The summer of 2017 is shaping up to be a huge concert season, though it will likely come as the music industry embraces smaller, more focused events.
Live Nation — the nation’s largest music company, whose empire includes operating Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater in Wantagh and NYCB Theatre at Westbury — recently reported that ticket sales were up 25 percent this year through April and that there were already 10 percent more concerts compared to last year. One look at the jam-packed schedule at Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater this summer proves it, kicking off with KTUphoria’s festival, featuring Miley Cyrus, Backstreet Boys and Fifth Harmony, on June 3, and running through Sept. 23 with Sammy Hagar. Add in the heavyweights that are coming to the recently renovated Nassau Coliseum — including The Weeknd (June 3) and New Kids on the Block (July 7) — and the competition for your concert dollar becomes all too real.
However, like so much of the entertainment world these days, concert promoters are more and more looking to serve specific niches. “Focus” seems to be the guiding principle.
John Amato, president of music trade magazine Billboard, says the company’s Billboard Hot 100 Music Festival will show that when it returns to Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater on Aug. 19 and 20. Aside from creating a party vibe across three stages, the Hot 100 festival wants to introduce its fans to new, up-and-coming acts. “If you want to see who will play Coachella next year, look at who’s playing Billboard this year,” he says, adding that The Chainsmokers, Halsey and Marshmello all had breakthroughs playing the festival.
Amato says festivals like The Classic East, which brings The Eagles, Steely Dan and The Doobie Brothers to Citi Field on July 29 and Fleetwood Mac, Journey and Earth, Wind & Fire there on July 30, are serving a targeted audience as well. “Niche festivals that are genuine and look to serve any market well is something I applaud,” he says.
It’s something Jim Faith, producer of the Great South Bay Music Festival, says the Patchogue event has been doing for years. This year’s lineup reflects the idea clearly, focusing on indie rock when the festival opens July 13 with Long Beach’s Taking Back Sunday as headliners, supported by longtime pals like New Found Glory, Saves the Day and Frank Iero & The Patience. The fest takes on more of a reggae-rock vibe on July 14 with headliners 311 and The Wailers, while the jam band vibe takes over July 15 with Gov’t Mule and G. Love & Special Sauce. Classic rock closes out the festival on July 16 with headliners the Zombies and Plainedge-raised Eddie Money.
“There’s a day for everybody,” Faith says. “People know that the weekend will bring a jam band day and a classic rock day. They look for it.”
Focusing on specific niches is a way for smaller festivals like Great South Bay to survive alongside the giant, superstar-filled events like Governors Ball (June 2-4), with headliners Chance the Rapper and Tool, or Panorama (July 28-30), which brings together Frank Ocean, Solange and Nine Inch Nails.
One other new development this summer is Live Nation’s plan to help fans land tickets to these sought-after shows. It has been testing the “Verified Fan” program, which lets you register before tickets for your favorite concert go on sale, in hopes that it will combat scalpers. According to Live Nation, after they used it for Ed Sheeran and Harry Styles’ tours, the number of tickets sold by secondary ticket sites had dropped by 90 percent.