Chugg: This summer will be “a rude awakening for a few festivals”

Michael Chugg stopped in at Melbourne’s Face The Music conference last Friday to talk about his career, scalping, the future of festivals and tour promoting in Australia. While he admitted to a few missteps along the way – “I’ve got a lot of t-shirts that cost me three quarters of a million dollars” – Chugg was in fine form, holding court on the music business and no doubt buoyed by a huge November which has seen Chugg Entertainment announce the West Coast Bluesfest lineup, and sell close to 500,000 tickets promoting the Radiohead, Coldplay and Elton John tours.

The festival market: “There are a lot of festivals being started with the wrong intentions”

“It’s going to be very interesting this coming year to see who gets through the summer and who continues on next year,” Chugg mused. “I think there’ll be a rude awakening for a few festivals … Big Day Out’s in a bit of trouble because it became a rite of passage for schoolies and a lot of older rock fans won’t go. There are a lot of festivals being started with the wrong intentions and they won’t remain. There’s a lot of people who want to become promoters and they don’t have the knowledge or the ability. They won’t survive.”

He also admitted that his own Alternative Nation festival in 1995, promoted with Michael Coppel and Michael Gudinski, was one of these festivals “done for all the wrong reasons”. Chugg said the festival, which featured Faith No More, Lou Reed, Nine Inch Nails, Tool, Violent Femmes, Ween, Primus and The Flaming Lips, was “done to wipe Big Day Out out, so immediately it had bad karma”.

Commercial radio: “They won’t fucking play Australian music”

Chugg attacked commercial radio for refusing to support Australian music, claiming that “mainstream radio will not fucking play Australian music until they have to”. The promoter said that after “40 fucking years” of lobbying for increased local content he’s not holding his breath for change. “We are getting there and I’m sure eventually it’ll change but the short playlists and the domination by international music on our radio stations is very frustrating,” Chugg said. “With mainstream radio it’d be good to see at least 25 percent of their 60 to 70 song playlists being current Australian content and not ‘greatest hits’ shit played between midnight and 6am to make up the quota. The commercial radio association will tell me that I’m full of shit, but just stay up one night and have a listen – you’ll soon see what I mean.”

While Chugg is keen for increased regulation of radio quotas he’s doesn’t agree with efforts to force promoters to book local bands on festival and concert tours. “I don’t agree 100 percent with the government trying to force it upon us,” he explained. “Obviously we can put Australian acts on where we can … very occasionally there aren’t Australian acts on the bill, but that’s because it’ll be a unique show or a huge production that can’t cope with support acts. And as far as our festivals go we always put a lot of Australian acts on. But I don’t agree with the government saying that we won’t get immigration visas if you don’t put a local act on the bill – I think that’s bullshit.” The support acts on the Radiohead and Coldplay tours – Connan Mockasin and The Temper Trap, respectively – were chosen by the bands.

Scalping: “eBay’s a bit of a pain in the arse for us”

Scalping is an issue that the media gets involved every now and again and turns it into “a fucking huge event” said Chugg, but he claimed that it’s a minor issue in Australia. He said scalping has never become a major problem here like it is in America and England where “half the ticketing companies in America and England are scalpers”. Despite playing down the issue, Chugg mentioned that “eBay’s a bit of a pain in the arse” as there are often tickets advertised for resale on the website for shows that haven’t been announced and in some cases don’t even exist.

He said that on the Radiohead tour there were about 700 to 800 tickets bought by people wanting to scalp them. However, as Chugg had credit card details of the scalpers they were able to “claw about 600 of those [tickets] back and put them back on sale”.