The Demise of Big Day Out – or – How Not To (Not) Announce Things To The Media
Narrow, cramped spaces in front of the main stage. Too much concrete, not enough shelter. Uninspired line-ups that don’t seem geared for any particular audience. Awful sound quality. Too many drunk people…
The list of typical complaints about Big Day Out in recent years is a long one. The festival has been struggling for a while now, and the news that it will not be running next year should not have come as a big surprise to many. The way this news was uncovered, however, leaves much to be desired. But I’ll get to that in a moment.
Li’l 17 year-old me at Big Day Out in 2007. I recovered these images from my long-abandoned MySpace page.
First, I’d like to reminisce about the good times. I know people who would argue that I’m too young to have experienced Big Day Out in its heyday, and they may be right. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t have my own fond memories of the festival. My first BDO (2004) was headlined by Metallica. That year, I saw Muse and The Strokes (and for some reason, The Black Eyed Peas) for the first time. It was my first festival; the first time I’d spent an entire day watching band after band play music, and it ignited something within me. Had I never attended that first BDO, I may have never ended up working backstage at Falls.
My positive BDO experiences continued for a few more years. In 2007 I saw (amongst others) Eskimo Joe, The Killers, and Muse – again (I’ve seen Muse play many times, but only ever at Big Day Out). The 2009 festival was fairly mediocre, but I did mosh to Arctic Monkeys for the first time. That was the first (and only) year that I went in the Silent Disco, and my friend was punched in the face in the moshpit for Dropkick Murphys. Fun times.
As I’ve grown older, and attended more and more festivals, I’ve become a fussier punter. Did I stop enjoying Big Day Out because it kept getting progressively worse, or because I’d outgrown it? I’d guess that it’s probably a combination of the two. In recent years, the line-ups have been good enough to justify attending, but they’ve been far from brilliant – especially compared to the likes of Soundwave and Harvest (RIP). And after the Blur fiasco, it’s pretty obvious that there have been some major logistical issues with the festival as a whole.
Halfway to being very sunburnt at BDO 2009. The shape of that toadstool necklace was clearly visible on my chest for months afterwards.
The biggest problem I have with the Big Day Out 2015 cancellation is the way that it was announced (or not properly announced) to the media. Thanks to social media, speculation spreads like wildfire. After it was reported that AJ Maddah had sold his BDO shares to C3, it didn’t take much digging for people to uncover that the venue bookings were looking shaky. News travels fast, people.
The reports prompted C3 to release a statement confirming that the festival will not go ahead next year, and that Maddah was no longer involved with the running of Big Day Out. But on Triple J’s Hack, Maddah started making contradictory statements. He says that while BDO won’t happen in 2015, he’s still got some stakes in its return the following year.
With Maddah vague-tweeting responses to people’s questions, it’s tricky to know what exactly is going on. Is he still a part of Big Day Out, or will the festival be an exclusively US-owned and run operation in the future? Until somebody sets the record straight, people are going to keep digging and speculating.
When Maddah agreed to sell his shares to C3, there should have been a statement released about the future of Big Day Out. This can’t have been a decision made on a whim – it would have been discussed for quite some time. With a better media strategy, we wouldn’t have this unnecessary speculation, which makes BDO look like an even bigger shambles. Want people to take your festival seriously in the future? Present the facts to the media before they piece together a story based on anonymous sources and vague tweets.
When Homebake decided to take a year off in 2010, they released a statement to the media – and that was the first anybody knew of it (aside from those immediately involved with the festival). In comparison, this barrel of Big Day Out bullshit appears unprofessional and disorganised.
I really hope that if and when Big Day Out returns in the future, things are handled with more grace.