Australian music industry mourns death of Big Day Out founder Ken West

West's family confirmed that he "passed away peacefully" yesterday, at the age of 64

The Australian music industry is mourning the death of Big Day Out co-founder Ken West, who died yesterday at the age of 64.

West’s family confirmed the news in a statement, writing: “We bring unfortunate news that Ken West; a father, husband, mentor and most of all a legend, has passed away peacefully in his sleep on the morning of April 7 2022. Our family would appreciate respect and privacy during this difficult time. Ken was big and noisy in life, but passed quietly and peacefully.”

No cause of death has yet been disclosed.

Tributes have been shared by Australian music industry figures since news of West’s death broke, as well as punters who attended the events.

Musicians such as Urthboy, Dave GraneyGrinspoon‘s Phil Jamieson, Frenzal RhombHilltop Hoods and The Superjesus took to social media to honour West and his legacy.

R.I.P Ken West. Thank you for the amazing opportunities and experiences that so many of us enjoyed and could only have dreamed of. 🙌🔥🙌📸 Corrie Ancone

Posted by Nitocris on Thursday, April 7, 2022

We had some of the most pivotal gigs of our early career at the Big Day Out, and we were always incredibly stoked and honoured to be on that line up with artists of the calibre that BDO booked. There was nothing else quite like it festival wise, it was a real era defining and game changing festival that’s for sure. RIP Ken West, the Aus music scene thanks you for your work and your vision thanks 🙏🏻 #bigdayout #sydney #killingheidi

Posted by Killing Heidi on Thursday, April 7, 2022

RIP Big Day Out founder Ken West. An absolute legend & visionary of the entire Australian music scene. This fella pretty much changed the festival landscape in Oz forever. So many great memories. ❤️❤️

Posted by Mike Elrington on Thursday, April 7, 2022

RIP Ken West. Clare Moore and I first knew him in the Moodists days when he was working first with the Laughing Clowns…

Posted by Dave Graney on Thursday, April 7, 2022

RIP Ken West. One of the founders of The Big Day Out Festival in Australia, which was massive. What an amazing time…

Posted by Andrew Stockdale on Thursday, April 7, 2022


We bid a fond farewell to Ken West, founder of The Big Day Out who died yesterday, peacefully in his sleep. The sad…

Posted by The Clouds on Thursday, April 7, 2022

Elsewhere, journalist and former music-show host Osher Günsberg wrote a heartfelt post on Instagram.

“It’s difficult to put into words the effect Ken West had on music and culture in this country.
At Not even 34 years old, he booked Sydney’s then Easter Showgrounds, booked Nirvana, and alongside Viv Lees created the Big Day Out,” he wrote.

“I remain forever inspired by his ability to relentlessly drive to precisely execute the ideas in his mind by enrolling hundreds of people around him in the ‘why’, which in turn inspired them into working incredible hours to bring those ideas to life.

“There will never be another Ken West. But we can all strive to come close to his ability to manifest his incredible visions into a reality that literally hundreds of thousands of people could play in.”

As The Industry Observer reports, Frontier Touring tour director Sahara Heralds – who was the national event coordinator for Big Day Out for 18 years – said she was “utterly heartbroken” by West’s death in a statement on social media.

“I spent the best part of two decades on a daily basis with Ken,” she wrote. “He was my friend, my advocate, my inspiration, my mentor and on the odd occasion my tormentor too. I was even Best Man at his wedding. We did bloody great things together, and his vision changed the face of Australian live music. I will miss him terribly.”

Other journalists, industry bodies and music writers have also paid their respects. Read their tributes below.

Vale Ken West It was with great sadness that we woke to news that Big Day Out creator Ken West has died, aged 64. The…

Posted by Australian Music Vault on Thursday, April 7, 2022

The AFA team would like to make the following statement about the sad news of the passing of an Australian festival…

Posted by Australian Festival Association on Thursday, April 7, 2022

West and his Big Day Out co-founder, Vivian Lees, began the festival in 1992 as a one-off event in Sydney. It ran for another 22 years, expanding to include iterations in Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth and the Gold Coast, as well as Auckland, New Zealand.

Earlier this year, West launched a website to celebrate 30 years since the inaugural event, sharing old festival posters and chapters from a memoir. In them, he reflected on his experiences as a Big Day Out co-founder, retelling stories from the festival’s early days.

See tributes from punters below.