Growing the country touring market—and adding days to the week—with an -expanding festival slate
“The one thing I have the ability to do is create more Saturdays,” Brian O’Connell says, referring to his power in the live entertainment business. “It’s a mantra I have. Anyone who talks to me long enough will hear me say it.”
As country music’s top talent buyer, Nashville-based O’Connell not only handles some of the genre’s top-grossing tours, but he’s also created two successful multiple-day festivals: Watershed at the Gorge in George, Wash., launched in 2012, and Faster Horses in Brooklyn, Mich., debuted last year. The new festivals provide artists with a nontraditional play and help expose developing acts to thousands of potential new fans, O’Connell says.
“That’s what I call creating another Saturday,” he says. “To go 35 acts deep in a market and expose fans to some of these bands that may or may not be on a major tour. If there’s any power involved, it’s that the guys who I work for give me the ability to create new properties to break more bands.”
O’Connell intends to create many more Saturdays in years to come. Live Nation has 17 other country festivals in development, one of which O’Connell is “optimistic” about debuting later this year.
He also kept busy in 2013 overseeing tours by top country performers, which included Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan, Rascal Flatts, Brad Paisley, Miranda Lambert, Blake Shelton, Tim McGraw, Keith Urban and Toby Keith. Two of those artists—Aldean and Bryan—landed among the top 25 tours of 2013, grossing a combined $93.3 million, according to Billboard Boxscore. The nine acts collectively pulled in $229.2 million.
Part of O’Connell’s success comes from being on the road 46 weeks a year. “As I’m routing a tour and talking to the manager and agent, and I suggest a certain building, I have to know what I’m talking about logistically,” O’Connell says.