Andy Copping, Download festival interview

Andy Copping, Download dog and the festival bookers

Planetmosh recently spoke to Andy Copping about this year’s Download festival.

If you had to pick six bands you want to watch at Download this year, who would they be?

Right….Lawnmower Deth, because I think they’re going to be a lot of fun. Definitely Guns’n’Roses, Definitely Ozzy, Avenged sevenfold, Greta van Fleet and Black Stone Cherry. They’re my six. Really you want to see as many as you can.

Are you excited to have Guns’n’Roses playing?

We had Guns’n’Roses in 2006 (a version of) and I’ve got to be honest I was excited about that, but something I’ve been talking about for a number of years was that if there was a reformed Guns’n’Roses I’d be super keen to have them play the festival, and when they got back together a couple of years ago, we started talking about them playing. We were looking at having them on in 2017 but they decided they wanted to do their own thing, and so we did two shows at the Olympic stadium, but when we did that, I booked them for Download this year, so super excited about getting them. They’re going to do a full set, I think that’s important for the fans out there. They’ve got a massive catalogue of songs, and the three and a half hours will go in a heartbeat – it did at the Olympic stadium. Slash, Duff, and Axl all on stage together playing those songs, it’s a big deal. You’ve got to remember it’s 30 years since “Appetite for destruction”, so it’s exciting times.
I didn’t see them in 87’s – I’d have liked to see them, but it’s incredible to think that album is just over 30 years old now but still relevant. There are a lot of songs on there that are still super relevant to rock music, influenced a lot of bands – there are lots of bands out there, probably a lot playing the festival, that have been influenced by that album.

How far ahead do you start booking bands?

It’s really important being ahead of the game. Back in the early days of booking Download we finished in June and wouldn’t look at bookings for the next year till the end of September, beginning of October. We can’t do that now – we’ve got to be in the band schedules, we’ve got to be letting them know we’re interested in booking them for the years ahead. I’m already out with offers for three different headliners for Download next year. I’ve also got one offer out for a band to headline in 2020, so that’s how far ahead we are year on year. Bands are putting together their touring schedules much earlier nowadays and for longer periods of time. They want to know what they’re going to be doing 18 months, 2 years, even 3 years ahead of time and we have to be part of that. It does in some respects help us, as long as we can lock these bands in early, and we’ve been lucky enough to do that.

Do you think European festivals make it harder to attract fans to Download?

It’s an interesting one because obviously there are a lot of overseas festivals that are very similar to Download. A lot of those are owned by the same company – Live Nation own a number of festivals across Europe I guess the difficulty we have is that those festivals have a tendency to be cheaper – if you do the euro exchange rate, the cost to go to a festival there is cheaper than coming to Download and that is chiefly because they arent paying anywhere near the kind of fees that I’m paying for bands at Download UK, so they’re trying to encourage UK fans to go to Europe and see them. I get that and some fans may want to go and see a similar level festival in say Spain, where the weather might be more guaranteed. One thing that you mustn’t forget is Donington park is an incredible place to go and see a festival, particularly with all the history we’ve got from Monsters of Rock right the way through. We’re 16 festivals in with Download now, and there’s something about this place when you come here. I’ve said it many times before – it’s like a living breathing entity, it’s like it’s got it’s own heartbeat. This is the home of rock, there’s no question about it. You talk to the bands, you talk to the fans, if you want to go and see any band in the rock genre, Donington park is where it’s at, and we’re very lucky that Download is a big part of that. Even when the weather’s been bad here, the fans have been like “we don’t care, you can throw anything at us, we’re at Donington, at Download and we want to see those bands”. That’s something that other festivals in the UK or across Europe, they don’t have that, and if you look at the dedication of fans, what other festival in the world has fans as dedicated as ours – dedicated enough to get Download dog and the Download logo tattooed on their body. You don’t see people walking around with a Coachella tattoo or a Glastonbury tattoo, but you do see Download tattoos – that’s the dedication of our fans. That’s what the festival means to people and that sets us apart from the competition.

What makes a band suitable to headline?

There are various things – album sales, ticket sales for their own shows, seeing a band growing over a period of years and deciding if a band is headline worthy. There are a number of bands that haven’t headlined Download yet – Foo fighters, Blink 182, Fallout boy, Bring me the horizon, Bon Jovi, Pearl Jam, Van halen, Green Day, and I can come up with a number of others. There are bands out there that I can see becoming headliners in the next three or four years, whether that’s Parkway Drive, Architects, Alter bridge, Volbeat, there are a number of acts that I can see coming through and becoming a bonafide headliner at Download. Some of those bands have been around a long time, but they haven’t headlined Download, so they’re on the shopping list. I think as long as there are new bands coming through…who’d have thought five years ago that I’d be talking about a band like Architects or parkway drive being a potential headliner at Download. There are bands that probably haven’t even been formed yet that could potentially become Download headliners if their growth comes through relatively quickly and they maintain a level of stability. We look at everybody – everybody’s got a chance. With regards to criteria, it’s are you popular enough, and can you deliver? That’s another thing when you look at a band like Muse that I booked, Biffy Clyro, Slipknot when I first booked them in 2009, Avenged Sevenfold, are you a capable headliner? Every one of those bands properly stepped up to the plate – they see it as an honour to treat the boards and be the headliner at a festival like Download so they have to put on a great performance, so all those things are important.

I personally don’t think the pool of possible headliners is getting smaller because there are new bands coming along, and this is something I’ve talked about a lot – as an industry, we have to push bands through, but it’s everybody. It’s festival promoters, it’s normal promoters, it’s labels, it’s the press, and more to the point it’s the fans. You’ve got to get behind bands – instead of moaning that a band doesnt deserve to be a headliner, get behind them and really push, because if we’re just going to sit there and say there are no headliners there, then after a period of time there will be no festivals. You’ve got to be pushing bands through and you’ve got to be accepting of them. If a band gets in that spot and doesn’t deliver, fair enough criticise then, but if a band comes through that you’re not so sure deserve it, if they deliver like Slipknot did, like Avenged Sevenfold did, like Muse did (Muse were a festival headliner anyway, but to come and headline a festival like Download was still a big deal for them). A lot of people were saying Muse shouldn’t headline, but they delivered and afterwards a lot of people were saying they were the band of the weekend. That’s what we’ve got to do, and that’s what the fans have to do too. All of us have a responsibility, it’s not just down to me.

I think the way people consume music nowadays sets the tone. If you hear something and like it, whether it’s on spotify, itunes or whatever, you’re liking that particular song, you’re not immediately putting it in a category. I think with festivals in particular, you’ll go and see a band you wouldn’t necessarily go and see in their own right – you might just say “I’ll go have a quick look what they’re like” and they’re open to it. If bands are good, rock fans across the board will go “That’s a thumbs up, impress us, and if you don’t impress us that’s it”. So fans are not very forgiving, but are very open. I’ve seen bands that prior to a festival have taken some stick about playing, but who ultimately have performed and the response has been amazing.

What about lineup clashes?

I try and mix things up a little bit so there’s not too much genre overlap and it seems to mainly work well. If there is a clash where they’re a bit too close I try and do it so you can see the bulk of one and the bulk of the other so there’s only a small clash. It’s hard because people’s tastes are so varied, so on one hand someone might want to go and see Slayer, but they might also want to see You me at six, worlds apart musically in terms of genre but people have wide-varied taste.

About Ant May

I spend half my life at gigs or festivals and the other half writing the reviews and editing photos, and somehow find time for a full time job too. Who needs sleep - I've got coffee.