23,000.

Mr Maddah disputed those figures, telling the publication that while crowd numbers were down, they were higher than Fairfax had reported. He said 31,000 people attended in Sydney, which is still almost half of the capacity crowds of 55,000 the event reached in its peak. Victoria Police have also disputed the figures, saying attendance in Melbourne was around 23,000, not 26,000.

The Herald also reported rumours that the event’s CEO Adam Zammit had been sacked this week, ahead of the last two shows in Adelaide and Perth, but cites another source who claimed he had since been re-hired. Mr Maddah vehemently denied that story as “nonsense” saying Mr Zammit had not been fired.

Maddah acknowledged to the Herald that the Big Day Out had struggled in 2014. “The event was a basket-case before I walked in and I did my best to try and make it a success,” he said. However he denied the publication’s claims that he is a 50 per cent owner of the BDO and that his relationship with C3 had soured.

According to the Herald, disappointing ticket sales are thought to have Mr Maddah and C3 facing losses of up to $15 million after headline bands Arcade Fire and Pearl Jam, and Blur replacements Deftones, The Hives and Beady Eye, were paid. They claim there is speculation Maddah could walk away, leaving the American company to carry all the losses.

“If AJ walks away I’d be surprised if C3 picked up a $15 million loss,” the senior insider speculated to the SMH. “I imagine they’d bankrupt the company, go back to America and forget about Australia.”

While these claims are all, at present, merely speculation and rumour, Maddah has been candid in his recent tweets about the BDO’s financial struggles, particularly in relation to the recent dramas surrounding the Perth leg of the show.

He told one Twitter follower that the BDO Adelaide and Perth shows added an extra $32 onto the general admission tickets for each show. “Based on this year’s bill, not going to Adelaide and Perth would have meant $153 tickets for GC, Syd & Mel,” he said. That is compared to the current price of $185. “If we look at Perth as an isolated market it loses a lot of money,” he tweeted yesterday.

The festival have already confirmed there will not be another Big Day Out in Perth after Sunday and now reports claim the future of the entire event hangs in the balance. “I think the Big Day Out is coming to an end,” the industry insider told Fairfax. “I don’t know that it’s got any legs and may have run its course.”

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