During 2011 a swarm of country stars ventured out on Australian tours for the first time. Numerous factors are driving the trend explains Jeff Walker, President of The AristoMedia Group, who spearheads many international country music initiatives.
Australia’s rural landscape is home to a significant country fan base who relate to the genre’s subject matter—the same reason tour buses have been crossing the northern border to Canada for years. Yesterday Dierks Bentley announced runs through both countries in early 2012.
Similarly, both countries also have country music television networks helping fuel the frenzy. “The concert promoters can build up a pent-up demand in those territories by use of music videos,” explains Walker. “Plus, the growing impact of social networking and its ability to engage fans worldwide helps the artists feel more confident about going over there.”
Talk about pent up demand, earlier this year Alan Jackson’s first tour Down Under sold out six dates within minutes, turning into the biggest country outing to visit Australia in 20 years.
In 2012 Tim McGraw and Faith Hill are hitting the road together for the first time in five years, in a run that will be the couple’s first Australian tour. The March tour includes a two-night residency in Brisbane and headlining the CMC Rocks the Hunter festival.
Walker notes that two-night stands are commonplace in Australia because many of the venues are smaller than their American counterparts. Festivals are also attractive to artists who want to journey to Oz. “They can go down for the festival and also play another four or five venues,” he explains. “They have a good infrastructure there. A lot of artists have to scale down their shows from what we’d see here in America, but they still have great venues, and festivals.”
Joe Nichols headlined CMC Rocks the Hunter in March 2011, and returned in May for a multi-city tour.
A favorable exchange rate is also enticing artists. “Nowadays it is a lot easier for Australian promoters to come over here and make offers to artists, because the artists can earn as much as they do in the States,” says Walker. “Plus, sometimes they’ve saturated the markets here by touring the same cities over and over. In Australia, they can take three weeks, have a mini-vacation and work at the same time.” Sounds like a win-win.
Major merch sales are another big plus, thanks to the untapped market. Carrie Underwood made her first tour of Australia when she was promoting the international release of Play On: Deluxe Edition.
Among others who performed in Australia in 2011 are native Keith Urban, Lady Antebellum, and Montgomery Gentry. Taylor Swift’s world tour stops there in March.
“You can build a career by going back and back and back,” sums Walker. “Because artists like Don Williams, Charley Pride, Tom T. Hall, Dolly Parton, and Kenny Rogers have fostered that fan base, they are able to book successful international tours every two or three years.”