‘We Never Skipped Steps’: Q’s With Twenty One Pilots Manager Chris Woltman

Set the house on fire wherever they go: Twenty One Pilots
Ollie Millington/Redferns
– Set the house on fire wherever they go: Twenty One Pilots
And if there is no house, because it’s and open air performance like this one at FEQ 2019, a car must do

Twenty One Pilots are on a roll. The band’s world-wide “Bandito Tour” has been selling out arenas all year, reaching No. 30 on Pollstar’s Mid-Year Worldwide Tours chart.
They just announced a new U.S. leg of the tour, with more arena dates kicking off Oct. 9 in Tampa, Fla., and running into Nov. 9 at Tulsa, Okla.
Pollstar caught the band July 7, when it headlined Festival d’été in Québec, Canada, and reached out to manager Chris Woltman after the show, to talk about the reasons for Twenty One Pilot’s ongoing ascent.
What a show at Festival d’été! What did you and the band think?
Speaking for all of us, it’s probably one of the most unique festivals. It sits in the top tier of global events. The way it’s curated is mind-blowing, this amazing mix of music and headliners. The city and entire province of Québec is beautiful, the FEQ team is absolutely amazing at what they do.
The short answer is: we loved it and deeply appreciate how unique it is, and how they pull off such an amazing mix.
It’s quite something to see two guys have a crowd of 90,000 hang on their every word. What are the main reasons that have led to Twenty One Pilots becoming a major festival headliner?
We’re now almost eight years into building complete bodies of work that are not just focused on one individual single, but the complete experience of what Twenty One Pilots represents, and then going out and taking that on the road. 
The guys have played over 1,000 shows supporting these songs over the last seven or eight years. And we never skipped steps, that’s probably [the secret] at its core: having songs that deeply resonate across generations, building campaigns across many releases and tour cycles, and going out there and not skipping steps, whether it’s the 100-cap room to the 500-cap room to the 1,500-cap room.
They just played the [21,500-capacity] Bell Centre in Montreal, but never skipped steps in the region. And the same applies globally, whether it’s Milan, Chicago, Mexico City and all points in between. 
What a sight: Twenty One Pilots, headlining FEQ 2019, July 7
Ollie Millington/Redferns
– What a sight: Twenty One Pilots, headlining FEQ 2019, July 7
“We have this great magical benefit of the community and the fanbase,” said Woltman

If you’re playing to 80,000 or 90,000 people, you’re going to have a discovery moment. I think the guys walked off that stage, leaving everybody who experienced Twenty One Pilots for the first time truly getting it, and feeling like they were part of something that was really special. 
Great songs, getting out on the road and building a community that can really connect with those songs live – it doesn’t matter whether it’s 100 kids going back seven years ago, or whether it’s 80,000 or 90,000 people like we had on Sunday night: those same principles apply.
What’s your most important tool to figure out what capacities the band can play in different markets?
Coming out of [the band’s 2015 album] Blurryface, everything had become an arena level touring experience. Coming into [2018’s] Trench it was about solidifying what that is on a global stage. I think, don’t quote me on this, but I think Sunday was show number 98 of the Trench album cycle. 
We focused on driving a fanbase deeper into the discovery of the album, once again coming back to the principles of believing in the body of work, and then solidifying the global arena position and also moving into the global headline festival position.
The entire team on this end is extremely proud that this album cycle represents that. I think, when you look at the arc of the band’s career, this is that moment.
Chris Woltman
– Chris Woltman

A lot of cynical comments can be read about “the body of work” losing importance in the age of streaming, where fans have decreasing attention spans and consume music differently. The career of Twenty One Pilots doesn’t support that.
The album is very much alive in the world of Twenty One Pilots.
And to add onto that, it’s really what builds long-term, sustainable touring careers. It’s never built off of one single. 
It doesn’t matter whether the eleventh song on an album was never a radio single. That eleventh song on the album also fits within the theatrical arc of the live show, and is just as moving as any other “radio single” would have been.
The guys are crafting all aspects of the live show through the lens of this arc, so people really find themselves at every turn being as engaged as with the previous song, if not more engaged, [over] a 84-minute set.