AC/DC came to North Carolina for a big arena show this month! But it was in Greensboro, not Charlotte. OK, well… Garth Brooks did three arena concerts over three nights in North Carolina this month! True – in Raleigh, not Charlotte.
And that’s kind of how it works around here, when it comes to the arena-concert business: Round and round the artists go, where they’ll stop, nobody knows.
Rihanna chose to play Charlotte’s Time Warner Cable Arena this year, while passing on PNC Arena in Raleigh and Greensboro Coliseum; Mumford & Sons and Selena Gomez did the same. PNC, though, has exclusives with Brooks and Pearl Jam. Meanwhile, Bruce Springsteen and Justin Bieber have joined AC/DC in making Greensboro their sole Tar Heel State visit in 2016.
If you’ve ever wondered why Time Warner Cable Arena can’t get all of the big names despite being located smack in the middle of the state’s largest city, here are the key factors for the layperson to be aware of.
(1) Date availability, date availability, date availability.
Yeah, that doesn’t have quite the same ring to it as “location, location, location,” but it’s true: A lot of this business comes down to whether the building is available when the artist (or the artist’s agent, or the tour’s promoter) wants or needs it.
Time Warner Cable Arena’s priority is the Charlotte Hornets, who play more than 40 games in the building per year, including the preseason. The schedule for the season, which runs from October to April – and potentially longer, if the team gets a run going in the playoffs – is locked months before the season starts.
PNC Arena in Raleigh, meanwhile, has three priorities: First, there’s NC State men’s basketball and the Carolina Hurricanes of the NHL. PNC also shares property with NC State’s Carter-Finley Stadium, and doesn’t book the arena on football game days to avoid creating a traffic nightmare.
So if a national touring artist wants to play North Carolina, they either need to work around those sports schedules or – more likely – look first at the venue or venues that aren’t booked for the desired date.
“We want to get everything that we can get, and we don’t want to ever lose anything if we can avoid it,” says Donna Julian, TWC Arena’s general manager. “But I also have to be realistic and say, if our date’s not available and that’s the only date (the tour) has, we’re probably going to lose the show.”
(2) Relax – they’ll get there (hopefully).
When it comes to major touring acts, there’s a reasonable chance they’ll eventually want to hit all three markets. Of course, this theory doesn’t always hold water, but there are certainly precedents.
In 2012, Springsteen played Greensboro Coliseum. His “High Hopes Tour” in 2014 made stops at Raleigh and Charlotte’s arenas. The singer returns to Greensboro Coliseum April 10, and it’s his only scheduled N.C. stop on “The River Tour.” But if the pattern continues, Springsteen could well spread the love back to Charlotte’s TWC and/or Raleigh’s PNC next time he comes around.
(3) And in lots of cases, sorry, but you’re not meant to know why.
Deals – and the fine points of who is entitled to what percentages of the various revenue streams (and why) – are both mysterious and complicated. In addition, on the artists’ side, there are many different parties with opinions and whims and preferences.
“It’s the promoters, the agents, the artists’ management, the artists themselves who decide what venues they want to play,” says PNC Arena’s general manager Dave Olsen. “There could be 100 different reasons, none of which are ever told us arena managers.”
But in the end, Scott Johnson, deputy director of the Greensboro Coliseum Complex, says, all three arenas are going to get their fair share of attractive concerts.
“So you take the good with the bad, but I think there’s plenty of inventory to go around.”
Photo: Scott Sharpe