As the Country Music Association's annual festival and fan fair kicks off in Nashville, the AP runs a story about American country music artists touring and trying to reach an international audience. Readers of this blog will have seen reports and pictures of mine on several American country and western (and bluegrass) acts on the road here in Europe. Some big name acts tour, but most of the acts on the European circuit are independent, lesser known or niche performers. They play at some of the dozens of country music and bluegrass festivals held around the continent from spring into the fall, and also at clubs, saloons and even concert halls. (Kris Kristofferson performed a couple years ago in one of Vienna's top classical music venues -- a wild scene with the audience in cowboy hats and boots, amid the rococo decor.)
Writer John Gerome starts his AP article with an interview with Dierks Bentley about a recent tour of Australia with Brooks and Dunn and then looks at other acts who tour, mentioning the size of the market.
Few contemporary country hitmakers tour outside North America with regularity. The international market for country isn't anywhere near what it is in the U.S., and the cost of hauling a crew, band and equipment across continents is brutal.Read full article
"Most country acts are reluctant to go overseas because they can't make the same money," remarked Joe Galante, chairman of Sony Music Nashville. "But you have to go there and spend some time and build a marketplace."
A few are making a go of it. Besides Bentley, Keith Urban regularly tours abroad. Brooks & Dunn, Sugarland and Taylor Swift are also making inroads. Alan Jackson and Martina McBride are both preparing to play shows in Europe.
I saw Dierks Bentley himself, in fact (along with Asleep at the Wheel and others) at the Country Rendez-vous festival last July in Craponne France.
The Country Rendez-vous, one of the premiere country music festivals in Europe, always books American artists as the vast majority of its acts. Its roster over its more than 20 years of history is impressive -- everyone from the father of bluegrass Bill Monroe to Marty Stuart, Joe Ely, the Derailers, to Billy Joe Shaver, Mark Chesnutt, Guy Clark, Alison Krauss & Union Station, Rhonda Vincent, Whiskey Falls, and many, many more -- see a more complete list by clicking HERE.
The Country Night in Gstaad, Switzerland each September also features mainly U.S. acts. This year's headliner will be Kenny Rogers.
Other acts that have toured recently include Ricky Skaggs, banjo great Tony Trischka, Kris Kirstofferson, Lynne Anderson, Roseanne Cash, Dale Watson, and on and on.
For more about country music in Europe -- see earlier blog posts here, or take a look at the lengthy paper I wrote (you can access it from a link in the sidebar).