Being a concert promoter seems like a sexy, lucrative endeavor. You get to sip champagne with rock stars, hang out backstage and make bank by selling tickets to clamoring fans.
Or go broke reaaaaaal fast.
For every sweaty, euphoric, sold-out show, there are dozens of less memorable nights. And sprinkled among those are belly flops that ripple all the way down to the bartenders hoping to make tips from more than a dozen customers.
Boise has a deserved reputation as a tough market. How tough is it? Let's look at a few attendance numbers from shows at the 2,200-capacity Revolution Center in Garden City and 999-capacity Knitting Factory in Boise.
The music industry notoriously eschews transparency, but promoters do sometimes share attendance numbers - usually when they're positive. They also report figures to Pollstar, a concert-industry trade publication.
Remember when Snoop Dogg drew 1,804 to a nearly full RevCenter on Dec. 20, 2012? When Snoop returned in August, that number plummeted by more than half to 828 - including the "comps," or free tickets distributed via guest lists and the like. (By the way, numbers reported to Pollstar often, but don't always, include comps.) Bone Thugs-N-Harmony attracted 1,483 fans at the RevCenter in 2012. That number fell by nearly half a week ago. (The show DID get rescheduled twice.)
A big name doesn't always translate to a big crowd. Former arena rocker Ted Nugent lured only 454 fans to the Knit in July, according to Pollstar. Heavy-metal crooner Danzig did about 480 at the RevCenter in August. Reggae act The Original Wailers - handled by an outside promoter - drew 295 fans to the rented RevCenter last weekend.
Being a no-name touring act is even harder. In the first week of June, The Mike Pinto Band and Red Line Chemistry headlined concerts at the Knit attended by 51 and 40 people, according to Pollstar. (Red Line Chemistry is a must-see for anyone wanting a modern-day version of Alice in Chains or Stone Temple Pilots, by the way.) What's left of BoDeans lured a whopping 114 fans five weeks later.
But along with bewildering misses come massive moneymakers, too. The Knitting Factory enjoyed more than a dozen sellouts in 2013. Randy Houser did 999 fans in July. The Randy Rogers Band did 1,001 back in January, according to Pollstar. (Hey, isn't the capacity 999?) Hip rock acts such as The Postal Service and Alabama Shakes also sold out the Knit, undoubtedly making nice chunks of change for everyone involved.
The larger RevCenter, which hosts fewer concerts, also had its share of packed nights. EDM star Tiesto and rapper Mac Miller both sold out their shows in advance - that's 2,200 tickets each - back in March and August. EDM act Krewella sold out in October. Michael Franti and Spearhead - which used to play the Knit and probably visits this market too often - moved to the larger RevCenter and still lured about 1,400 fans Oct. 6. That was a Sunday, normally not the best day of the week for a show.
Basically, if you're a promoter in Boise, you win some, you lose some, and the risk never quits.
"Everybody wants to be a promoter until they have to write the check at the end of the night," quips RevCenter owner Creston Thornton.
It's a lot easier just to buy a concert ticket.
SNARK WAR! STYX: 1, DEEDS: 0
When I heard that Styx was coming to the Morrison Center, I hopped on Twitter and gleefully typed: "Must be some mistake @STYXtheBand. @WesternIDFair isn't til August. Why u visiting #Boise Jan. 29? Too much time on ur hands?"
Ha-ha-ha-ha! I so funny, right?
After I teased the band in another tweet later in the day, Styx responded in a manner that was gracious - yet brilliantly devilish.
"That's a good one, man ...," @STYXtheBand tweeted back. I read the response through bleary eyes. The notification noise from the iPad on my nightstand had interrupted my sleep.
Wow, 11 o'clock at night? Not "The Best of Times," Styx. Touche.
This means war, dudes.
I shall now prepare a follow-up tweet about Pronto Pups and elephant ears being served at their Morrison Center gig.
© 2013 Idaho Statesman
Michael Deeds' column runs Fridays in Scene and Sundays in Life. He co-hosts "The Other Studio" at 9 p.m. Sundays on 94.9 FM The River and appears Thursdays on Channel 6 News.