We're Calling It: Soundwave 16 Will Not Go Ahead

17 December 2015 | 4:40 pm | Uppy Chatterjee

"We're expecting that the announcement Maddah said would come "by COB today" is that Soundwave is over."

The conversation has been endless. There have been weeks of speculation, hushed conversations and small portions of information fed to us via Soundwave boss AJ Maddah on Twitter. But today, based on all the signs pointing to exactly this, we're calling it. We're expecting that the announcement Maddah said would come "by COB today" is that Soundwave is over.

Here's why.

voluntary administration

Up until late October when Soundwave 16's full line-up was released, Soundwave were still drip-feeding acts like Moose Blood, Devil You Know and Bring Me The Horizon. But during these artist announcements, in late September Soundwave put their operating company World Stages Pty Ltd into voluntary administration, with Maddah saying it was only in order to organise debts under the old company.

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At that point, Maddah said, "Nothing from previous years will affect next year’s festival ... We’ve got a great line-up; everything is on track for next year." While we didn't realise it at the time, this was perhaps the first sign of Soundwave's financial troubles. 

millions of dollars in debt

Just over a week ago, an alarming report came to light via CX that Soundwave were deeper in debt than anyone realised. Citing an audit report from Deloitte, CX wrote that Maddah and the company were owing $25.8 million to 186 creditors following the collapse of World Stages Pty Ltd. The report also found that the company owed the Australian Taxation Office and Office of State Revenue charges of over $6 million, as a result of incorrectly recording artist fees as wages, instead of the contractor payments they should be marked as. 

no booked venues

Music Feeds reported today that at least two of Soundwave's three scheduled festivals did not have venues booked at this current time — only 37 days out from the first festival. Sydney Showground's GM, Peter Thorpe, said, there was "no booking for January 24th 2016", but admitted that they were in talks with Soundwave seven months ago. Similarly, Melbourne Showground said there was no booking with Soundwave, though they too had been in talks with the festival earlier in the year.

concerns from bands

Shit really hit the fan when on Monday UK metal act Bring Me The Horizon casually tweeted that they weren't entirely sure whether they were 100% booked on Soundwave 16. The troubling update caused a flurry of activity as BMTH fans clamoured to ask the band and Maddah what was going on. The band never followed up the tweet but it only kicked off Maddah's conversation with punters about the fate of the festival.

Joining the Englishmen, Aussie punk band Frenzal Rhomb also took to social media, referencing Maddah's monetary troubles. Drummer Gordi Forman wrote, "If Soundwave manage to find heaps of money under their mattress and realise they can use that to pay the bands what they agreed upon, I might actually be able to play a song or two by then." 

The NOFX camp also let rip on social media, not just alluding to Soundwave's cancellation but writing as if it was already done and dusted. Eric Melvin wrote, "Soundwave cancelling sw16 isn't going to stop me from seeing my Australian mates at Xmas", while Fat Mike wrote, "come on AJ, make it happen!" 

Further, US rockers L7 pulled out of the festival this morning, though they didn't offer any reasons other than it was "due to circumstances beyond our control". 

gm's other ventures

Back in October, General Manager of Soundwave Chris O'Brien revealed that he was taking over the booking for Melbourne live music venue Sooki Lounge. At the time, this appeared to fans like O'Brien putting more things on his plate, but since O'Brien announced the launch of his own management company two days ago, it seems as if O'Brien is looking out for his future post-Soundwave.

maddah's failed ventures

CX also writes that Maddah's ventures away from Soundwave were what caused much of his losses. CX allege that Soundwave earned $62 million gross in 2013, but Harvest Festival and a $5 million stake in Big Day Out were immediate failures. Further, the purchase of Stage Systems saw "a downturn in rentals of backline equipment", and is now to be sold at a loss of only $600,000. 

his fall from grace in the Amid power 50

Though Maddah was #1 on our AMID Power 50 in 2013, this year Maddah only picked up #21. We owed the fall from grace to the losses he faced with the "costly gamble" that was Big Day Out, and the consequent financial hangovers that have been plaguing Soundwave Festival, causing it to become more streamlined and simplistic in 2016. It seems it may become too simplistic even for Maddah's liking.

maddah's statements on twitter

A big stir was caused when on Tuesday, Maddah told a fan on Twitter that Soundwave 17 would definitely not go ahead, calling out the "hard work, stress & risk" which only brought about "hate & stupidity". At this point, he didn't make any allusions to Soundwave 16 being called off.

Maddah also admitted to a fan that Soundwave Touring would go under, too — "I'm done. Let some new people go for it." He wrote that he'd be looking for a "9 to 5 gig". Later on yesterday — in response to the claims from NOFX of Soundwave's cancellation — Maddah expressed the first doubt of Soundwave 16 going ahead; he wrote that it was "not true yet."

Maddah went on to name ticket companies Eventopia and Ticketek as the reasons Soundwave 16 would be called off, calling Eventopia's CFO a "halfwit" at the same time he told punters he was going to a meeting to finalise what was happening. Though he's since removed the tweet, Maddah's lack of restraint seems to imply that his meeting with the ticket companies may be a lost cause already.