New Dynamo Stadium May Not Change Concert Climate Much
Conceivably, today's announcement that the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority has agreed to act as landlord for the proposed Houston Dynamo stadium in downtown's East End could present a serious challenge to the Houston area's reigning concert King Kong, the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion.
Marco Torres Lady Gaga at Toyota Center, July 25
The Dynamo's stadium would be bigger, with a planned capacity of around 25,000 versus the Pavilion's 17,000, and a much shorter drive for the approximately 75 percent of Greater Houston residents who do not live around Bush Intercontinental Airport or northward. That certainly seems to be the intention of the Dynamo's owners, who also happen to be one of the biggest concert promoters in the U.S.
"We're a larger venue," Dynamo president Chris Canetti told Rocks Off's sister blog Hair Balls Thursday afternoon. "Our parent company is AEG, that's their business, live entertainment and they do a lot of musical shows across the country. So I suspect that we'll be looking to do a handful of shows, if not more, in the new stadium."
But that may not be the case. To paraphrase Ghostbusters, AEG may have the tools (or will soon), but does it have the talent?
In today's concert industry, it's no longer as simple as artists about to go on tour auctioning themselves off to the highest-bidding promoter. Many still do, but to account for the loss of revenue from the severe decline in record sales this decade, other artists - especially those who can sell concert tickets by the thousands and not the hundreds - are signing exclusive "360" deals with promoters like AEG and its main competitor, Live Nation.
Jim Bricker Tom Petty at the Woodlands, September 24
These 360 deals encompass everything from management to merchandising. More importantly, since touring revenue has become so important (even vital) to the music business' bottom line, it's in the promoters' interests to route their clients into venues they have a stake in wherever possible. In Houston, Toyota Center rents itself out to both AEG and Live Nation (and anyone else who can pay for it, for that matter), but the Woodlands Pavilion has a booking partnership with Live Nation.
Last month, concert trade journal Pollstar reported that the Pavilion ranked No. 2 in the world for 2010 ticket sales among amphitheaters with 307,489 through the third quarter, which ended in September. The following shows sold out: Jimmy Buffett, Jack Johnson, John Mayer, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers and Rush, as well as Buzzfests XXIV and XXV in May and October.
"I think they have a niche both in terms of where they're located and the size of the venue, and I think we're going to provide something that's just a little bit different for everybody," Canetti told Hair Balls.
Actually, they already do. Rocks Off does not know enough about the inner workings of concert promotion to say for sure - and the people who work in the business are way too tight-lipped to ever come out and admit it to the press - but to a layman's eye, Live Nation and AEG seem to have divided the local big-concert pie along genre lines.