Avicii's U.S. arena tour: too big too soon?

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At the recent EDM Biz conference in Las Vegas, inthemix attended a panel under the banner ‘Arena House – Taking EDM On The Road’. The discussion focused on the accelerated move in the U.S. from club nights to DJ-headlined arena tours, and whether ‘EDM’ translates to traditional live venues. While some success stories were cited – like the Swedish House Mafia’s recent takeover of Madison Square Garden in New York – there was an air of caution about artists upsizing too early. The unspoken (and occasionally spoken) case-in-point was Avicii’s Le7els tour around North America, which has not been entirely smooth sailing for the young star.

After a mixed reception to the Swede’s new live show at Coachella, the first run of U.S. arena dates were postponed, reportedly to get the production right. However, recent shows have been far from sold-out, with several reports of bustling General Admission floors but empty and curtained-off seating sections. Some anecdotal reports suggest venues with capacities of around 20,000 people have been hosting around 5,000.

The EDM Biz panelists warned against over-reaching as a dance artist despite the current U.S. Boom. In an earlier panel, Marc Geiger, head of music for WME Entertainment, coined the Le7els tour “an irrational decision fuelled by an irrational market. Avicii trying to be a rock star is a big mistake.”

The consensus seemed to be that despite the EDM fervour out there, you still need to graduate from clubs to mid-sized venues before taking the arena leap. “I personally think that with festivals, where people can see multiple artists for a typically reasonable price, they might not buy a ticket to see a single artist they just saw at Electric Daisy Carnival,” said Paul Morris of thriving booking agency AM Only on the ‘Arena House’ panel. Added EDC founder Pasquale Rotella: “There are only going to be a handful of DJs who can pull off a show like Swedish House Mafia in New York.” Despite the behind-the-scenes doubts, Avicii’s stage show continues on its U.S. rounds until September, billed as the “first-ever” Stateside arena tour by a dance artist.

Running concurrently to Avicii’s tour is Kaskade’s Freaks Of Nature North American circuit. The homegrown veteran is also hitting the kinds of rooms usually reserved for touring rock acts, but his progression to arena headliner has been far more gradual. During the closing ‘Artist Panel’ at EDM Biz, Kaskade was asked whether he believes a close connection with fans – “the pure moment” – is lost in these vast venues.

“No, I think it’s just changed,” he replied. “I think the moment happened at King King where the guy in the front row is dripping on the CDJs and shorting out the Pioneer.” (King King is a Hollywood club where the DJ cut his teeth.)

“But I think now the music’s reached so many more people. I think the experience has always been about dancing alone or in a group of friends. It’s not like you’re dancing with anyone. You’re just hanging out, and it’s loud. That can happen in a warehouse, like when I used to go see Richie, or it can happen at the Staples Centre [in L.A.] or King King.”

Comparing the trend to Australia, there isn’t much of a parallel: we’re used to seeing big-ticket DJs on festival tours, despite the very occasional DJ-headlined concert-venue run like Tiesto’s hugely-successful 2010 Kaleidoscope tour. However, it was the topic buzzing around Vegas throughout ‘EDC Week’, and revealed the issues that come from the EDM gold-rush.


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gront said on the 19th Jun, 2012

Firstly, lol.

Secondly, I just thought this was a bad idea from the start. Mainly in regards to what @412nv said. I mean if you look at guys like tiesto, armin, SHM (who only did like 2 arena gigs not an entire tour) and Deadmau5, they have consistently been releasing music (good or bad) and slowly building over the years and generally starting with somewhat cult-followings. Which i guess is why Tiesto was able to fill stadiums even before this EDM explosion in america and 'trouse'.

If you look at Avicii overall, his rise has been exponential and thus short-lived and his few production's have been inconsistent - besides levels and bromance i can't name many other songs by this guy. Which brings up my next point, not having enough of your own stuff is not that its a huge issue, part of the beauty of DJing is you get to play other people's music. For example, if you look at guys like Digweed or Hawtin (although they do boast an extensive catalogue of releases) their extended 2-9 hour sets nowdays consist largely of other people's music.

But i guess that's where the sentiments of Armin come into play. If you are going to see a DJ in an arena gig or indeed play more than 2hours anywhere, its not enough to be bouncing to pop hits the entire time. Sure you want to hear a DJ's big tracks but if you are gonna stick around to the end of a gig you need at least some sort of sequence structure, which i don't think Avicii can do. And i don't mean he is incapable of it, just the fact that people who would buy tix to see his arena gig wouldn't know what to do if he did start playing anything other than pop-y vocals, catchy riffs, well known samples and mashups with other 'big names'.

I kinda feel bad for the guy (cue the scorns from other ITMers), he got big too quickly off bad music, and seems like he may be a victim of his own success and ambition in regards to this tour (albeit a very rich victim).