When Shania Twain this week announced her 47-show North American tour kicking off in May, the venue for only one date — a July 21 concert in Nashville — was marked as “to be determined,” with the on-sale date “to be announced.”
The reason: the Nashville venue that Twain’s team booked, Bridgestone Arena, isn’t selling tickets for any country acts until after Dec. 1, as per the terms of its contract with Garth Brooks, according to Twain’s manager Scott Rodger and an executive at Twain’s promoter, Live Nation.
“This is just a really bad precedent, to say ‘you can’t sell tickets before I sell mine,’” Rodger told Billboard, adding that he was worried about getting negative reactions from Nashville fans who will be unable to buy tickets like the rest of the country when they become available on Aug. 25. “We’re heading back to the dark ages.”
Brooks is currently on tour, with tickets on sale to shows through Oct. 12 in Atlanta. The Live Nation executive said the blocking clause meant Brooks was likely to add dates in Nashville, as the country star often books more shows if his fans demand them. But Brooks’ touring promoter Ben Farrell told Billboard that Brooks had no Nashville dates confirmed and added that he doesn’t discuss their private business with any venue. Bridgestone’s senior vp booking, David Kells, said he doesn’t comment on shows that haven’t been announced, nor does he comment on the building’s contracts with artists, but said he was proud of the arena’s 20-year history serving Nashville fans.
It’s not unheard-of for big acts and promoters to contractually block others from competing with their events, and the Live Nation executive said that such clauses actually often serve to protect smaller competitors from losing business to bigger stars. Brooks does everything he can to avoid stepping on other acts’ toes and intruding on their business, booking his own shows as far in advance as possible, a source in his camp tells Billboard. Such agreements also help venues avoid flooding their markets with too many similar shows.
Still, Twain is touring next year to promote her new pop album, NOW — her first tour since Rock This Country in 2015 — and her team would prefer to put the Nashville tickets on sale with the others to capitalize on the string of national promotional events, including a headlining gig at the U.S. Open tennis tournament that will be televised on ESPN next week.
Rodger said that, when Live Nation told him that the block on pre-December ticket sales only applies to country artists, he provided Bridgestone Arena with data showing that Twain is more adult-contemporary than country. The top streaming market worldwide for Shania Twain is Mexico City, while Nashville isn’t among the top 20 markets for her music in the United States. Meanwhile, she tours infrequently, unlike most country artists who are constantly on the road, Rodger said. But he said he failed to convince the arena to bend.
Twain’s tour kicks off May 3, 2018 in Tacoma, Wash., and ends in Las Vegas on Aug. 4 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Though her music no longer has the country sound of her 1993 self-titled debut or her best-selling 1997 album Come On Over, the five-time Grammy winner is still widely considered the top-selling country artist of all time, with more than 90 million albums sold worldwide and more than 34.5 million albums sold in the U.S.
In the end, she will still be able to put her Nashville tickets on sale more than seven months in advance of the show, but the Live Nation official expressed surprise that Bridgestone wasn’t able to make an exception for her earlier on-sale.
“It feels a little extreme to me,” the executive said.