As the Big Day Out kicks off nationally in Australia, former promoter and Big Day Out partner Vivian Lees has spoken out about the reasons behind his sudden exit from the business shortly after tickets went on sale back in November.
Speaking to The Sunday Age, Lees recounts the argument he had with co-promoter Ken West, stressing to his partner that the business needed to urgently recapitalise and faced insolvency but West wouldn’t listen. “I loved being in the Big Day Out and it was a very poor outcome for me,” he said.
“But I don’t want to be negative about it because it’s my legacy and I put a lot into it. Ken wouldn’t hear it. His response was not to look at it as a business proposition but to barge ahead and try to overwhelm me with his arguments.” It was the culmination of 10 years of tension involving a lot of telephone screaming between Sydney and Melbourne, he says.
“It was appalling. I feel like I’ve been in an abusive relationship.” To the surprise of Lees, West offered to buy out his half of the partnership. “I’ve no reservations about my decision. I feel strange being out of it when I’ve been part of it for 20 years but, at the same time, I couldn’t work with him. I found him too objectionable. ”
Back in December West recounted his own version of events of the infamous split saying “when we went through the process, I said ‘It has to go forward’. My business partner decided after it went on sale — he looked at all the figures and decided that he didn’t want to do it ever again. It was over.”
“I was prepared to wear whatever losses might be involved this year to get through, [Lees] wasn’t. So I ended up with twice the amount of losses to get through.”
Speaking over the weekend to The Sunday Age, West defends his decision to press on saying “I don’t believe in death by accountancy. As a creator of the event, I need to be the person who calls it, who determines that the event is over.”
After Lees left the business West found new partners in C3 Presents, the company that runs the highly successful Lollapalooza music festival in the United States. C3 have now purchased 51% of the Big Day Out and according to West they are looking at rapid expansion to other territories, specifically Asia and North America. This was also a factor in their sudden exit from the New Zealand market.
“Every year we’ve agonised over whether to take it to New Zealand and it had to come to an end because it can’t be subsidised from Australia any more, which it was,” West said recently in an interview. “We’re sitting down next week to go through all these things, to work out what the importance and essence of these things are.”
“We want to be needed – not in a desperate and dateless kind of way, but you’re only as relevant, especially with modern technology, as people feel you are. There’s no standing on history.” West has promised fans of the festival that it will return in 2013 bigger and better than ever before.
The Big Day Out continues to travel around the country after the Gold Coast over the weekend travelling next to Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, and Perth.