Music Industry

Are We at the End of the Tour Bus Era?

After years of touring from city to city, the Grateful Dead came up with an idea: “Instead of us going to the fans, why don’t we create a situation where the fans come to us?” And so began the era of the Dead playing multiple dates–residencies, really–in a single location that were publicised well in advance. Fans could then make plans to travel to the shows rather than vice-versa. The plan was ridiculously successful.

The Rolling Stones have done the residency thing, too, notably at Madison Square Garden. Bruce Springsteen’s Meadowland shows are legendary–and now he’s going to Broadway for a stint. And have you noticed how many legacy acts (and a fair number of pop acts) have signed deals to play long stints in Las Vegas? The Who is going to make a ton of money playing Caesar’s Palace with half a dozen shows starting July 29.

Things are definitely changing. Fred Jacobs reports:

But now, rockers of a certain age are beginning to experiment with different performance models.  And if it works, in the near future, we’ll be going to them rather than them coming to us.

In many ways, this is reflective of the Cirque du Soleil model we discussed in a post last month.  While the traditional circus picked up stakes, and used the railroad system to move from city to town, the Cirque model uniquely tethers itself to a venue – like a casino.  Millions of people come to Vegas (and other markets) to pay to see them.  And it shouldn’t be lost on all of us that Ringling Brothers threw in the towel earlier this year, performing their very last show in May.  The touring model wasn’t sustainable.

And that same reality may be dawning on some aging rockers, tired of the monotonous, grueling life on the road.  And now they’re beginning to look at the same model that has worked so well for Cirque du Soleil – staying put.

Is this the end of the road (literally) for these elder acts? Read on and you tell me.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 37451 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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