An interview for The Vine. Excerpt below.
An eleventh hour cancellation is every live music promoter’s worst nightmare. Last week, we published an interview with Mos Def’s 2011 Australian tour promoter, who also revealed – in graphic detail – the financial burdens attached to such outcomes.
Another prime example of this type of behaviour on the Australian touring circuit occurred at the 2011 Fat As Butter festival at Newcastle’s Foreshore Park, on 22 October. Headlined by Empire Of The Sun, The Living End and Illy among a line-up of 38 Australian and international acts, event promoters Mothership Music had also booked the American rapper Flo Rida (pictured, with orange) – known for such modern classics as ‘Low (feat. T-Pain)’, ‘Good Feeling’ and ‘Right Round’ – to play the main (‘Fat’) stage at 5.10pm, after The Jezabels and before Naughty By Nature. Twenty minutes before he was due, organisers received a phone call from his tour manager: Flo Rida wouldn’t be able to make it to the show. Uh oh.
The aftermath was covered in detail by FasterLouder, and event organiser Brent Lean posted the following message on the festival’s Facebook a couple of hours after the cancellation: “We’re as upset as you are. We paid Flo to appear months ago and since he’s been on his Australian tour, he’s been an absolute Tonk. He’s been in Sydney today, and he’s had a hissy fit. We did everything we absolutely could to get him here, but he wouldn’t come. We’re absolutely devastated he decided not to be a part of Fat As Butter.”
What happens next, though? What recourse does a burned Australian festival promoter have in terms of recouping the artist fee they’d paid to Flo Rida and his entourage months in advance? I connected with Mothership Music managing director – and Fat As Butter promoter – Brent Lean back in November 2011 to find out.
TheVine: It’s been a couple of weeks since the Flo Rida incident went down, Brent. How are you feeling about it all now?
BL: Look, we’re OK about it. We’re going about the correct processes to find out exactly what happened. We know the circumstance of what happened, but now we’re in the process of seeking the return of the [performance] fee. That’s with the agent and record company over in America. Overall it’s disappointing he didn’t appear, but we’re happy that we got the message out there so that the fans know exactly what the circumstance was. We’re just being truthful in the process.
At any point during the negotiation process did you have an inkling that this might happen?
No, not at all. We bought the show from another company that was touring him in the country. We were tracking his movements at other shows, leading in [to the festival]. We were aware of certain incidents and bits and pieces that made us wary, but they were more about when he was at the event, as opposed to whether he’d turn up. At no point did we think that he’d cancel, and not show. That was never on our radar.
You always expect that something may go wrong, and you work every contingency you can to avoid that, but at the end of the day, when the news came through that he was cancelling, that was an absolute shock. We had to go into damage control straight away, because it’s a large festival – with 38 acts appearing – so we had to work out how to fill the spot and advise the punters. We understood that they’d be very frustrated and disappointed by the announcement. We had to go into contingency plans as to how to handle that.
Will you be hesitant to book hip-hop acts in future, having had this experience with Flo Rida?
Not really. You pick and choose where they’re at. Last year we had Ice Cube headline Fat As Butter, and he was an absolute joy to deal with. Very professional; met all of his contractual obligations, we met all of ours; a hug at the end of the night and ‘great job’.
What we do find with some hip-hop artists is that they tend to disrespect Australia, I think. They tend to disrespect the audience and promoters, because effectively – and it happens quite often – they don’t stick to the terms of their contracts. They arrive here, then they’re seeking additional things on top of the contract; left, right and centre. And in some cases, strong-arming promoters into paying for additional things outside of the contract.
Now, in comparison to Australian artists? That would never happen. In the 20 years I’ve been doing [event organisation and promotion], I’ve never had a contract dispute with an Australian artist. Everyone’s up front; everyone signs a contract, everyone knows what the terms are, and each party meets those terms. I find it very disappointing that, for whatever reason, some of the American hip-hop artists can come out here and think that they can disrespect promoters, events, and the audience by, clearly, wanting additional conditions – or money, whatever it may be – outside of the signed contract. And as I said, and I don’t mind saying it: strong-arming promoters into doing that. It’s disappointing.
So without a doubt, buyer beware. All you can do is make sure your contract is watertight, and then you need the strength of your convictions to say, “Well, I’m not going to give you anything outside of that contract.” I think in the past, perhaps, [Australian] promoters have given in to the additional considerations, or whatever they’re trying to put on you, and there seems to be a threat, at times. For us personally, we just don’t stand for any of those sorts of things. If we’ve got indications through the negotiating process that anything like that is going to happen, then we’d rather not have them appear on any of our shows.
For the full interview, visit The Vine.