Music Touring: Country Kills the Competition

The numbers don't lie: Country music is the most robust sector of a booming touring industry. Today, some 15 country stars have reached headlining status - more than ever before - with at least that many poised to take the next step.

As president of Live Nation's country division, Brian O'Connell is the largest producer/promoter of country music in the world. "It's incredibly busy here," he tells Billboard, citing Tim McGraw's Sundown Heaven Tour, Luke Bryan selling out Pittsburgh's Heinz Field in June, Jason Aldean and Florida Georgia Line "steamrolling through arenas, and Blake Shelton kicking off his tour with three sellouts" as early season highlights.

Meanwhile, Taylor Swift made history with her Red Tour, which ended in Singapore on June 12 after a 15-month run. According to Boxscore, the tour's overall gross of $150 million surpasses the prior country artist record by McGraw and Faith Hill's co-headlining Soul2Soul Tour, which brought in $141 million during 2006 and 2007.

TMG/AEG Live, which produced Swift's North American dates, also just completed another record-shattering tour by George Strait. And Garth Brooks, country's all-time top draw, announced July 10 that he'll come out of retirement for a three-year run. TMG/AEG Live is involved in three country festivals; Live Nation already produces three, Washington's Watershed, Michigan's Faster Horses and the just-announced Route 91 Harvest in Las Vegas, the first of what O'Connell vows to be 10 festival launches over a 10-year period. A new event in New York is expected to be announced at some point, but O'Connell declined to provide details.


The Biz premium subscriber content has moved to

To simplify subscriber access, we have temporarily disabled the password requirement.