Boxoffice Insider: Unconventional Fame From Reality Star To The Stage
Michael Kovac / Getty Images / BET – Love & Hip Hop LA:
Cardi B performs during BET Experience at Staples Center in Los Angeles on June 22, 2019.
The pathway to stardom as an entertainer is always evolving, with no definitive way to get the big break and launch a career. The avenues for “making it” in the music business have become more and more diverse over time. Recent decades have seen new opportunities for artist discovery such as social media and reality TV. Winning – or almost winning – televised reality competitions has been a springboard for several notable concert artists.
For Cardi B, both social media and reality TV were instrumental during the early days of her career. The attention she received on Instagram led to a two-year stint as a cast member on the VH1 reality series “Love & Hip Hop: New York.” Ultimately, she moved on to zero in on her rap career, which skyrocketed with the 2018 release of her Grammy-winning debut album, Invasion of Privacy.
With the speed of the rapper’s prodigious rise to fame, her live performance history still largely reflects one-off headlining dates and participation in radio concerts and festival appearances. Although she has yet to mount a major, multiple-city large venue tour, her concert appearances on record are numerous during the four-year period prior to the pandemic shutdown. Among her larger events, she joined Meek Mill and Migos as top draws at New York’s Hot 97 Summer Jam on June 2, 2019. Presented at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., the annual hip-hop event moved 51,301 tickets and racked up a $5.6 million gross. The sold-out concert marks her most recent appearance on the Pollstar charts.
Almost two decades earlier, the “Making the Band” reality show portraying the creation of several vocal groups also led to headlining status for live entertainers, although with varying degrees of success. The boy band O-Town, the original act formed on the series that ran from 2000 through 2009, has 149 concert appearances recorded in the archives as either a headliner or support act – most notably as special guest on Britney Spears’ 2001 “Dream Within a Dream Tour.” After disbanding in 2003, the group reunited in 2013 and remains active on the road as recently as this fall. For concerts at the City Winery clubs in Nashville, Boston and New York City in September and October, the band sold 98% of their available tickets.
“Making the Band” also saw the formation of the groups Da Band, Danity Kane and Day26, as well as a solo deal for Donnie Klang. No live shows are recorded for the members of Da Band, but the other three acts joined forces in 2008 for “Making the Band 4 – The Tour.” Only a handful of dates were reported, but among them was a sellout at New York’s Hammerstein Ballroom with a crowd of 3,648, a Chicago Theatre performance with 2,442 in the house and a concert at The Wiltern in L.A. with 87% of the tickets sold.
At the other end of the spectrum are the superstar careers by such artists as One Direction, Carrie Underwood and Adam Lambert, who have excelled as live performers after launching their careers on reality competition shows. After finishing third on the U.K.’s “The X Factor” in 2010, One Direction went on to gross $628 million from 7.9 million tickets sold at 333 headlining shows before going on hiatus in 2016.
Underwood’s box office history shows 575 headlining performances grossing $282 million from 4.7 million tickets since she first hit the road after winning the fourth installment of “American Idol” in 2005. Lambert has 301 shows recorded since his runner-up result on the series in 2009. From his headlining dates plus the concerts with Queen, his grosses top $258.7 million from 2.7 million tickets.
Country group Sawyer Brown has perhaps the longest career with reality roots stretching back to their win on the first season of “Star Search” in 1983. The band has logged 543 shows in the archives since then with 1.9 million tickets and a $33 million gross.