For concerts this summer, amphitheaters open for biz

Big names heading outdoors in '08

Some of the biggest names in live music will be touring in the summer, giving hope to promoters that the North American concert business will again reach record-breaking numbers.

Live Nation, the world's largest concert promoter, is fielding a wide range of concerts and tours for 2008, including established boxoffice performers and artists who rarely have played amphitheaters.

Among the acts that will play at least a limited number of Live Nation sheds in the summer are Eric Clapton, Jack Johnson, Radiohead, Rod Stewart and the Police along with such proven outdoor winners as Jimmy Buffett, Dave Matthews Band, John Mayer, Kenny Chesney (also playing 14 stadiums in a tour produced by TMG-AEG Live), Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers and James Taylor. Many of these acts also will play arenas and/or festivals.

Also touring are newer artists like Jonas Brothers (under contract to play for Live Nation) and Kanye West and such country acts as Brad Paisley, Martina McBride, Rascal Flatts, Toby Keith and Tim McGraw.

Multiact tours in the summer include the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem tour (produced by Warped founder Kevin Lyman and Taste of Chaos' John Reese), Linkin Park's Projekt Revolution, the Warped Tour, a Journey/ Heart/Cheap Trick package, a Maroon 5/Counting Crows package, Crue Fest (with Motley Crue, Buckcherry, Papa Roach, Sixx:AM and Trapt) and classic rock packages from Steve Miller/Joe Cocker and Chicago/Doobie Brothers.

Also out in the summer are Rush, Iron Maiden, R.E.M, 311 and Yes. A tour also is expected from Coldplay, though where and for which promoter they will play has not been announced.

"It's going to be that summer we're all going to look back on and say, 'What a magical amphitheater year 2008 was,' " said Jason Garner, president of North American Music at Live Nation. "I'm not a cheerleader, but we're pretty darn excited about the year. There are some hallowed names on that list, and it's an honor to be hosting them."

Live Nation owns and/or operates more than 40 amphitheaters, but the company said it produces just as many arena shows (1,000) as amphitheater shows, along with about 6,000 shows annually in smaller venues.

In general, amphitheater concert attendance has declined in recent years, posting a year-over-year increase in attendance and gross just once in the past five years, according to Billboard Boxscore. Average per-show attendance for amphitheaters was 7,741 in 2007, compared with 9,325 in 1998.

AEG Live, Live Nation's closest rival, is producing 2008 concerts and tours by Neil Diamond, Celine Dion, Bon Jovi, Chesney, the Eagles and others. AEG Live, a subsidiary of sports and entertainment firm Anschutz Entertainment Group, subscribes primarily to an indoor venue model except for its role in such festivals as New Orleans Jazzfest, Coachella (in Indio, Calif.), Rothbury (Michigan), All Points West (Jersey City, N.J.), and the Mile Music Festival (Denver), all of which are reporting good if not better-than-projected sales, according to AEG Live CEO Randy Phillips.

Ray Waddell is an executive director at Billboard.