Marketplace: Are There Too Many Headline Tours In Country Music?

Kenny Chesney (pictured) is clearly one of the top Headlining acts in all of music but in this Editorial we discuss whether there may be too many artists becoming headliners too soon and whether the market can actually support nearly 30 Country music Headlining artists.

Headlining used to be a rite of passage for Country music. After years as a 'support' artist or playing smaller fairs and being part of fesival bills, a mid-level artist became headliners hitting Arenas and Venues throughout America. Nowadays, though, it seems as if Headlining has become something every artist starts to do after hitting Gold/Platinum status. While the talent is there, should there be so many headlining tours? what does it mean for the market of country music? is it too much?

Late last week, Reba McEntire talked to Times Colonist writer Mike Devilin about her 10 city tour of Canada and the star had some revealing news about 2014's country Headlining tours stating, "there are something like 27 headline tours for 2014." 

That little tidbit has me thinking that Country music may reach an over saturation point not unlike what Hollywood had this past summer with their slate of underperforming, big budgeted films. It seemed like there was a major new "must see" film every week, sometimes 2-3, and particularly ones which were family or children-centric. The market was too packed and that industry suffered as a result and if Reba's numbers are right -- and they probably are -- Country music's 2014 season could be in for similar results. 

It's true that there IS more talent that's worthy of headlining concert halls and theaters and arenas across America but just because they are worthy of such events doesn't mean that artists are ready for them.  27 Headlining tours (which usually have at least one opening act on their bill in addition to any local talent which may serve as an early opener) seems like an awful lot, particularly when adding in the fair and festival circuits which have long been Country music's bread and butter. 

There have been superstars joining together to create unique experiences (Kenny Chesney's No Shoes Nation Tour featuring Eric Church, Zac Brown Band's Southern Ground Music and Food Festival) while other artists have joined forces to co-headline (Miranda Lambert and Dierks Bentley, Sheryl Crow and Gary Allan) and it is this type of event that makes the most sense. In fact, of those artists that are "headlining," it's easy for me to see that you could have (for example) The Band Perry co-headline with a Little Big Town and that would make for a unique night of musical harmony.  

The problem with so many tours is that you will have some fans having to choose one or two to go to out of the tours that may come near their hometowns. These fans may WANT to got to more of those shows but unless there's a festival nearby, they cannot afford to see all the awesome talent country music has and with it, the costs of trying to attend so many headline tours that hit their local venues. It's just reality. 

Look, I hope that each and every one of these tours are a success because it means Country music remains the major genre immune to market trends but the reality is that unless these tours can better align themselves through packages or other creative tour ideas, the chances of each one being sell-out or near sell-out aren't as good as the talent suggests they should be.