The pre-sale for Tyler Childers’ first full tour in over three years commenced on Wednesday, November 16th, and folks are already incensed that they missed out on tickets that seemed to sell out immediately, while tickets simultaneously appeared on resale markets for prices at insane multipliers. And this is all before the general sale starts on Friday, November 18th, which is likely to see the same issues.
Some of this has to do with the same dynamics that plague all of live music at the moment. With the Ticketmaster/LiveNation monopoly, and the way that bots and scalpers can game the system no matter the safeguards in place, these situations are inevitable, especially when demand surpasses supply. Just ask Taylor Swift fans. The debacle with her tour going on sale was so catastrophic, there is talk of congressional investigations into the matter.
But I’ll be frank: I was stupefied whenever they announced that Tyler Childers would be playing theaters and amphitheaters on his Send In The Hounds Tour as opposed to full-blown arenas. Right now Tyler Childers could sell out arenas in every market in the United States Coast to Coast, full stop.
This was the case before the pandemic, and it is most definitely the case after the pandemic, especially after Tyler Childers spent 2022 playing select festivals as opposed to going on a national tour of which there was an egregious amount of appetite for. In 2019 when Tyler Childers announced arena tour dates with Sturgill Simpson, many of the dates sold out, and some locations had to double up on dates due to demand. Many of the dates never got played due to Covid, which kept the demand high. With all due respect to Sturgill Simpson who played 2nd on the tour, it was Tyler Childers who was far and away the biggest draw of that ticket.
I understand there is a rule in live music that you must sell out the venue tier below before you can graduate to the tier above. But if you didn’t think that Tyler Childers had no other choice but to book arenas at this point, you don’t have your nose in the numbers, or you need to get out and touch some grass and see what happened when Childers selectively played events like Delfest or the Telluride Bluegrass Festival earlier this year. There is no discussion about this matter. Tyler Childers is an arena level artist. Booking him in any other scenario means demand will so far outpace supply, chaos will ensue like we saw on Wednesday.
When the Turnpike Troubadours reunited and they were crashing servers and selling mid-sized venues out immediately, it was a shock to the system. The Turnpike Troubadours had a long touring history of barely filling theater-sized venues to capacity. The fact that they could sell out venues immediately was completely unexpected, and fans were left extremely frustrated as bots and resellers scarfed up tickets. But once they saw how high demand was, the Turnpike Troubadours began booking much bigger venues and this issue wrinkled itself out.
On November 12th, the Turnpike Troubadours headlined their first arena, selling out the Paycom Center in Oklahoma City. Though independent music fans love to grouse about the lack of intimacy at the arena level, reviews from fans about the experience were mostly positive, and most importantly, most everyone who wanted to attend the show could because of the increased capacity. The Turnpike Troubadours have now announced an arena date in Arkansas in February 2023, and will likely be playing arenas in certain markets henceforth, and larger venues in other markets.
Earlier this month, Billy Strings announced his first round of 2023 tour dates, and they are almost all exclusively in arenas, including playing two nights at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville—a feat even many mainstream country artists can’t achieve. When tickets went on sale on November 4th, there were a few folks that missed out, but not nearly the amount that missed out on Tyler Childers tickets. Strings has also booked a handful of more intimate venues such as the Ryman Auditorium and the Georgia Theatre in Athens so fans still have opportunities to see him in smaller spaces.
This is 2022, and artists like Tyler Childers, Billy Strings, Zach Bryan, and the Turnpike Troubadours are exploding in popularity. Add on top of that then pent up demand due to the pandemic, and we’re living in an era when you’re favorite independent artists are arena stars. This is what saving country music looks like. This is the success we’re experiencing across the board. And even though it can be frustrating that you can no longer see some of your favorite artists in 250-500 capacity clubs, or walk up and buy tickets the day of a performance, this is a good problem to have.
This is also the reason it can’t be stressed enough to see your favorite artists in smaller venues while you still can. Charley Crockett and Sierra Ferrell both have recently graduated to bigger theaters, and off the club circuit. Whiskey Myers is already playing some arenas themselves. Shane Smith and the Saints might be blowing up soon after being featured on Yellowstone, and a rising tide in independent country/roots appears to be raising all boats.
Yes, the concert ticket system in the United States is beyond broken, and LiveNation has been running the risk for years of government intervention as they seem unwilling and/or unable to address the issue themselves. But the same issue that Tyler Childers fans are facing is the same one Taylor Swift fans are facing. Since Swift also skipped out on touring both before and after the pandemic, demand rose to a fevered pitch. Even when she’s booking massive arenas, there’s still more demand than supply.
The way Garth Brooks dealt with this problem when he came out of retirement was to scale the amount of performances in a given market to whatever demand was. If tickets were selling out fast, he’d add a second date, or even a matinee performance on a weekend, sometimes playing the same arena four or five times, and cutting into the resale market by selling non-transferrable tickets. Of course the ticket system in America is broken and needs to be fixed. But if you scale supply to the amount of demand, the issue tends to solve itself, ticket prices remain reasonable, and secondary markets get squeezed.
Tyler Childers is unquestionably an arena artist. Saving Country Music has been saying this in print for years. It’s self-evident, and his agency booked places like The Fillmore in New Orleans (cap. 2000), The Met in Philadelphia (cap. 3,500), and the Arizona Financial Theatre in Phoenix (cap. 5,000). Childers is booked some bigger venues as well, but the lack of some dates in certain major markets means fans are also planning to travel to other markets to see him, spiking demand even more for the dates that have been announced. Whether Tyler Childers wants to be an arena artist or not, he’s an arena artist. And even then, demand for tickets may be so high, 2nd dates may be called for in certain markets.
This is the success independent country music is enjoying. This is the new paradigm. Enjoy seeing these artists in smaller venues when you can. But the days of the biggest non radio-supported artists only being able to play theaters is clearly over.
And as Zach Bryan says, screw Ticketmaster.