SPRINGFIELD (Heartland Newsfeed) — While country music is usually a staple in the Illinois State Fair Grandstand concert lineup, they were outshone by two completely different types of music — a cappella and heavy metal — which drove ticket sales to record levels. Fair officials recently released detailed financial information about this year’s shows.
In nine shows held at the Grandstand, the fair came out with a profit of nearly $246,000 — with nearly $2.07 million in tickets in sold and $1.82 million in payouts to performing artists. A total of 59,023 seats were sold, beating 2016’s attendance by roughly 500, but ticket revenue just fell short of the record $2.08 million sold at the 2016 Illinois State Fair.
More than two of every five tickets sold this year were for two shows in particular: the well-known a cappella quintet known as Pentatonix and the heavy metal band Five Finger Death Punch. The former, which has been selling out shows all over the country this summer as one of its members prepares to depart the group, was the biggest moneymaker at the Grandstand, selling more than $439,000 in tickets with the opening act and artist payout of $230,000, leaving a net profit of more than $209,000. The latter, whose show marked the return of Ivan Moody, following a stint in rehab which had him absent from the band for most of the summer, sold the most tickets of all the concerts with 13,316 tickets, but with a lower price point on the tickets, led to sales of nearly $330,000. The Las Vegas-based group and their opening acts were paid $135,000, leaving a net profit of nearly $195,000.
State fair manager Kevin Gordon said officials were “a bit apprehensive” to book Pentatonix, since a capella isn’t a music genre the fair usually offers.
“I don’t think we were surprised that they sold tickets, but we were pleasantly surprised that they sold as well as they did,” he said.
6,590 tickets were also sold for the legendary country music group Alabama with sales nearly close to $299,000. Despite the group and opening act’s fee of $270,000, the Grandstand netted a profit of about $29,000.
Not quite close to profitability – total busts
Six shows failed to sell enough tickets to cover artist fees. Among the worst were the August 15 show featuring Sublime with Rome and Blues Traveler and the August 17 show featuring hip-hop singer Jason Derulo. Both concerts fell short, selling roughly 3,500 tickets totaling roughly $100,000 in ticket revenues. The requested fees for both concerts were $155,000 each, leaving a net loss of $55,000 per concert.
Gordon said that fact that two-thirds of the shows didn’t cover their costs isn’t a concern to fair officials.
“Obviously, we would like to have each artist cover their base amount, but we look at the Grandstand in aggregate, meaning as long as we make money on the Grandstand as a whole, that is our goal,” he said.
The staple of the fair – country music – lost money (except Alabama)
Four concerts featured country music. As previously mentioned, Alabama’s show was profitable, selling $299,000 in tickets through 6,590 tickets sold, leaving the Grandstand with roughly a $29,000 net profit.
The other concerts weren’t so fortunate. One of the biggest names in country music, Brad Paisley, sold $314,000 in tickets, but netted a $21,000 loss following the artist fee. Other shows, headlined by Chase Rice and Montgomery Gentry, also lost money.
Montgomery Gentry, which performed at the fair this year, made national news on September 8 as Troy Gentry died in a helicopter crash on the way to a concert that was set to take place at the Flying W Airport & Resort in Medford, N.J.
The debate continues: Is it time to cut back on the country?
Gordon said it’s too early to say, especially since three of four country shows in the 2016 Grandstand turned a profit.
“Country has always sold the best at the Illinois State Fair, but with the success of other genres recently, we will certainly give consideration to additional acts we may not have looked into previously,” he said.
Jake Leonard, a broadcast media and journalism veteran, is the editor-in-chief of Heartland Newsfeed. Leonard is also GM and program director of Heartland Newsfeed Radio Network, wrestling editor and contributing writer for Ambush Sports, a contributing writer for My Sports Vote and Midwest Sports Network, and a former contributor to Bleacher Report and Overtime Heroics. He resides at home in Nokomis, Ill. with his dog Buster.