One Direction, Bruno Mars and Luke Bryan will compete for the Breakthrough Award at the Billboard Touring Awards on Nov. 14 in New York.
The honor goes to the top-grossing artist that cracks Billboard Boxscore’s top tour recap for the first time in his or her career based on ticket sales reported between Oct. 1, 2012, and Sept. 30, 2013.
Past winners include Lady Antebellum, Jason Aldean, Lady Gaga, Il Divo, Miley Cyrus and Justin Timberlake.
It’s been a big year for Bruno Mars. In addition to being named the halftime show performer at the 2014 Super Bowl, Mars recently wrapped his first sold-out headlining tour of North American arenas.
The stateside leg of the Moonshine Jungle tour began June 22 at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., and finished Sept. 1 at the Coliseo de Puerto Rico Jose Miguel Agrelot in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Support acts on various dates included Ellie Goulding and Fitz & the Tantrums.
The trek was in support of Mars’ second album, “Unorthodox Jukebox,” which debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 (subsequently reaching No. 1) and has sold 1.7 million copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan. The set has already produced four hits on the Billboard Hot 100.
“He is a certifiable global phenomena that will find arenas a small venue in the years ahead,” says John Marx, a partner in the music division at William Morris Endeavor, who’s also part of the WME teams that book such heavyweight touring acts as Gaga, Timberlake and Usher. “You’ll see this guy play wherever he wants to play.”
Prior to his latest arena tour, Mars was mostly playing theaters and ballrooms in support of 2010 debut “Doo-Wops & Hooligans.” The decision to play larger-sized venues was partly “based on his prior success on the road-not only in terms of the tickets that had been sold,” Marx says, “but more so in terms of how dynamic of a performer he was.”
Details about the tour were gradually rolled out in the weeks following Mars’ Feb. 10 performance at the Grammy Awards. “We announced and went on sale two-and-a-half weeks later with the first round of dates,” Marx says. “That was one thing that made it different.”
Another contributing factor to the tour’s success was the decision not to hold a presale, Marx says. “Pretty much every local buyer called me after it went on sale and told us they thought the absence of any presale was a very strong contributing factor toward the overall success of this tour,” he says.
Mars’ team at WME also includes Sara Newkirk Simon, Tony Goldring, Michele Bernstein and Ben Totis.
Mars was playing European arenas through the end of November at press time, and is booked for dates in Australia, New Zealand and Las Vegas early next year. He’ll play another 40 dates in North America beginning next June, Marx says.
British boy band One Direction played its first stateside concert at the Rosemont Theatre in Chicago on Feb. 24, 2012, as the opening act for Nickelodeon pop group Big Time Rush. The overwhelmingly positive reaction from that performance alone convinced 1D’s booking team at Creative Artists Agency that the group was destined for stardom.
“The audience was head over heels crazy about them,” says CAA head of contemporary music Mitch Rose, who co-books 1D in North America with Brian Manning. “And there was no doubt that the hysteria would transfer across the nation.”
One Direction has been selling out North American arenas ever since. The group’s second album, “Take Me Home,” debuted atop the Billboard 200 on Dec. 1, 2012, and has sold 1.8 million copies in the United States. The album has generated four singles on the Billboard Hot 100, including top 40 hits “Live While We’re Young” and “Little Things.”
Rose, who describes One Direction as an “agent’s dream,” says the boy band’s success spans across the globe. “Every place, whether it’s an arena or a stadium, sells out,” Rose says, noting that CAA’s Mike Greek books One Direction for the rest of the world outside of North America. “We’ve gone on sale for summer 2014 stadiums across Europe. The first dates are in May and we’ve already sold over 90% of all the tickets. Australia went on sale 18 months ago and every date is sold out.”
In addition to exposure on radio and TV, Rose believes that much of One Direction’s success can be attributed to its strong embrace of social media. “The connection with social media engrains it so much deeper into the hearts and minds of the fans than ever before,” he says. “They each individually have incredible relationships with their fans. They’re almost like the boys next door who you can bring home and meet your mom.”
Third album “Midnight Memories” is due Nov. 25. The group’s 2014 tour plans include playing stadiums in North America.
Prior to his first major U.S headlining tour of arenas and amphitheaters in 2013, Luke Bryan spent the last couple of years refining his moves in larger-sized venues opening for Tim McGraw and Jason Aldean.
“Being on these really successful arena tours as middle support helped him become this amazing performer,” says Jay Williams, Bryan’s booking agent at WME. “It’s that, coupled with hit after hit and incredibly successful album sales.”
Indeed, Bryan got his first No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 earlier this year with the compilation “Spring Break… Here to Party” and followed it with his first chart-topping studio set, “Crash My Party.” Current single “That’s My Kind of Night” has spent 12 weeks at No. 1 on the Hot Country Songs chart.
“Crash My Party” debuted atop the Billboard 200 with 528,000 copies sold-the largest sales week this year for a country album and the fourth-largest among all albums. The set surpassed 1 million in U.S. sales in early October, marking Bryan’s second million-seller and the seventh album to hit 1 million in 2013.
It was during Aldean’s 2012 tour that Williams felt Bryan would be headlining his own arena dates in the near future. “We saw really early on in that tour — from the merch numbers and reaction he was getting — that he was going to be ready real soon,” says Williams, who also books Dierks Bentley, Eric Church and Rodney Atkins.
When booking Bryan’s mostly Live Nation-promoted trek, which began Feb. 21 at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne, Ind., Williams says he was extremely conscious about competing country tours. “The first time we put anybody out on an arena tour we’re careful about other traffic and putting other country shows on top of it. We spend a lot of time routing and rerouting, making sure we’re giving everyone the best chance to win.”
The tour’s packaging also helped attract ticket buyers to sold-out shows. “Thompson Square was coming off a couple of really big songs and we all saw the writing on the wall with Florida Georgia Line, but they weren’t anywhere near where they are now,” Williams says.
Williams adds that Bryan will likely play arenas in the first part of 2014, followed by sheds, fairs and festivals in the summer. He may also perform a few stadium dates.