Big Day Out 'caught with pants down'
In the first detailed response to the fallout for the Big Day Out (BDO) from the withdrawal of co-headliners Blur, co-promoter AJ Maddah has insisted that "the most important thing for the BDO team is to ensure people can trust the BDO brand and can buy their tickets confidently".
Confirming that full refunds will made to any ticket-buyers not satisfied with either Blur's absence or their potential replacement, Maddah also revealed there had been only 87 requests for refunds, as of Tuesday morning, and that "feedback we are getting from most ticket-holders is quite positive and I am optimistic that people will be pleased with the replacement artist(s)".
Auckland's Big Day Out organiser Campbell Smith offered apologies for any inconvenience that Blur's withdrawal from the Auckland Big Day out may have caused. "We are going to announce replacement(s) in the coming days.
"If fans are not satisfied with either Blur's cancellation or the new act(s) we announce, we will be providing refunds," he said.
The search for a replacement for the British band, who announced their withdrawal from the festival via Facebook on Sunday, was focusing on the United States and the United Kingdom as "there are few Australian artists left that have the requisite draw to be on top of a festival bills," Maddah said. Elevating another act already playing at the BDO to headline was "not an option".
The first show is expected be held in Auckland on January 17, before further shows on the Gold Coast, then in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide and Perth.
Because of the short time frame, organisers were bracing for a financial hit substantially greater than anything arising from potential refunds.
"It won't be cheap," Maddah said of the cost of sourcing a new headline act, confirming also that the first portion of Blur's fee had been paid before the withdrawal, with no answer yet as to whether that fee would be repaid.
He remained confident, however, that "it will not put the event or any of the stakeholders in any difficulty" thanks to the backing of its co-owners; the American tour and festival company C3, which is also responsible for the Lollapalooza festival.
The suddenness of Sunday's announcement - "We were completely caught with our pants down" - clearly left the BDO organisation, which was already dealing with rumours of slow ticket sales and uncertainty about its immediate prospects, floundering for a response.
"I didn't hear about it 'til Sunday afternoon, then I had to check with partners and the band's agent to see if anyone knew something that I didn't that may have caused the cancelation or the manner in which it was communicated," Maddah said.
"Since then we have learned that Blur have done the same thing previously to promoters in Asia where they also cancelled via Facebook without notice and blamed promoters using very similar language."
Asked whether an explanation had by now been received from Blur, Mr Maddah said that while it was his belief that "money was never the issue", he had received "a very considered apology from one of their representatives regretting the band's cancellation via Facebook and acknowledging our efforts ... but no adequate explanation".
As for the long term future of the Big Day Out: "Together we are determined to restore the festival to its glory days. We are all committed to the long term."
Sydney Morning Herald