The event is set to return next week, with Sam Fender, Foals, The Killers, The 1975, Billie Eilish and Imagine Dragons due to headline.
Mac, who has been booking the line-up for 10 years, will be on the lookout for more surprises and show-stealing performances this year.
“We book the acts that we love, we’re proud of them and we feel like they’re a good fit and they always deliver,” he told Music Week. “The greatest pleasure is having those surprises, you know, when you book a young Billie Eilish and then you have to move her to a bigger stage because the crowd is so huge. Or you see a guy in a club called Post Malone and you think he’s really cool, so you put him on the show not knowing that two years later he’s going to headline. Those are the kicks we get, really.”
The greatest pleasure is the surprises, like when you book a young Billie Eilish and have to move her to a bigger stage because the crowd is so huge
Mac said that while “it’s always great to have massive acts play the show, to have young acts coming through is super-exciting”.
Eilish returns to top the bill, as do The 1975, who were called up after Lewis Capaldi announced the cancellation of his headline slot. Last year, the Dirty Hit group did the same thing when Rage Against The Machine pulled out.
Jon Mac (fifth from right) with team Reading & Leeds and Music Week Awards host Vick Hope
“That was crazy,” said Mac, reflecting on last summer’s emergency booking. “They had a plan and we’re close to them so we knew what that was, so to call them out of the blue and say, ‘Hey, we’ve got this opportunity and it’s not part of your plan,’ it just shows how they’re able to think outside of the box. They embraced it as an idea and adapted their whole campaign to allow for Reading & Leeds to be the start of it rather than further down the line. It worked well and they had the confidence to know that they could come into a show that was sold out and absolutely smash it, and they did.”
Last year’s line-up also starred Megan Thee Stallion and Halsey, who both topped the bill.
“I think the live industry is moving in the right direction and it reflects the broader market for the most part,” said Mac. “We’re in a risk taking business, we take risks and we give opportunities to artists like Megan Thee Stallion to headline the biggest festival in Europe as one of her first big headline looks. Reading & Leeds combined sells more tickets than any other show in Europe and she headlined, and it was the same with Halsey. We feel confident in doing that and embracing diversity and it’s what makes our show richer. We’ll continue to do it as long as the talent is available and willing.”
Mac hopes that 2023’s edition will build on the event’s recent good run.
“2021 and ’22 were really special because we lost a year to the pandemic, so they were both quite emotional,” he said. “Last year felt like we were really hitting our stride again.”