Behind the Boxscore: MetLife Stadium's Ron VanDeVeen On Kenny Chesney's Top-Grossing Concert

MetLife staffers pose with Chesney – from left: Nicole Fountain, sr. manager, public relations & communications; Ron VanDeVeen, senior VP of events and guest experiences
; Kenny Chesney; Jena Schaafsma, manager, event booking; Brad Mayne, president & CEO (William Hauser/MetLife Stadium)

This week, country superstar Kenny Chesney earned the top slot on Billboard’s Hot Tours tally with box office totals reported from six venues on his No Shoes Nation tour, which wrapped Aug. 24.  

Among this week's reported shows to Billboard Boxscore was a sold-out date at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. With a crowd of 53,416 in attendance, the Aug. 10 show grossed $4.8 million, marking Chesney's third consecutive year performing at the NFL stadium. Openers included Eric Church, Eli Young Band and Kacey Musgraves. Ticket prices ranged from $45 to $260. Adding sold ticket counts from 2011's Goin' Coastal tour and last year's Brothers of the Sun tour with Tim McGraw to this year's totals, 164,940 tickets were moved to see country music's highest-grossing touring artist of this century, based on Boxscore, in the New York Metropolitan area.

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MetLife Stadium senior VP of events and guest experiences Ron VanDeVeen, who books and negotiates the concert deals for the venue, was there for all three Chesney concerts. Below, VanDeVeen gives a behind-the-scenes look at how the Aug. 10 Chesney booking came together, how Metlife helped market the show, and what the future holds for developing stadium acts.  

How the Aug. 10 Kenny Chesney booking at MetLife come together?
We were talking to (TMG/AEG Live promoter) Louie Messina for a while and it was a collaborative effort. We’ve done the Chesney show for three years in a row. Since 2011, there hadn’t been a country star this big in the New York tri-state area since a 1983 concert with Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard and Linda Ronstadt. At that time (in 2011), we didn’t have a country radio station in the New York market, and we asked ourselves if it was the right move. Louie Messina and I talked about it for a while and we both agreed it was the right time. I made him an offer, and since then we’ve had three sold-out shows. Now there are two country radio stations in the market, with NASH 94.7 in New York and Thunder 106 in New Jersey, which is great. So it all worked out for the best.

As you mentioned, this was Chesney’s third sold-out show at MetLife since 2011. What do you attribute his success to?
He’s a huge country artist and has been doing stadium shows since before he came here. So he’s proven he can do stadium shows. The country market has been exploding and there’s been a lot of crossover lately. We looked out there and said, ‘Who can do that? Who can take that next step?” He was the biggest one and he also has that atmosphere. Everyone says he’s the country Jimmy Buffett. You look at the atmosphere with the tailgating and everyone having a good time. He brings quality acts with him, so it makes it a mini-festival for the day. The value for your money is tremendous.

How long did it take for the Aug. 10 Chesney show to sell out?
We go up with a pretty high ticket count, and with country shows it sells through. So we went all the way up to the day of the show to sell it out. The previous year we probably sold it out a little quicker than that -- maybe a week before.

What were some of the marketing efforts MetLife rolled out to help promote the concert?
We bought the show, so I’m obviously on the hook. Our marketing department met weekly on this show to make sure we were doing everything [we could]. We also worked in conjunction with [TMG/AEG Live’s] Kate McMahon to market the show. They would approve everything we were doing. We’d say, “Here’s what we want to do for radio, print and social media.” Beyond that, with the teams we used the Jets, Giants and stadium email lists. We used the Izod Center (East Rutherford, N.J.) email list. We hit every country bar and every country function. There was a lot of grassroots marketing done. I don’t think we left any stone unturned.  

Did you attend the Chesney show?
Yeah, I’m here for every event. It was great. I really didn’t listen to country until we booked Kenny the first time. Now I listen to NASH 94.7 and Thunder 106. It’s a tremendous, fun show. Everyone’s having a great time in the summer. It was a beautiful day.

Do you feel the New York market is strong for country touring acts?
Oh yeah, absolutely. We proved that over the last three years with Kenny. But you can also look at other previous acts. There have been a lot of major acts come through Madison Square Garden and the Izod Center [in East Rutherford, N.J.], who have all sold out.  

What other concerts have you hosted this year at MetLife Stadium?
Taylor Swift, two shows with Bon Jovi and the Hot 97 Summer Jam [Kendrick Lamar, Miguel, Wu-Tang, Chris Brown]. That’s it for this year; we’re working on more for next year.

Aside from major stadium acts like U2 and Kenny Chesney, do you see many developing acts being able to fill stadiums in the future?  
Yeah, absolutely. Giants Stadium was opened for 33 years and we averaged five shows per year during that time. Some years you do one and other years we did 15. So I think you’ll have a dip here and there, but you’ll also have tremendous years. I really think there will always be stadium acts. Looking back, you had 'N Sync play Giants Stadium. Who’s the next band to do that? You have some that come and go, and others that stay forever. Obviously Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi have been playing them for a while. But there are definitely acts out there -- Justin Bieber, One Direction. We’ll see what kind of staying power they have for the future. Look at Taylor Swift. She’s 23 years old and can play stadiums as long as she wants now.