Boxoffice Insider: College Not Just A Spring Fling

George Strait
Gary Miller / FilmMagic
– George Strait
plays Frank Erwin Center in Austin last year,

Spring is the time when many American universities produce large music events for their students such as Slope Day at Cornell University that featured Swedish EDM duo Galantis this year and the University of California at San Diego’s Sun God Festival with hip-hop artists Roy Woods and MadeinTYO – or Ivy League campuses that brought in rap stars like A$AP Ferg at Yale and Lil Yachty at Harvard. 
But during the spring season and far beyond, American colleges with multi-purpose arenas can offer their student bodies – and the surrounding markets at large – big names in many musical genres.
In 2018 top-tier artists like the Eagles, P!nk and George Strait have graced the marquees at university venues, producing top-tier grosses and solid ticket counts. The University of South Carolina’s Colonial Life Arena, for example, tapped the Eagles during the legendary rock band’s first major tour without the late Glenn Frey, welcoming 12,047 fans on April 16. The boxoffice haul for the event totaled $1.9 million and is the venue’s largest concert gross this year. Actually, based on Pollstar archives, only Paul McCartney tops the band in gross sales for a single performance at the arena since 2000. The former Beatle took in $2.1 million at a sold-out show in June 2015.
Pink shows up in boxoffice records twice this year from sold out performances at university facilities during the opening North American leg of her ongoing world tour. She packed the house at John Paul Jones Arena at the University of Virginia at Charlottesville, scoring a $1.6 million sales total from 13,014 sold seats on April 19. She also played to a sellout crowd the following month at Save Mart Center, located on the campus of California State University, Fresno. With 12,721 total tickets, the pop star racked up $1.7 million at the box office from the May 22 event. Pink’s tour supporting her most recent album Beautiful Trauma that debuted in October 2017 has covered markets in Oceania as well as North America this year, and is set to continue into 2019. 

Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Live Nation)
– Pink
George Strait booked concerts at only three arenas in 2018, and one of those dates was on June 3 at Frank Erwin Center located at the University of Texas in Austin. The iconic country singer, who first played the arena in 1987, is easily the venue’s largest draw so far this year with 16,631 sold seats. (Lana Del Rey’s Feb. 11 concert was the second-largest with 9,112.) Strait’s appearance earned $2.7 million and was part of the arena’s 40th anniversary celebration. 
In an interview with Pollstar last November, Jimmy Earl, the venue manager talked about his upcoming performance this summer, stating, “We have had a long relationship with George Strait. I believe that we have done 13 different George Strait performances here over the years. I think he holds the record for most single-artist performances with us. Coming up, our next show, I believe, will be number 14.” Regarding the 40th anniversary celebration, he continued, “It’s always good for him to come out and do this. Especially as part of our 40th anniversary, that is something we’re really excited about.”
Strait isn’t the only country star to headline arena shows on American college campuses in 2018. In fact, country singers have made a huge impact this year – none more so than multiple-award winner Miranda Lambert. The native Texan kicked off her “Livin’ Like Hippies” tour in January and played a string of arena dates through late March including shows at seven university facilities. Her first was a sold-out show at Matthew Knight Arena at the University of Oregon in Eugene on Feb. 3. With Jon Pardi and Turnpike Troubadours along as support, she moved 8,266 tickets and grossed more than half a million dollars. 

Viejas Arena
Getty Images
– Viejas Arena
on the campus of San Diego State
Like Pink, Lambert also played Save Mart Center at Fresno State, but the country star’s appearance – attended by 9,292 fans – came earlier in the year on Feb. 9. During the week following the Fresno concert, she also headlined at Viejas Arena on the campus of San Diego State University, playing for a sellout crowd of 9,793.
After the four-week stretch through western U.S. markets in February, Lambert headed to Tennessee for her first show in March, playing to a crowd – 12,603 strong – at the University of Tennessee’s Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville. On March 3, she hit the stage at Wolstein Center at Cleveland State University, and then wrapped her winter trek late in the month with shows at her final two college arenas. She appeared at Bryce Jordan Center at Penn State University on March 23, selling 9,634 tickets, and then played the tour’s final arena date the following evening at Wake Forest University’s Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Winston-Salem, N.C. That performance sold out with 9,508 fans in attendance. Altogether, sold ticket revenue from her 2018 arena tour reached $13.9 million with 239,327 total tickets at 24 shows.
Among other country artists to play college venues in 2018, Luke Bryan follows Lambert with four events, all occurring during the opening days of his “What Makes You Country” jaunt that launched in February. Along with Bryce Jordan Center and John Paul Jones Arena, the two-time CMA Entertainer of the Year also played JQH Arena on the campus of Missouri State University in Springfield on Feb. 16, the tour’s opening night. The Cajundome at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette also hosted Bryan for a March 9 event.
More country headlining tours by such artists as Shania Twain, Blake Shelton, and Tim McGraw & Faith Hill included campus stops, as well as treks by performers in other genres like James Taylor, Paul Simon, Demi Lovato and Jimmy Buffett – just to name a few. s