Exclusive Interview: Ten Questions with Download Festival Organizer Andy Copping
In 2006 — pre-MetalSucks — Axl and I visited the UK to attend Download Festival. The experience opened our eyes in more ways than one, serving as our entry to the world of European open air summer festivals and undoubtedly planting the seeds for the idea that would eventually become this website.
Download will come back to Donington Park in 2014 — featuring headliners Avenged Sevenfold, Linkin Park and Aerosmith atop more extreme acts like Killswitch Engage, Opeth and the Black Dahlia Murder (more info) — the festival’s 12th year under this moniker and 35th stretching back to the Monster of Rock days. Andy Copping is the man behind the curtain that’s been making it all happen since the festival rebranded itself as Download in 2003, and we’ve scored an exclusive interview with him via email. Our questions, his answers, below.
MS: At what point during the year do you start working on assembling the line-up — the day after the festival ends? What are the biggest challenges you face each year?
Strangely enough, booking the bands for Download starts earlier and earlier. I have actually just made an offer for a headline act for Download 2016. It’s a 52-week-a-year job, no question. One of the main challenges is being on top of what’s happening and making sure you are first in the queue for bands.
Download always has a lineup that’s very diverse — the year I attended Opeth and Strapping Young Lad played alongside Skindred and Korn. How do audiences react to such diverse bills?
I always try and mix things up at Download and the more diverse the bill, the bigger chance you have of bringing in a new audience. Audiences react really well to “mixed” bills and I think that is something that sets Download apart from other festivals.
That said, Download seems like it’s been leaning towards mainstream / more popular and hard rock bands the past few years. Was this is a conscious decision?
Responding to popular demand? Something else? I try and have a strong mix of popular bands and new bands. The more mainstream acts tend to be your big ticket sellers.
When the festival finally arrives do you just kick back, relax and watch the bands or is there still work to be done?
I always tend to be busy on the weekend of the festival, as there is always something to be sorted out; you can’t rest on your laurels and these bands can be very demanding.
Tell us about the worst experience you’ve ever had at Download. (i.e. a band cancelled last minute, didn’t arrive, had ego problems, etc).
I have to say Lars Ulrich pulling out on the day of the festival in 2004 was really tough but the band soldiered on with the drummers from Slayer and Slipknot filling the drum stool and they did a great job.
Do you look to other European festivals for inspiration, musically or otherwise?
I think the European festivals seem to look at Download rather than the other way round. That said, I look at all other festivals and events for inspiration; you never know what ideas you might pick up, so I need to keep looking!
What percentage of Download’s income comes from ticket sales vs. concessions or other income streams?
The bulk of the income is ticket sales but then again the bulk of our costs comes from the bands that play. It’s hard to put an exact figure on the right percentages.
What would you say is the one defining characteristic of the Download festival that sets it apart from all other festivals?
I would say that our interaction with the ticket buyer/fan is second to none. We started this concept right from the very beginning and other festivals have now copied us. It is really important that we listen to what are customer wants, likes and dislikes.
Any surprises attendees can expect at Download this year?
I believe there are surprises every year at Download… just keep your eyes open!