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Andy Copping: “When Tony walks out at Download, can you imagine the ovation he’s going to get?”
He’s been in the music industry for over 30 years and booked the biggest names in rock and metal, he’s the Senior Vice President of Music at Live Nation and Download Festival’s main man. Andy Copping speaks to Terroizer ahead of the 10th SOLD OUT Download Festival.
Lets look at year one. Do you think you got the line-up right?
“I guess in terms of launching a new event at Donington there were a lot of bands and a lot of agents a bit reticent about committing to the festival because we were an unknown quantity. I was surprised at just how many bands at the time were going ‘Not this year, we’ll see how you get on and if you’re around next year then maybe.’ Obviously we had the whole situation with Limp Bizkit who pulled out three weeks before the festival and we just moved up Audioslave. The interesting thing at the time was that there was only one person that demanded a refund because Limp Bizkit had puilled out! (laughs). But we had Iron Maiden who headlined one of the days, and for the launch of a first event we did about 38,000 people in our first year. We were only two stages and two days at the time. I think the line-up was the best we could book from what was available but, in fairness, that’s the same every year!”
With the monsters of rock legacy firmly established at Donington, how difficult was it to start up? What was your principal aim?
“Our principal aim was that we didn’t want to be Monsters Of Rock when we first formed because during the ’90s it had had less of a successful decade. It didn’t run every single year, and I think that they kind of became a victim of the brand. There weren’t a lot of artists out there who wanted to play on a festival called Monsters Of Rock. It worked great in the ’80s, but in ’90s, with bands like Faith No More, Pearl Jam, Nirvana and Soundgarden, they just wouldn’t want to be associated with an event called that. So, we kind of wanted to veer away from it just being out-and-out classic rock, and to make it more contemporary. I guess more in keeping with the younger audience, that was our original remit. We don’t want any classic rock if you like! We needed to form and develop a new, contemporary modern event.”
Every year with more bands and more stages, why do you think promoters need to make the weekend so busy? Do you think the 5/6 band a day approach isn’t valid anymore?
“It’s over. It served its purpose back in the day but that’s when festivals were effectively being developed. You’ve got to take your hat off to Monsters of Rock, they were one of the fore-bearers of festivals and was copied throughout the world. Getting a bunch of popular bands all playing together in one day was a big thing. Nowadays your ticket-buyer wants so much more like comfort and value for money. Yes, we could probably trim a little bit off the amount of bands per stage but, honestly, the demand from ticket-buyer is huge. I’ve always worked on the premise of variety, so if there’s something on one stage, you need to offer something else that might be slightly different. I think our chemistry of how I’ve booked the festival is offering that variety.
To what extent do you think the general public are hard to please, then?
“Competition is fierce so you have to make sure the customer is happy. We’re very active as on social networks and the Download forums. Our social media marketing and PR is huge, and the ticket-buyers are very forthright, they will tell you what they think. Back in the day, I would never have dreamed of writing to the organisers of Monsters Of Rock or Reading, criticising their event. It was a different mentality back then and you wouldn’t do it for fear of organisers barring you from the event. You would be some kind of pariah! Whereas now, everybody has a voice, everybody has an opinion. Obviously they’re not always right and I certainly don’t think we’re always right either. We’re always pushing to improve, but the demands on you as a festival organiser are massive nowadays, whether it’s somebody complaining about travel arrangements, camping, festival layout, the bands you’ve booked, the food available, hot showers, not enough toilets, even down to the fact that they don’t like the logo! Just unbelievable, everybody has a voice now and good or bad and we have to listen.”
What are your thoughts on Tony Iommi’s illness and Bill Ward not appearing, but having the only Black Sabbath festival show?
“We’re really, really lucky. Tony was determined to do Download. They cancelled everything in Europe and Download is going to be the only [festival] show. They’ve consistently kept us up-to-date on Tony’s condition. He’s responding really well to treatment which is just amazing. Bill Ward said a few months ago he wasn’t going to do it. We all hoped that he would, but he made a statement this week saying he’s definitely not. Tony Iommi is, fingers-crossed, getting himself out of this life threatening disease. When Tony walks out at Download, can you imagine the ovation he’s going to get?”
What do you reckon the secret of your success is?
“Passion. I have a real passion for it. I’m a music fan, always have been. I book the festival like a fan, I book the festival in a way that I think ‘what’s going to make me want to buy a ticket for this event? What is going to make it attractive enough to get people to put their hands in their pockets and pay their hard-earned money to come to our event?’ Everybody involved in Download has been with it from the start right from the very first one, all the key people are passionate about the festival. We love it, it’s our lives, and we throw everything into it. We never take it for granted either. We always know the next year is going to be harder, and the year after that is going be harder than that. It always is, you’ve got to really graft.”
Where will we see you most over weekend?
“I have a knack of covering every inch of the Donington site, whether it’s backstage, front of stage, on-stage, just about everywhere! I like to get a real flavour of how the event is going. I love going out and mixing and mingling with the crowd and chatting to people, asking them if they’re enjoying their weekend, how it’s going, and just going to see as many bands as I can. So you’ll see me out and about this year as you do every year!”
When are you gonna give terrorizer their own stage?
“(laughs) You’ll have to speak to our boys in the marketing department about that! That’s a bit away from my remit!”
Download Festival happens at Donington on June 8-10. And we are very excited. Check out the mammoth line-up here.