When Lil Wayne was released from prison, his fans were waiting on him - in a big way.
Wayne's I Am Still Music tour, which began March 16 in Providence, R.I., basically picked up where Wayne left off as one of hip-hop's elite touring artists. Tour producer Shawn Gee tells Billboard.biz the tour is averaging better than 10,000 per night and a summer leg is currently being planned.
Support on I Am Still Music includes Nicki Minaj, Rick Ross, Travis Barker and Porcelain Black, along with Wayne's Young Money crew. The tour went on sale in February following Wayne's release from Riker's Island prison in New York Nov. 4, where he served eight months on a weapons charge. Despite only going up six weeks prior to the tour's launch, sales were strong out of the box, Gee says.
"If you deliver a value package to people they will purchase," says Gee. "That's why we weren't necessarily scared that we only had six weeks to promote, because we were very confident in our package and that we were offering it at an affordable price. We have a good idea of our fan base and we knew they would be super excited once we announced."
Gee says the tour drew 15,000 in Philadelphia and 13,000 in Buffalo and is averaging well over 10,000 per night. "The fans stuck with him," Gee says. "I think [it helped] having Drake and Nicki Minaj reminding people that Wayne is still current and meaningful, as well there were several projects that he planned and put out while he was incarcerated that the fans loved. It built up anticipation."
This is Gee's third tour with Wayne, all three with Al Haymon at Live Nation as the promoter. While the tour maintains momentum in terms of box office, there are some differences in the tour relating to restrictions stemming from Wayne's legal troubles. "I Am Still Music is a dry tour; in the backstage area or whatever there's no alcohol allowed," Gee says. "Otherwise, there hasn't been any difference. The buildings have been open to us; we haven't faced any issues with the buildings because we pretty much played them all once or twice in the past and they know our team. We haven't had any problems logistically or any other way."
Gee says the team is now putting together a second leg for the summer and by the time this tour ends it will be Wayne's biggest ever in terms of gross and attendance. The artist is reaping the rewards of a commitment to playing live early in his career, Gee adds. "Wayne has bought into [touring], he understands it, he values it, and he goes hard for it."