Big Day Out promoter Ken West

Big Day Out promoter Ken West has had a rough year. In the last twelve months he has parted ways with business partner Viv Lees, drastically re-shaped the 2012 events and, only yesterday, announced that the Auckland leg of the BDO will be scrapped indefinitely.

Over the last few weeks he has given a number of candid interviews in which he has discussed everything from the near collapse of his festival dream to the destabilising effects of competing events such as Soundwave.

FasterLouder met up with West for a tour around the re-modelled Gold Coast site and to talk to him about the year that’s been, dealing with Kanye West’s people, not booking New Order and what happened the year that Nirvana didn’t headline Big Day Out

The lead-up to Big Day Out 2012 must have caused you plenty of headache, Ken – what are your thoughts now that everything and everyone’s locked in and good to go?

These large-scale events involve a massive amount of funding, don’t get anything from the government and have to totally rely on people buying tickets – it has to be seriously re-looked that music needs support just as much, if not more, than an Indy race, a sporting event or a horse thing. A myriad of things get funding whereas we get shoved to one side; more importantly, we don’t have a recording industry anymore – we’re left in cyberspace to fend for ourselves.

Rock and Roll is more cool than Indy cars going around and around – this is where the BDO leverage comes in: because of that 20-year legacy, we can actually communicate with people on a high political and business level. That’s the reality at the moment: everyone’s suffering from overspending or lack of attendance. We won’t pay so much and we rely on our audience, and then get buffeted by “you couldn’t deliver the big acts” or “you pay for the big acts, but you can’t afford it.” There seem to be two ways of going broke, but not two solutions, so we need to find more solutions.

What’s your favourite Big Day Out so far?

Hopefully it’s in the future, but 2010 was my favourite BDO year because I’ve had so many friends on the road – it was so massive and so easy. 2000 was a great year with Red Hot Chili Peppers; 1997 was an amazing year with Soundgarden closing and The Prodigy and The Offspring on the main stage. I often find for myself that the best years are with bands that have done it before.

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