Around Christmas time last year (2010), the promoters of Big Day Out announced that patrons attending the second Sydney show would be allowed to take a friend for free, as capacity was just over the midway point (19, 000), which caused uproar within the music community as it was effectively offering half price tickets.

Big Day Out (BDO) is an annual music festival which began in 1992 and is held across Australia and New Zealand in January every year. Each year the line-up of artists has been bigger and better, with the likes of Nirvana, Iggy Pop, The Ramones, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Metallica playing in the past, this makes getting tickets a yearly ordeal as they become harder and harder to procure as the festival gets more popular.

It is rare that BDO holds two shows in one city, but for the second time ever in 2010, both were sold out. This year the promoters thought that the same would happen, and so created a second show, but aforementioned, it didn’t go as planned and the tickets were going free (if you already had a friend who purchased one). When this was announced the uproar was voiced nationwide, and even internationally as Auckland concert goers felt ripped off.

BDO anticipated anger, and subsequently released a statement saying that this offer should be taken as a positive thing, not negative as it allows people to go who usually couldn’t.

As the wise Mumbrella stated ‘organisers risk isolating their fans…and will receive backlash from people who are the most loyal to the brand’

There were a few avenues the promoters could have taken, such as discounted tickets after 5pm, a larger venue option, cancelling the second show, or offering a two for one ticket deal. All of which would have resulted in dissatisfaction amongst original ticket holders.

The avenue they chose to take allowed the new ticket buyers to have the same offer as people who initially bought the tickets. I can see why this option was taken, as it’s better to have a higher capacity for many reasons including food and drink sales.

If you were in Ken West’s (the head of BDO’s) shoes, what would you have done?

I think that of all the possible options, this one worked out best, as there would have been 19, 000 negative people who would have received a refund, compared to the five hundred* or so (*totally estimated number) who are outwardly raging. It’s a tricky situation and I think each choice would have had ramifications.

Deciding on a plan and actually communicating it are two different things. The way it was announced was quite poor, I wasn’t even aware of the deal until the week before the festival. Posting a message on their website as well as an interview and statement on Triple J radio station probably wasn’t the best way to get the message out to all 19, 000 people who had already bought tickets and prospective punters.

I think a better alternative would have utilised social media (instead of just a single post on Facebook and Twitter stating the change), a toll-free number to register complaints and comments (this would have diffused the anger if people thought they were being heard), emailing everyone on their vast e-newsletter database and holding a forum in each state advising of the reasons for the change in plans.

It’s important for organisations to have a credible spokesperson that sticks to key messages so there is no confusion on where you stand on an issue, completely unlike Ken West, who went on national radio (Triple J) in Australia and called everyone ‘a bunch of whingers’, after a futile attempt to be diplomatic.

I’m quite certain that once the BDO tour has finished up, no one will be complaining about the second Sydney show anymore, but reminiscing on the wonderful day that had been. I know I am!

@christiemcclure