Dixie Chick Magnet
The Dixie Chicks‘ upcoming “Accidents and Accusations” tour has been placed in the media bullseye because of relatively benign anti-Bush comments made by lead singer Natalie Maines. There are dozens of prominent rock and pop artists who have made extremely harsh pronouncements about Bush and the war in Iraq, and they have received little flak from their fans. Talk to Billy Joe Armstrong if you want to know about American Idiots.
Most likely it was the timing of Maines’ comments in 2003 that struck a raw nerve with conservative fans, but the far more damaging remarks were ones made later that came across as dismissive of country music fans in general.
The end result has been that few country music radio stations across America are playing the record despite the fact that it has easily topped the sales charts in its first two weeks of release and will reach platinum status with more than 1 million units sold in less than a month. To make matters worse, many country music stations are also refusing to accept advertising spots from tour producer AEG Live.
The two ABC-owned country music stations in Atlanta, WKHX Kicks 101.5 FM and WYAY Eagle 106.7 FM are both treating Chicks music and tour advertising as audience killers. Victor Sansone, the president and general manager of both stations told Pollstar, “American country radio has an impossible task with their constituents when it comes to the Chicks…. The listeners have voted them off the island and now they are just one of many artists country radio doesn’t play. It’s not political anymore… the remarks against the country listeners have driven the last nails in their coffin.”
AEG is doing most of the tour with the exception of some Midwest dates being done by Jam Productions and northern California dates that went to Another Planet. The Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed sources, reported that AEG offered the group $500,000 per show against 90 percent of the ultimate gross. The Chicks instead opted for no guarantee and are taking 95 percent of the door.
It shouldn’t come as a shock that the highly anticipated Chicks tour is experiencing problems selling tickets in some markets and is now in the process of being re-engineered. The U.S. tour will still begin July 21 in Detroit and it appears that the first month of dates through August 19th will largely stay intact. A few cities have been dropped from that early run and have been replaced by additional Canadian dates in St. John, Halifax, London, Winnipeg, and Montreal. The group also added in a Jones Beach date and two east coast casinos, the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut and The Borgata in Atlantic City.
The existing run of Canadian dates in late October and early November have sold extremely well and will likely stay in place. Many of the dates in between these two time periods may be postponed, but CAA is encountering difficulty in locking down alternative dates until some sports teams, which have priority on their home arena avails, finalize league schedules. An Australian tour will probably be booked to fill part of the open time period from the postponements.
The group was expected to make a formal announcement about the initial changes shortly but the final routing for the fall and winter may be weeks away from being finalized. Part of the group’s problem was that it did not immediately take the initiative to address the rumors about the tour’s ups and downs and that allowed the media to fill the vacuum with all the speculation that’s fit to print.