Image for Viv Lees: “I feel like I've been in an abusive relationship"

Viv Lees: “I feel like I'vebeen in an abusiverelationship"

Former Big Day Out promoter Viv Lees has broken his silence about the fracturing of his twenty year partnership with Ken West, telling The Sunday Age, “It was appalling. I feel like I’ve been in an abusive relationship.”

Coinciding with the event’s first Australian stop on the Gold Coast, Lees’ interview reveals a man not entirely happy with the events that transpired in 2011: “I loved being in the Big Day Out and it was a very poor outcome for me,” he admits, “But I don’t want to be negative about it because it’s my legacy and I put a lot into it.”

Lees says that when he realised it was no longer financially viable to continue with this year’s event he approached West but that, “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.”

West recounted his version of events to the New Zealand Herald in December, saying: “My business partner bailed on me one day after going on sale – which was very helpful – after thirty years of working with each other. Without going into the gory details, we had an understanding… The agreement was I that I felt personally that with the twentieth year we were trying so hard to deliver the impossible – we’d put massive offers in for Eminem beyond our budget, we were prepared to take a loss for this year to produce the best show we could.”

This differing of opinions led to West offering to buy Lees out, and as Viv recalls: “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. ”

West has since entered into a financial partnership with Lollapalooza promoters C3, who now own a 51% stake of the company.

Lees also touches on his disenchantment with the vitriol of Facebook users, who slammed the festival’s decision to book a “pop” headliner such as Kanye West; something which Ken had previously revealed “was part of the reason why my 58 year old business partner [quit].” Lees admits, “They weren’t looking from the positive point of view that he is one of the great creative musicians in the world at the moment. A big festival in the UK or the US can put people like that on, but we have an audience that’s closed to that. So it is disappointing.”

However, despite the bitter end to a hugely successful twenty year partnership Lees ultimately wishes nothing but the best for his former partner: “I think there’s nothing that can’t be turned around with a line-up that crosses over different groups in the audience. Ken is trying very hard to keep the spark of life in it and he’s brave for doing that.”

Earlier in the week FL spoke to Ken West about his hopes for the future of the Big Day Out, and his memories of touring some of the biggest names in music – read it here.

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gumbuoy said on the 22nd Jan, 2012

oh what the hell? suddenly everyones just backstabbing each other in the media...


oldgregg said on the 22nd Jan, 2012

it's so in this summer.


crob said on the 22nd Jan, 2012

its all falling apart

BDO Staff Accused Of Attacking 7 News Camerman

Staff working at the Big Day Out festival on the Gold Coast today have become embroiled in a confrontation with a Chanel 7 news reporter and her camera man. According to 7 reporter, Bianca Stone, the Big Day Out organisers attacked her cameraman for filming a police drug operation outside the event. Footage of the incident is set to air on Channel 7 news at 6pm.

This seems strange as everyone knows it’s a good thing to have the media’s eye on police, especially at these type of events. We’ve contacted a BDO rep and will let you know when we hear their side of the story.

Read the Channel 7 reporter’s tweets below.

@Bianca_Stone: @bdo_official takes objection to @7NewsBrisbane filming a police drug operation outside the event.. see the confrontation on Seven News at 6

@Bianca_Stone: @Free2SpeakRus ta, might get some shots.. Considering we’ve been kicked out of the event

@Bianca_Stone: Dear #BigDayOut organisers, if you want good publicity for your event.. Best not to ATTACK my cameraman for filming police!


monokhrome_nite said on the 22nd Jan, 2012

what a bizarre tale this is turning out to be


berlinchair101 said on the 22nd Jan, 2012


crob said on the 22nd Jan, 2012

Odd Future Selling ‘Big Gay Out’ T-Shirts

Odd Future created then sold ‘Big Gay Out’ T Shirts to fans in New Zealand, making fun of the fact they had been kicked off the Big day Out lineup after a New Zealand man wrote to the council complaining that the bands lyrics were homophobic and misogynistic.

Speaking with Wavtelevision about being kicked of the lineup, Tyler said:

I really don’t care, I mean it really sux people want to come see us but its fine there will be more cool shit in the future.

No word yet on whether they will be selling the shirts in Australia, check them out in the video below…


humanracin said on the 22nd Jan, 2012

these are the days of Lee's and West's lives...


daveisaghost said on the 23rd Jan, 2012

Mariachi El Bronx made a comment about how they were so appreciative to be involved in the last tour of the Big Day Out. Most likely just a quip about it being the last time it goes to Auckland but perhaps they know something we don't.


Slip_dog said on the 23rd Jan, 2012

i highly doubt we will ever see Big Day Out as we know it ever again. You can blame all you fucktards too, for talking up shit music

Jose Cuervo

Jose Cuervo said on the 23rd Jan, 2012

I blame glowsticks for the demise of bdo


bigval said on the 23rd Jan, 2012

Yeah nothing to do with poor management whatsoever.

The BDO has been a tired festival for years and it now it's biting them/West in the arse (Like West I'm surprised the backlash didn't start years ago), which is why he's a rent-a-quote in the press (publicity).

The company that just bought a 51% share of the BDO have been sold a pup.


shazie said on the 23rd Jan, 2012

Yeah nothing to do with poor management whatsoever.

The BDO has been a tired festival for years and it now it's biting them/West in the arse (Like West I'm surprised the backlash didn't start years ago), which is why he's a rent-a-quote in the press (publicity).

The company that just bought a 51% share of the BDO have been sold a pup.

I think you're missing the important detail of C3 is the touring company who has that 51% stake in BDO; C3 is the touring company for Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits. This is fantastic news for future events, just look at Pod Concerts (touring company behind Electric Picnic) and the acts they managed to bring to Australia when teaming up with Soundwave touring.

Also this is the first year BDO has run, as a whole, at a loss. They've been very successful in recent years in regards to revenue, especially 2010.


bigval said on the 25th Jan, 2012

THE 20th anniversary of the Big Day Out was supposed to be a celebration of Australia's biggest music festival.

Instead in the past few months the iconic event has lost promoter Vivian Lees, downsized three of the six cities in which it stops and been mauled by social media.

Last man standing, promoter Ken West, has already written off this year's event financially.

"Despite the rumours, the tickets are doing OK," West says. "It just cost too much."

He has been transparent about the failed attempt for an anniversary line-up Prince, Eminem and Blink-182.

High fees, being outbid by Dainty for Eminem (after West's $6 million offer) and maverick artistry ("Prince is not very good on deadlines, which wouldn't work at a festival") led to West buying Lees out, ending a partnership that stretched over 30 years.

West retooled the Big Day Out, paying Soundgarden and Kanye West a million dollars each, per show for 2012.

Twitter and Facebook slammed the Big Day Out's bill. And West can see their point.

"I believe in every act on the show, I just don't necessarily believe all those acts should be on the (same) show," West says of the line-up. "We flew too high on borrowed wings and borrowed time."