Augusta on 'C-list' in terms of entertainment, promoters say

Don’t get used to seeing such A-listers as Lady A and Elton John in Augusta.

The reason: The area is considered a “C” market for top entertainers.

In the region, Atlanta is an “A” market, Columbia is a “B” market and the Au­gusta area – Richmond, Columbia and Aiken counties – is a “C” market, said Monty Jones Jr., the general manager of the Augusta Entertainment Complex.

Factors such as the size of venues, median income, ticket sales and total shows determine how a market ranks. Though the ranking system isn’t formal, it’s an unwritten rule among promoters, who decide where to bring shows.

“We’re a big enough town where we could at least be a ‘B’ market, but we’re not quite there yet,” Jones said.

To get there, Augusta will need a much bigger venue to consistently bring in big acts, said Kent Dunn, the vice president and general manager of Beasley Broadcasting of Augusta.

He would like to see more seats added to James Brown Arena. The arena, which seats 8,700, has the largest capacity of all the entertainment venues in the market. The next largest is Lady Antebellum Pavilion, which has a lawn seating capacity of 8,000.

In contrast, five venues in Atlanta have seating capacities dwarfing those of Augusta. They include the Georgia Dome at 80,000-plus and Philips Arena at 21,000.

Columbia can attract big-name acts because it has Colonial Life Arena, which seats 19,000 for concerts.

The bigger acts gravitate toward larger markets because they are typically trying to drive record sales during tours, said Carlos Larraz, the president of Anna­polis, Md.-based National Ar­tists Corp., which promotes acts nationwide.

“They can get higher ticket prices in those markets,” Larraz said. “There’s more people that will go to see them, and the impact of their concerts is a little bit bigger, just by virtue of the fact that there’s bigger venues. Acts are paid based on a guaranteed amount, plus a percentage of ticket sales. Their opportunity is bigger in a bigger market.”

Most big acts do about 30 or 40 shows a year, and because they play in a limited number of markets, they’re “going to go where they think they can make the most money and have the best accommodations,” said Gary Bongiovanni, the editor of Pollstar, a trade publication covering the concert industry.

“Typically that’s going to be bigger markets with newer buildings,” he said.

Some smaller markets, such as Lincoln, Neb.; Des Moines, Iowa; Tulsa, Okla.; and several markets in Texas, attract these acts because they all have new arenas. James Brown Arena, formerly the Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center, opened in 1979.

“That makes it a little harder to compete if your facility is older,” Bongiovanni said. “The tourists tend to go where the more modern buildings are, unless the local population is exceptionally strong in supporting the shows that go in there.”

When a big-name act comes to Augusta, it’s typically on a weekday. Even Lady Ante­bellum, which has local ties in Lakeside High School graduates Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood, played its two May shows at James Brown Arena on Tuesday and Wednesday. The Elton John concert was on a Tuesday in March.

Larraz said big acts usually want to play in bigger markets on Friday and Saturday. Acts such as Lady Antebellum come to smaller cities because they have a fan base there and promoters ask them to come, he said.

Augusta is generally considered a good market for country music artists, but even that has limitations. Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw, who recently played in Atlanta, booked shows only in major markets with stadiums that could seat 50,000 to 60,000, said Julia Karrenbauer, the director of business development for the Georgia Dome.

A bright spot for Augusta, Larraz said, is the arena’s management. Global Spectrum began operating the complex in 2008 after a string of managers were fired by the county coliseum authority for poor performance.

“I think in Monty Jones what you have is a very knowledgeable person who is plugged into the local media,” said Larazz, who has brought acts such as New Edition and Lynyrd Skynyrd to Augusta in recent years. “That has really been the motivator for me bringing shows there, plus I do a lot of business with Global Spectrum. … Global Spectrum has brought a lot of that traffic into the market.”

Cher Best, of the Fatz and Cher Morning Show on WKSP-FM (96.3), agreed, and she said she believes there is potential for Augusta to move up from its C-market status.

“When you look at the success of what Global Spectrum has done and also the success of what’s going on in Columbia County at the Lady Antebellum amphitheater, you can see the interest in the market for quality entertainment on many different levels and genres has grown,” she said. “My premise has always been if you give people what they want, they’ll go and see it.”

For Augusta to move up in market rankings, residents need to continue to support shows, Jones said.

“We’re getting bigger shows … because the public comes out and supports different things,” he said. “That allows us to do that.”

FROM ‘A’ TO ‘C’

POPULATION AND VENUE SIZE, MEDIUM INCOME AND TICKET SALES ALL CONTRIBUTE TO HOW MARKETS ARE RANKED.

‘A’:  ATLANTA | Population: 5,268,860  | Median income: $56,448 | Big venue: Georgia Dome (80,000-plus)

‘B’: COLUMBIA | Population: 767,598 | Median income: $47,511 | Big venue: Colonial Life Arena (19,000)

‘C’: AUGUSTA | Population: 556,877 | Median income: $44,037 | Big venue: James Brown Arena (8,700)

JAMES BROWN ARENA AND THE BELL AUDITORIUM:

(FISCAL YEAR RUNS FROM JULY 2011 TO JUNE 2012)

 

August: Keith Urban

September: Jason Aldean, Scream Tour with Mindless Behavior

November: Disney on Ice Celebrates 100 Years of Magic, Kicks 99’s Guitar Pull, Avenged Sevenfold

December: Vince Gill & Amy Grant-12 Days of Christmas

January: Jerry Seinfeld, Shen Yun Performing Arts

February: Lewis Black, Tyler Perry’s “The Haves and Have Nots,” Riverdance,

March: Elton John, Don Williams, Steve Harvey

April: Mass Chaos Tour with Godsmack & Staind

May: Lady Antebellum

June: An Evening with Yanni, WWE SmackDown, Dancing with the Augusta Stars

 

Sold out events:

Keith Urban, Jason Aldean, Scream Tour with Mindless Behavior, Kicks 99’s Guitar Pull, Vince Gill & Amy Grant-12 Days of Christmas, Jerry Seinfeld, Tyler Perry’s “The Haves and Have Nots,” Riverdance, Elton John, Lady Antebellum

 

Upcoming events:

June 29: Fresh Music Festival with Keith Sweat, K-Ci & JoJo, Guy, SWV, and hosted by Doug E. Fresh

Sept. 21 and Sept. 22: Just Give Me Jesus – the ministry of Anne Graham Lotz

Aug. 2: Mindless Behavior with Jacob Latimore & Lil Twist

Sept. 20: Brian Regan

Oct. 4: The Fresh Beat Band

Oct. 12: Mike Epps: I’m Still Standing Tour

 

Source: Katie Wells, director of marketing for the Augusta Entertainment Complex

 

 

EVANS TOWNE CENTER PARK/LADY ANTEBELLUM PAVILION:

 

October 2011: Grand Opening Celebration/Jagermeister music tour, Welcome Home Dedication concert featuring Lady Antebellum

December: Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony

January: Dale Earnhardt Jr. appearance

March: Plant Swap & Sale, RV & Boat Show

April: Par Tee at the Park Concert with Little Big Town & Josh Kelly, Easter Egg Scramble, Craig Morgan Concert, Hounds Around Towne

May: Ponies in the Park (Mustang car show), POPS! Under the Stars Concert with Symphony Orchestra Augusta, Thunder Over Augusta featuring JoDee Messina, Banjo-b-Que featuring Drive-By Truckers & the Brothers Comatose

June: Rick Springfield concert, Books Alive Literary Festival, NewsBoys concert

July: Summer Beach Blast concert – Swingin’ Medallions, Tams, Drifters; Charlie Daniels & Travis Tritt concert

 

Source: Barry I. Smith, director for Columbia County Community and Leisure Services

 

USC AIKEN CONVOCATION CENTER:

 

April: Spring AAU Slamfest, Pacer Spirit End Of Year Celebration, Academy For Lifelong Learning End Of Year Celebration, King James AAU Spring Tournament, USC Aiken Athletics Awards Banquet, SRS-WSI National Awards Banquet, Public Education Partners, Teacher Of The Year Banquet

May: USC Aiken Graduation, Aiken’s First Annual Craft Fair, Aiken Standard’s Taste Of Home Cooking School, Rhoda Burns Dance Studio (End Of Year Recital), Retirement Gala For USC Aiken Chancellor Dr. Thomas Hallman, Life, Healthy Living Expo Presented By Aiken Regional And USC Aiken, “Church Folk” (A Comedic Stage Play), Aiken County Graduation Ceremonies

June: Student Sponsored Event, USC Aiken Volleyball Camps, Women’s Basketball Shootout, Basketball “Team” Camps, School Of Education Meetings, The South Carolina Outdoor Expo Presented By Aiken Regional And Carolina Outdoors, Women’s Basketball Camp, School Of Education Meetings, One Day Women’s Basketball Shootout

July: Rhett Walker Band Homecoming, Women’s Volleyball Camp, AAU Preliminary Tournament, Peach State Summer Showcase, Cheerleading And Dance Camp, Women’s Elite Basketball Tournament

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