The Ever-Growing Church Choir

Eric Church recently set an attendance record at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, which got us to thinking: How in the heck do you set attendance records in buildings that have a long history of sellouts? Do you bring in a wall stretcher? Do you only sell tickets to skinny fans?

The answer is sort of a yawner: You need to have a concert in-the-round. The traditional setup kills seats behind the stage. The other important factor is a GA pit. George Strait said farewell with a very small center stage but it was surrounded by floor seating.

Church’s Jan. 10 show brought in an audience of 18,411, breaking the previous record held by the Blue Collar Comedy Tour’s 2006 show, according to The Tennessean.

Photo: Wade Payne / Invision / AP
American Country Countdown Awards, Nashville Music City Center, Nashville, Tenn.

Fielding Logan, who oversees touring at Q Prime South for Eric Church, said Bridgestone wasn’t expecting an attendance record but it came down to three factors: A stage that doesn’t eat up all the floor space, a large-capacity GA pit, and Church’s newfound popularity, which he deemed “a perfect storm.”

“Eric is having a moment right now and there is a ton of interest in Nashville and everywhere else,” Logan told Pollstar. “As you looked around the suite level in Bridgestone, every one of them was packed. The suite holders took advantage of their tickets. There will be monster truck shows, or kid shows, where those suites are half empty.”

It should be noted that a center stage is a prerequisite for an attendance record but doesn’t guarantee a larger crowd.

“You see some acts in the round eat up the entire floor, which can actually hurt overall attendance,” Logan said.

Photo: Courtesy: George Walker/The Tennessean
Eric Church sets attendance record at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville Jan. 10.

And, as far as Church’s future goes, Logan sees this setup becoming his signature stage.

“Eric loves being surrounded. … Just don’t take the 2,000-capacity floor down to 800 because we have a big stage.”

A representative for Barclays Center in Brooklyn told Pollstar that there are still plenty of ways to add to the capacity without having to hang seats from the ceiling. Every corner of that arena could be converted into bleachers. And, sometimes, the arena’s Honda Club – which is normally a place where ticket holders go when they’re not in their seats – can be converted into a ticketed area when bleachers are added.