Soundwave’s AJ Maddah Says He’s Paying Everyone Back ‘With No Obligation’

19 March 2024 | 4:30 pm | Ellie RobinsonDan Cribb

“My new mission in life was to make amends and that drives you forward one step at a time.”

Soundwave 2016

Soundwave 2016 (Supplied)

AJ Maddah, the man behind the now-defunct Soundwave festival, has commented on the debts lingering from the cancellation of its 2016 edition – and the company itself going bankrupt amidst that fiasco – saying he’s working to have everyone paid back, even though he’s not legally obliged to.

Replying to a Facebook post about Soundwave 2016’s cancellation (which has since been deleted from the group it was made in, The Soundwave Society), Maddah claimed the tour was scrapped partly due to insufficient ticket sales, and partly because “the parties interested in buying the brand, which would have enabled us to pay the debts, backed out”.

The poster went on to ask Maddah whether bands were eventually paid the fees they were owed for performing at previous Soundwaves – a major source of controversy amid the brand’s demise in late 2015 and early 2016 – to which Maddah noted that because of the administration, liquidation and creditor settlement processes involved in Soundwave’s bankruptcy, all of his debts “are legally extinguished”.

But Maddah said he plans to have those debts taken care of nonetheless, noting his goodwill effort: “I still voluntarily and with no obligation send out monthly payments to bands and local creditors. It will take a few more years, but I hope [to] have everyone paid up.”

The comment came after Joel King – chief operating officer at The Brag and founder of Music Feeds – highlighted significant debts owed to both artists and vendors following Soundwave’s collapse. Soundgarden, for example, were owed $2.1 million at the time, while Slipknot and The Smashing Pumpkins were owed over $1 million according to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC).

Speaking with, Maddah said of his efforts to repay these remaining debts: “There is a legal dimension where all these debts are extinguished once you have gone through administration/liquidation/creditor settlements. And then there is a moral dimension where you carry this burden with you forever and it is always on your conscience that you let people down. People who were by and large my friends.

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“Despite all the legal and financial advice to walk away post-settlement and never look back, as I was legally entitled to, there was never a question in my mind that that I would make amends to people, especially those who were so kind to me despite being left out of pocket. 

“The truth is that I had not had a lawyer or any legal advice until things went south. If I had engaged even the most basic legal advice, I would not have entered the agreement to try and rescue Big Day Out, which was basically walking headfirst into a $12 million loss, which started the domino effect that eventually fucked everything.  

“I was so obsessed with putting on a big show that my thought process was clouded. ‘Oh we can have lawyers, or how about we use that money to add two more bands to a festival line up!’ I booked $3 million worth of bands and additional stages after Soundwave 2013 had already totally sold out to ‘reward the fans’. Really stupid. Everything went back into the shows.”

Maddah went on to say that he was “totally broken mentally, physically and spiritually” for the first six months after Soundwave collapsed – an experience that “shattered [him] into a thousand pieces”. He explained: “I am alive thanks to the intervention of family, friends and the odd paramedic. But you slowly get your resolve back. My new mission in life was to make amends and that drives you forward one step at a time.”

According to Maddah, the first port of call was to “pay back the loansharks who I had to resort to in order to make sure Soundwave 2015 actually happened and that the people who bought tickets got their show”. That process took “over two years”, after which he was “just working as many and whatever jobs I could and sending out whatever I had left at the end of the month, to someone who was owed”.

He added: “This was not too difficult to be honest as we have always been frugal. There was one year where just about every festival promoter went and bought matching Aston Martins. Soundwave had been by far the most successful of all festivals that year and I was still very happy driving my beloved Daisy, a beat up 1998 Ford Falcon I had bought at the Parramatta Council fleet auctions for $8,000.”

Before Soundwave collapsed, he said, “everything we could spare would go into the shows. Now everything we could spare would go to paying people. Every dollar that goes out is like a massive rock has been removed from my chest and I can breathe a bit easier.

“There is still a long road ahead, but things are accelerating with the success of my new companies. Next week I am sending money to the Aquabats and Steel Panther as well as five local suppliers. By the end of the month I should have Lamb Of God paid in full and a few others over the halfway mark. In April, I plan to send money to Godsmack... We will get there!”

Maddah still works ardently in the live music sphere, launching his new company last year. His first suite of tours under the new endeavour brought acts like Static-X, Don Broco, Polyphia, Avatar and Devin Townsend to Australia; already in 2024, he’s toured the likes of Wednesday 13, Mudvayne and Of Mice & Men, with upcoming projects including tours headlined by Skillet, The Damned and VV. Head here for more info on