Juice WRLD: The Pollstar Cover Story
This story originally ran in the Dec 31, 2018 issue of Pollstar.
@DanielKellyFilm – Juice Wrld
Juice WRLD exploded on streaming platforms throughout 2018, garnering all kinds of awards. His first headline tour surpassed expectations and his agent is promising much bigger things in 2019.
With seemingly out-of-nowhere streaming success, Chicago’s Juice WRLD kicked off a major headline tour July 13 at Myth in Maplewood, Minn. The show grossed a whopping $108,250 on 3,000 tickets and local co-promoter Zack Chazin said it could have easily sold in the 4,000-ticket range.
“It all happened really fast,” Juice WRLD’s booking agent, Andrew Lieber of MAC Agency told Pollstar. Interest in the 20-year-old has shot up like a rocket after the May 23 release of his first album, Goodbye & Good Riddance, on Grade A Productions and Interscope.
“Within three months the offers quadrupled,” Lieber told Pollstar. “People saw that he is not leaving tickets on the table. Every ticket is being sold at these venues. This is his first time headlining and he is absolutely crushing this tour.”
With streaming being a relatively new metric, it can sometimes be hard to tell what big numbers mean for an artist’s prospective career. Everyone paying attention to streaming charts in 2018 has noticed Juice WRLD, and everyone will be watching as the young rapper prepares for what Lieber says will be an enormous 2019.
The pattern of Juice WRLD’s rise, which may become increasingly familiar as Spotify and Apple Music take root as pillars of consumption, starts with those aforementioned streaming numbers. The first time Juice WRLD appeared on
BuzzAngle’s Elite 100 Artists chart (see page 34 for this week’s chart) was for the week ending July 12, when he logged 20,300 song sales and 57.5 million streams, good enough to enter at the No. 4 position.
His first hit single was “Lucid Dreams,” which heavily samples Sting’s “Shape Of My Heart.” At press time “Lucid Dreams” had recorded more than 567 million Spotify streams and had peaked at No. 2 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart.
The streaming dream numbers have continued, as Juice WRLD has appeared on every subsequent Elite 100 music consumption chart, never falling out of the Top 30. He logged 11,600 song sales and 56 million streams for the week ending Nov. 29, getting him to No. 16 on the chart. After playing Live Nation Urban / Spotify’s Rap Caviar show in Toronto, he was given year-end praise from the major streaming services, being named top breakthrough artist for both Spotify and Apple Music and top artist overall for SoundCloud.
As “Lucid Dreams” started gaining traction and the offers started pouring in, Lieber said he knew the team had to act quickly. He started working the phones and booked nearly two solid months of headline tour dates, giving themselves just three weeks to promote the opener at Myth in Maplewood.
“Between management and myself, we knew we had to strike while the iron was hot. Everyone thought we were crazy to go up with three weeks to promote in [these] rooms – this was the first headline run, he’s doing 2,000- or 3,000-cap rooms, with a ticket price that wasn’t cheap. He went out there – he’s such an amazing artist – he crushed that tour. No tickets left on the table. It really was an impactful moment for Juice WRLD and set the table for him. It proved everyone wrong.”
Juice WRLD’s entire headline tour should be raising eyebrows as the grosses are well above what one would expect from a rookie. He has regularly reported grosses of more than $50,000, including a $94,000 gross at The Novo in Los Angeles off 2,340 tickets sold and $86,518 grossed at Salt Lake City’s Rockwell @ The Complex, with 2,700 tickets reported.
Traditional wisdom holds that an artist should not “skip steps” and be sure to build strong followings in multiple markets, only gradually increasing venue sizes as the audience is developed. But with the meteoric rise of artists like Post Malone, who in the span of just a few years has gone from clubs to arenas, Lieber and the promoters he is working with are thinking that Juice WRLD can match that trajectory.
“Things are exploding too much to make a long-term plan right now,” Lieber said. “Everything I’m getting from these promoters and buyers, everyone is saying Juice WRLD is gonna have a Post Malone-esque coming up.
“We are staring at top billing at major festivals.… He’s got a lot planned [in terms of] international dates.
“We have a huge 2019 coming.”
Lieber credits a lot of Juice WRLD’s success to his management team, Brandon “Lil Bibby” Dickinson, George “G-Money” Dickinson, and Pete Jideonwo of Grade A Productions LLC.
“They’re young, they’re hungry, they knew what they had in their hands and they got an amazing deal with Interscope done,” Lieber says of the team. “It’s so refreshing working with these guys. They’re just great, genuine, good people. Everyone’s excited, they understand the position they’re in right now. They’re good people to be around, they do good business.”
Not content to rest on his laurels, Juice WRLD also released a collaborative album with Future Oct. 19, Future & Juice WRLD Present… WRLD ON DRUGS. That project got the duo a separate entry on the Elite 100, with 15,600 album units logged for the week ending Nov. 29, most of which were 23 million streams.
With a new solo album coming in 2019 and major headlining plans, the music industry may be looking at Juice WRLD with a special interest to see just how quickly young streaming phenoms can start doing big-time touring business – and if they can sustain it.