TobyMac Maximizes Small Drive-In Spaces With Full Cars in Sold-Out Venues

TobyMac
Paul Zimmerman/Shutterstock 

TobyMac in New Jersey on Mar 24, 2019. 

TobyMac kicked off the new decade with a nationwide tour, hitting 23 markets in Florida, Texas, California and more. After a March 12 show in Jackson, Miss., the run was cut short as venues around the globe closed en masse to protect against the spread of COVID-19.

But while the theaters in his original routing remain closed, the Christian hip-hop artist returned to the road, playing a series of 12 drive-in concerts in June and July.

Running from June 22 through July 12, TobyMac's car-centric tour is the first in the Drive-In Theater Tour Series, produced and promoted by Awakening Events. Subsequent editions starring Casting Crowns and co-starring Michael W. Smith, Steven Curtis Chapman, and Marc Powell kicked off on July 15 and 16, respectively.

To an extent, drive-in tours are leveling the playing field for the acts performing them. No matter the scale of an artist’s touring history, performers ranging from Garth Brooks to Marc Rebillet are playing venues that generally hold 200-500 cars. For TobyMac, the same held true, peaking with 400 vehicles at the 66 Drive-In in Carthage, Mo. on July 11.

Over the tour’s 12 shows, TobyMac sold 3,547 tickets and earned $466,000, averaging 296 tickets and $38,800 per night. That represents a 95% drop in nightly ticket sales -- though not per-head attendance -- from the theater tour earlier this year, almost completely due to the attendance restrictions.

But as with other drive-in expeditions, tickets-per-car does not tell the whole story. Rebillet’s tour in June estimated over 1,000 people in attendance each show, about 2.5 times the number of cars, as each car was carrying multiple passengers.

In TobyMac's case, venue staff tracked the total number of people at each show and found explosive results. The total head count across the tour was 18,068, amounting to multiplier of 5.09 people per car. Early reports for the Casting Crowns and Smith-Chapman-Powell Drive-In Theater Tours show similar results, indicating large family turnouts for Awakening Events’ troupe of faith-based acts.

TobyMac's tour also followed common drive-in tour practice of increasing ticket prices, knowing each car (and thus, each ticket) would account for multiple fans. After averaging $35/ticket in 2019-20, drive-in tickets went as low as $48 and as high as $175 (price differentiation dependent on proximity to the stage).

The average ticket per car on the June-July tour comes to $131.24, almost four times the price of his previous tour. But with an exact head count, the average ticket price per person was $25.76, down almost 30% from his winter run.

The Smith-Chapman-Powell tour runs through the end of July, while Casting Crowns are scheduled to be on the road through September 10.

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