We caught up with Download Festival’s chief booker Andy Copping to find out more about this year’s event and how you go about organising one of the world’s biggest rock festivals.
How did you choose this year’s headliners?
When I knew Linkin Park were around I wanted them to do something a little bit different, so I suggested to them they should do the Hybrid Theory album, which was a massive album – it defined a genre of music. I wanted them to play it in full, which thankfully they agreed to do.
With Avenged Sevenfold I wanted to give one of the newer bands coming through a chance to headline the festival. I think it’s important for festival promoters to start feeding through new bands. In ten years’ time there will be no Metallica, Iron Maiden or AC/DC – there’ll just be too old. Plus they had a No.1 album both here in the UK and the US, and they’d just done some arena dates that sold out to the rafters.
With Aerosmith they’re just a classic band with loads of songs. They always change their setlist and are always great live. They haven’t been here for four years, so it’s good to have them back.
How do you go about booking then bands?
I have good relationships with the agents and the managers. I promote those bands when they’re touring and they’ve all played at Download before, so we’ve got a strong relationship with them. It’s just those negotiations through friendships, the agents and the managers that help me book them.
So apart from the headliners, who else are looking forward to?
I think it’s going to be interesting to see how well Bring Me The Horizon Do. They’re another band that have broken through and are starting to grow. You never know, in a couple of albums time they could potentially be a Download headliner.
I’m looking forward to seeing Status Quo. They’re going to do their greatest hits and we’ve been talking about booking them for some time. There’s a chance they could walk away with the festival because I think it will create such an atmosphere.
Steel Panther are always really good and they played a couple of years ago on the main stage. They were certainly one of the bands of the weekend.
But there are some new bands out there that people should keep an eye on – Royal Blood, Nothing More, Kid Karate and Pure September Morning are all really exciting.
How far in advance do you have to start planning the festival?
Probably 16-18 months in advance. I’ve already put offers in for headline acts for 2015 – I did that back in March. You’ve just got to be that far ahead. With regard to the actual booking, I do all of them. I’ve got a young promoter helping me out with the smaller stages, but ultimately all of the booking of these bands falls upon my head and it has done since the festival started back in 2003.
Then we’ve got the rest of the team – production, marketing sponsorship and all of the contractors we have to bring in. You’re probably talking 350 people are involved in putting the festival on. People forget it’s a £20-£25 million investment, so it’s really important that everybody knows what they’ve got to do. It’s a business but we’re all music lovers and that’s what stands out more than anything else.
What would you say are the biggest challenges you face?
We have to just make sure we’ve got a really strong and varied bill. I think we do that better than any other festival out there. A lot of other festivals have copied our template of how a festival should look. And I understand that because we’re really successful – we’ve been running since 2003 and we’ve grown from being a two stage two day event to a five stage three day event, with almost a week’s worth of camping. We get people camping on the campsite from the Wednesday – last year we had 70,000 people here two days before the event.
That’s how important it is to them. It’s important to us to make sure all of those people are treated well, that they have a really good experience. So there are a lot of things we need to make sure work for festival and we can’t leave any stone unturned.
Our own ticketing data shows that Download Festival fans are the most loyal – why do you think that is?
I think the loyalty stems from the fact we really put a lot into engaging with our audience. We listen to them and we’re talking to them all of the time. I’m very active on Twitter and the rest of the digital team are really active on social networks and the Download forums.
We have regular meetings with some of the people on the forums and we listen to them. I just think the communication we’ve got with them is second to none and again other festivals across the world have followed suit – we were the real pioneers in doing that.
It wasn’t a case of just finding a Greenfield site, putting a stage up, booking a few bands and hoping that they’ll just come. We really want them to feel the festival is theirs and we’ll never lose sight of that.
You’ve been doing it for over ten years now – what have been the highlights?
There have been a number of highlights. Doing the first one was obviously really exciting, because we had no idea of how the festival was going to work but it really connected. I guess for me in 2009 was when I felt the festival had really come of age. It was the first year that we had properly sold out. We’d really opened up the boundaries of the artists that we book. It was a really eclectic mix that definitely seemed to work.
I think 2010 was monumental with convincing AC/DC to play as they don’t usually play festivals, but I managed to convince them to play Download. Getting Metallica to do the Black album made 2012 a really fantastic weekend and then I guess last year when we had Slipknot, Iron Maiden and Rammstein. For me Rammstein have delivered the best headline set that we’ve ever seen at Download.
Have you got anything new planned for 2014?
We’re definitely looking to upgrade things in the campsite – the after-hours entertainment is going to go up another level. Also, we want to do a lot more within the arena site, so that when people are walking around we’ve got different things going on. There’s definitely going to be a few surprises and jaw dropping moments for people this year.
Finally, what tips would you give for anyone that’s never been to Download?
Make sure you drink plenty of water, mix up the food you’re going to eat over the weekend, make sure you’ve got clothing for the variety of weather we get in the UK, make sure you’ve got sun tan lotion, make sure you’ve got waterproofs and also try and explore as much as you possibly can. There’s a lot going and it’s not all necessarily about the bands.
Download Festival 2014 takes place 13-15 June in Donington Park, Leicestershire and tickets are available here.