Live metal thrives with Mayhem, Metallica tours
By Ray Waddell
NASHVILLE (Billboard) - Judging from the upcoming touring schedule, death metal is, er, alive and well. So are other subgenres of hard rock that still inspire passion from fans.
Because traditional windows of exposure like radio and TV are seldom open to them, metal bands have to tour to build followings.
Tim Borror, an agent at the Agency Group specializing in hard rock, knows this well. His client Lamb of God will support Metallica for the third time on that band's upcoming fall tour. He says Lamb of God is maximizing its time on the road by adding dates surrounding the trek.
"There are a lot of days off on that tour, so we weaved a second tour in between the off days on the Metallica tour, with Lamb of God headlining and Job for a Cowboy as support," Borror says. "It's interesting because we're booking a tour around a tour that's already booked."
Metallica has already put up huge numbers in the first part of the year, ranking ninth among all touring acts in the Billboard Boxscore midyear charts with $45.5 million in gross ticket sales and 740,917 in attendance.
The band could restrict Lamb of God's side gigs but doesn't, Borror says.
"Metallica is one of those bands that's pretty righteous with the way they carry themselves and do their business," Borror says. "They've been real cool about where we play on off days, and we try to be respectful and stay away from their shows anyway and play alternative cities."
Borror, who previously launched the Sounds of the Underground tour, is also the responsible agent for Five Finger Death Punch, which will release its new album, "War Is the Answer," September 22 on the Prospect Park label and tour in September and October with Shadows Fall, Otep and Two Cents.
In addition to Lamb of God's tour and preparing for Five Finger Death Punch's upcoming trek, Borror is busy with this summer's 10 for $10 tour, which he calls "probably the hardest project I've ever put together." The tour started in July at Trocadero in Philadelphia and is about two-thirds of the way through the 31-date route. As its name suggests, it features 10 hardcore bands in clubs for $10.
"It's basically a business plan that has everybody involved losing money," Borror says. "But I still think it's a great artist development tool."
Among the acts are Poison the Well, the Mongoloids, Bane, Trapped Under Ice and This Is Hell. "It's basically all super-small bands, so the intention was to play to 500-600 a market and try to start a buzz going," Borror says. "But it's done better than that on average, and we found out some things about what we're doing this year that will hopefully lend itself to us being able to do it again."
Of course, the 10 for $10 tour can't hope to match the draw of the Rockstar Mayhem Festival and Motley Crue's Crue Fest, which have filled the gap left by the absence of Ozzfest. Mayhem is averaging about 12,000 per show in its second year, according to John Reese, who produces the Mayhem and Taste of Chaos tours with Warped founder Kevin Lyman. "We have definitely felt the economy, but approximately half the shows are bigger this year than last year," Reese says.
But, as is the case with any genre, the health of metal depends on its ability to foster the development of new acts, which is Borror's forte. He says Ozzfest, the godfather of metal fests and a fixture of the summer touring schedule for more than a decade, provided an important platform for up-and-coming bands.
Ozzfest, which is on hiatus in 2009 as founder Ozzy Osbourne readies a new album, was held as a one-off event near Dallas last year. It hasn't been on the road since it went out as a sponsor-driven free event in 2007, when detractors said charging nothing for the tour would devalue live music. But Borror doesn't see it that way.
"The lasting impact was it took the bands that were involved that year and helped them grow," he says. "Lamb of God was the main support to Ozzy that year, and they're bigger than they've ever been right now. I don't think it had any negative impact on the genre, because the Mayhem tour years one and two have done incredible business."
(Editing by DGoodman at Reuters)