Promoter John Meglen Talks Chris Young Tour, Ticket Pricing

Chris Young, who just kicked off his “Losing Sleep 2018 World Tour”  Jan. 11 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, has sold out the first North American leg of the tour according to Concerts West Co-CEO John Meglen, who notes that the AEG Presents partner doesn’t only do Rolling Stones, Celine Dion and Roger Waters-sized tours. 

Chris Young
Jeff Johnson
– Chris Young
Chris Young kicks off his Losing Sleep 2018 World Tour at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis Jan. 11.

“We also love working with the new, young talent,” Meglen told Pollstar. “And it’s not just Chris, we have Kane Brown and Lanco on this tour, for a tremendous package. 

“Chris is such an incredibly talented songwriter, and such a personable guy. You can see how much the audience loves him,” Meglen said. “I learned a long, long time ago that it’s about the live emotional connection. You can see that with Chris, you see that with Celine Dion, you saw that with Prince.”

Meglen, alongside Concerts West co-CEO Paul Gongaware, worked closely with Prince in the mid-aughts, including on his Musicology tour, his six-month residency at the 3121 Club in Las Vegas; and his ground-breaking 21-night, sold-out residency at The O2 arena in London.

“Do I think we can get Chris as big as some of these other tours we do? Absolutely,” the promoter said. 

In 2017, Concerts West handled international dates for artists including Justin Bieber, Celine Dion, and The Rolling Stones, among others, as well as North American dates for Roger Waters.

For the current Chris Young headline tour leg of 18 dates taking him into the end of February in mostly the Midwest and Southern U.S., Meglen credited everyone involved, including Young’s management at Nashville’s Fitzgerald-Hartley, Concerts West Sr. VP of Marketing Amy Morrison and WME partner and Nashville Co-Head Rob Beckham.

Chris Young
Jeff Johnson
– Chris Young
tour opener in Indianapolis Jan. 11

“This story is really about Chris and Larry Fitzgerald, his manager, having the belief and really the guts to pull the trigger to be an arena headliner,” Beckham told Pollstar. “Basically, Chris said to me, ‘It’s time to get out there and sell what I can sell. If I sell ‘em out, that’s cool. If I don’t, then we’ll deal with it.

“The fact of the matter is we put together an amazing package that is just absolutely kicking ass,” Beckham added, noting that he and Meglen go back to their University of Montana days and that he considers Meglen “one of the best promoters in the world” as well as a mentor in many ways.

Beckham stressed the strength of the tour package, which he called a matter of “one plus one plus one equals five.” Kane Brown has exploded over the last six months with a No. 1 country album for much of 2017 and major streaming successes as the country fanbase slowly but surely embraces streaming services. And Lanco’s debut single reached No. 1 on the country singles chart during the North American leg onsales, with their debut LP coming out Jan 19.

“And sometimes you get lucky, and luck is OK too,” Beckham added, jokingly.

That’s not forgetting the star of the show himself, as Young was recently inducted as the newest member of the iconic Grand Ole Opry and had his consecutive No. 1 country chart debut with Losing Sleep released in late October.

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Just days before the tour kicked off, Meglen added, “It’s selling tickets, and it’s a good ticket price. When you’re at a $59 or $57 topper, in that range, that’s where you need to be when you’re building (an artist).” Meglen added that premium ticketing program, led by AEG Presents’ Marc Feinberg, “is going beautifully.” 

Beckham added that the second spring leg will be sold out or very close to it, having gone on sale in December, and in slightly larger capacities, putting Young closer to the 10,000-ticket mark. The total tour will be about 75 dates.

“We already have a number of more legs and this is going to take us quite a ways out,” Meglen said. “It’s so much better than, ‘OK, we’re bidding on this tour versus somebody else, and whoever gets it goes and does it,’ right? That doesn’t fit our model.”

The venues are a step up from Young’s previous headline tour in 2016, which saw rapid growth as 50-plus dates started in theatres and ended up in arenas. “And with a new album coming out and just going out one more time as support with Jason Aldean, it went perfectly,” Beckham said, referencing the massive “They Don’t Know” Aldean North American arena tour of 2017.

Chris Young
Jeff Johnson
– Chris Young
Chris Young packs them in at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis Jan. 11.

As far as how to handle ticket pricing as opposed to a tour like The Rolling Stones, whose “No Filter” European tour in 2017 grossed about $10 million per night, Meglen says respecting the fanbase is paramount.

“Perception is such an important point on all of this, and the first thought has got to always be, ‘How does it reflect back on the artist?’  I’m going to be more highly sensitive to pricing with Chris. I want him to be available, but I want his ticket to be valuable.”

In the last year there’s been a good deal of grousing by the general public over higher-priced top-tier primary tickets for major tours by artists such as Taylor Swift and Jay-Z. These shows might not sell out immediately but make a harder target for scalpers and keep more of the money with those actually behind the shows.

For ticket pricing in general, Meglen attributes “Situational awareness,” he said, laughing. “It used to be called wisdom.

“You can handle it any way you want. If you want to protect your price and that’s what it is, you can do it. You want to let the secondary market do whatever they do because you’re happy with what you’ve got, you can do that. You want to go as deep into it as you want to? You can go as deep into it as you want to. But be careful, because you’ve got to know what you’re doing.”

Meglen says that is in short supply these days.

“If I’ve seen anything recently in terms of trends, I’ve seen a lot of people f**ing up trying to figure it out, basically,” he said, laughing. “OK, I saw what they’re trying to do and they had good intentions, but man… I guess that’s just trial and error.

“Every time they come up with something new, we’re like, ‘That’s new?’ Where have they been the last five years?”

“Everybody’s got all these scientific ways to explain it, but dynamic pricing is a real thing today,” Meglen said. “Things are sold based on what they’re worth, and what they’re worth has a lot to do with inventory.”