Harvest Festival now "pretty f--king unlikely" to return says AJ
By Peter Vincent
The touring Harvest festival appears destined for the live music scrapheap after only three years, because poor ticket sales made going ahead this year "too risky" for all concerned, according to its promoter AJ Maddah.
"At this point it looks like it will disassociate [sic] into several tours," Maddah told Fairfax exclusively, adding that the final decision hadn't been made yet, although he was pessimistic about its survival.
An abbreviated Harvest was the only possible way to keep the festival on, he said, but his preference was to replace it with a series of national headline tours by the main artists, which his company Harvest Presents would promote. Harvest ticketholders would be refunded.
Harvest headliner Franz Ferdinand could still tour Australia with their own headline show.
"I'm devastated, we got Massive Attack and we'd dragged Elizabeth Fraser out ... And we had a good second lineup announcement [to come]," Maddah said. He told Fairfax that low Harvest ticket sales for the November 17 show in Brisbane ("18 per cent" of 17,500 tickets had been sold) and the November 16 Sydney date ("30-40 per cent" of 20,000) left him facing a loss of up to $5.5 million.
Sales were stronger for the Melbourne leg (November 10) – "70-80 per cent" of 15,000 tickets had been sold.
Maddah said touring the headline acts as separate shows would still mean personal losses "into seven figures, but not $5.5 million which would have been crippling". A major concern was that other parties would also lose a lot of money.
"I'm happy to asume risk when that risk is to me, but there comes a point where the risk is to suppliers and bands and everyone involved," Maddah said. "[To continue it] we'd have to take shorcuts or make drastic changes to the event where its not up to the expectations of people involved and those who have bought tickets.
"Ethically I can only take risks at my expense... I don't want to add to the statistics of festivals f––king people over. I don't want anyone else to get hurt over this."
Maddah blamed the poor ticket sales on "economic uncertainty" and strong rival festival lineups, especially the Falls Festival (which will be held at Byron Bay for the first time in December) and the Big Day Out, which is headed by Blur, Arcade Fire and Pearl Jam.
"Put that next to us and we are dwarfed."
He also claimed Harvest lost money both years it was staged, 2011 and 2012: "Breaking even [in 2013] is not on the cards; the event has never broken even – we never expected to... we have been subsidising the tickets since day one."
He was keen to stress that he wanted Harvest fans to be able to see at least some of the promised acts: "Without them and their support [more] events will die out."
Maddah spent much of last night negotiating with acts on the Harvest bill, and as of this morning claimed to have agreement from Franz Ferdinand, Goldfrapp and Black Rebel Motorcyle Club to tour Australia next year, promoted by his company. Mutemath and Primus look set to join the bill for Soundwave 2014, which Maddah also runs.
He was still negotiating with other bands, including main headliner Massive Attack and Bon Iver's Volcano Choir.
The cancellation of Harvest would be a blow to Maddah, who was perceived to have the midas touch in recent years: "There's always going to be knock-backs when you are trying to create something new," he said.
"Maybe Harvest will be back some day... Pretty f--king unlikely though. It's been a labour of love but we have a couple of great years to remember."Peter Vincent for smh.com.auRead our extended interview with AJ Maddah here on TheVine.
- By Sydney Morning Herald