With stadium-show production costs running as high as $1.8 million, Live Nation acts like Billy Joel and Jason Aldean are saving $500,000 to $700,000 apiece by sharing costs in order to minimize the significant costs of producing stadium shows, Live Nation has taken a creative divide-and-conquer approach by splitting production costs between two non-competing acts that play back-to-back concerts in the same venue. The savings: $500,000 to $700,000 per act.
Even with increased efficiencies in production that allow gear to be moved on fewer trucks, stadium shows cost $1.2 million to $1.8 million to mount -- on average, triple what it runs to produce a show in an arena. But when such acts as One Direction and Billy Joel split costs on expensive line items like staging and labor with such country acts as Luke Bryan and Jason Aldean, the economics become much more palatable.
Aldean, for instance, shared the production tab with Joel on two of his five stadium dates, which had "a huge impact on costs," says Joseph Lloyd, the country artist's production manager. He tells Billboard that the stage itself, and the stagehands who build it, are the "big-ticket item" that's split. Chris Parr of Aldean's management team says sharing production costs can "absolutely" tip the scale toward playing a stadium show versus multiple dates at a smaller venue. "Anytime you share, that makes a difference," he says.
Such a cooperative effort requires deep communication between Lloyd and his counterpart on Joel's team, Bobby Thrasher. "We figure out how to integrate production without compromising each show," says Lloyd. "It's a true sense of partnership, and it has worked out really well."
In addition to the stage, the PA and smaller video screens, the two tours also integrate labor hires for building out the set. Instead of two separate builds, one stagehand crew, one video crew and one audio crew respectively will oversee the shared stage, video and sound components of the joint production and leave it in place for both shows.
Even when stadium concerts share costs, their logistics are impressive. Aldean's amphitheater show carries 11 trucks of production, as opposed to 20 trucks for the stadiums, and the crew required for the stadiums triples to more than 80. "That's a real trick, to integrate that many more people, that many more trucks, that much more gear," says Lloyd, "and still get it [set up in time] so that we get sound checks, and keep an eye on the labor situations."
This article first appeared in the Aug. 30 issue of Billboard.