Exploring the Tour “Buy On”

A few years back, when we launched Artist Garden Entertainment, I was surprised to find how many Christian artists & record labels were jumping at the chance to “buy on” tours. We naively began pitching artists for some of the bigger tours & festivals not realizing the big dollar “buy ons” we were competing against for those coveted opening slots. Through dialog with other Christian Artists Managers, I quickly found some who accepted the practice as normal and others who fight it and refuse to “buy on” That’s when I began to struggle with and develop my own view towards “buy ons” While my natural instinct doesn’t want to fuel the “buy on” monster, it became clear to me that the Tour “buy on” is another Christian music marketing vehicle that should be considered for the right opportunities.

While the internet has somewhat leveled the playing field by offering many free opportunities to new artists, any fully developed platform that guarantees exposure to a large number of people is going to carry a price tag in today’s world. With the squeeze applied to every dollar in the music industry, one can rest assured that any margin of space on a tour will be sold to the highest bidder. The opening slot for most concerts is now viewed more as advertising space as opposed to a performance slot that adds value to the show. The opener is a billboard that goes up for a few minutes in front of an audience who might be inclined to check out the artist if they aren’t too busy trying to find their seat & settling in. A wise opening artist will make it more than a fleeting glimpse by WOWing the audience & finding ways to engage them outside of the performance.

I wonder how the fans who pay good money to attend the show would feel if they knew as much as 40% of a concert is sometimes purchased space. Without the “buy ons”, 3 day Christian music festivals would quickly become one day festivals and four-hour concerts would be 2 hour shows. I can’t help but wonder if an enlightened audience would have sympathy for the openers and buy more t-shirts & cds to help support them?

What are your thoughts on Tour “Buy Ons?