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AJ Maddah cancels Harvest, buys into Big Day Out?

Tuesday 17 September 2013

AJ Maddah cancels Harvest, buys into Big Day Out?

It was a busy day for Soundwave promoter AJ Maddah yesterday. He cancelled the Harvest festival after low sales before blaming competition from Big Day Out – and then spent the day ducking questions if he had bought out founder Ken West’s 49% stake in Big Day Out.

A week back, Maddah had hit his infamous twitter account to warn Harvest ticket holders that the event in November look like being cancelled after three years. The bill was strong with Massive Attack, Franz Ferdinand, Primus, Goldfrapp and Neutral Milk Hotel. But sales were only 18% of Brisbane’s 17,500 tickets, and “30-40 per cent" of Sydney’s 20,000 although Melbourne had shifted “70% to 80% of 15,000 tickets. Facing a loss of $5.5 million Maddah said an option is to spin the major acts’ appearances into individual tours, and that ticket holders would get the first shot at these shows.

In response to a fan asking about CSS’ shows, Maddah tweeted, “Am going to ask Ken if he will have them join BDO."

Maddah also tried to hose down the stories that he’d now become Big Day Out’s new co-owner, which Ken West ran with Austin-based C3 Presents, promoter of Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits Music Festival after his 2011 split from Viv Lees.

"As usual, the rumours are a bit exaggerated and not quite as sensational," was Maddah’s response. Multiple sources told TMN that it was a done deal.

It’s a twist of irony that Maddah should buy into Big Day Out. In the past, both West and Lees have been brutal in their assessment of Maddah. They have accused him of not caring about supporting the Australian music scene when he books his acts.

Lees cut no slack when triple j asked for his response in this week’s turn of events. "I'm a little dismayed that AJ has come into the picture," he asserted. "When I see the amount of work that has gone into building up the event over a 22 year period, and then to see [Maddah] come in to take it over really does alarm me. He plays fast and loose and he's quite an odious character. This event has been so instrumental to the careers of many Australian artists, and AJ's got no commitment to that."

This bought a tweeted response from Big Day Out CEO Adam Zammit who has refused to comment on the ownership change so far: “AJ Maddah was basically Viv Lee’s only source of artist insight or music knowledge for a decade…why do the old always hate the young??”

- Christie Eliezer