This year’s Billboard charts have been dominated by Morgan Wallen, as his album One Thing At a Time has spent 12 consecutive weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and his single “Last Night” has lounged at the summit of the Billboard Hot 100 for eight weeks and counting. But it’s not just his recorded music that’s making waves — now it’s his One Night At a Time Tour, which officially kicked off in April with four shows that landed it atop Billboard’s monthly Top Tours chart for April, becoming the first country tour to top the tally in the 34 months since it officially launched.
Across those four dates, Wallen’s tour moved 145,000 tickets and brought in $27.9 million, besting the likes of Elton John (160,000 tickets, 10 shows, $27 million) and Luke Combs (266,000 tickets, five shows, $25.8 million) to take the top spot for the month of April, according to Billboard Boxscore. Including its dates in March, the tour has already brought in $44.3 million and sold 258,000 tickets, though in May it was forced to postpone dates for six weeks due to a vocal issue and will resume June 22. The tour’s early success has earned The Neal Agency co-head Austin Neal the title of Billboard’s Executive of the Week.
Here, Neal discusses the initial success of the run, the strategy of mixing in arenas and amphitheaters with stadiums and the logistics behind rescheduling such a high-profile, in-demand tour. “We worked to put Morgan in the best situation to continue to grow markets and get to as many fans as we can where they are,” Neal says.
This week, Morgan Wallen’s One Night At a Time Tour became the first country tour to top Billboard’s monthly Top Tours chart, with four shows that grossed $27.9 million from 145,000 tickets. What key decision did you make to help make that happen?
Our goal with any of our artists at The Neal Agency is to get the true value of the ticket of each seat. We do that by paying attention to scaling and seat maps while ensuring there are options for fans at every budget.
The Wallen tour is on course to top $200 million in ticket sales, which would make it the highest-grossing country tour ever. What was your approach to mixing in arenas, amphitheaters and stadiums across the dates to maximize that?
The main focus was to play as many stadiums as we could, which left us with some markets we hadn’t hit on 2022’s Dangerous Tour. We worked to put Morgan in the best situation to continue to grow markets and get to as many fans as we can where they are. Being in a new album cycle, you want to play to as many fans as possible and this was the best way to accomplish that.
You were forced to postpone most of the dates for six weeks due to a vocal issue for Wallen. How difficult was that to re-route while the tour was already underway, and what did you have to do to make sure it was kept intact?
Our promoter Live Nation did a great job in being there every step of the way. All the buildings we’re playing were great: clearing dates and making the new dates happen. If there’s a silver lining to having gone through what we did as an industry with the pandemic, it’s that it’s helped prepare us all for the most unexpected scenarios, enabling us to move quickly and with flexibility and not get caught up in the magnitude of what we’re doing.
There are complexities and so many things you work around — including NFL, MLB and even down to minor league hockey schedules. Yes, it’s routing, yet it’s also making sure we’re looking at it through the lens of managing Morgan’s workload. All shows have been rescheduled with the exception of Oxford and we’re working with Ole Miss Athletics to find the right date.
Country music has always had a robust touring market, but this tour is huge even in light of that. To what do you attribute the demand? Did you have to adjust what you normally do to meet it?
All credit is due to Morgan: he keeps putting out great music, is a relatable guy and a great CEO who knows his brand. Morgan on his own can carry anything with the way his music is connecting, plus his show is high energy from start to finish and we made some great decisions on the tour package. We got Bailey Zimmerman early, HARDY and ERNEST are doing great. It all fits.
In Billboard’s recent 40 Under 40 feature, you mentioned that “we need to find better solutions” to ticketing issues such as scalpers and high fees. How did you try to address those with this tour?
We did fan pre-registration — and really scrubbed those lists — and used every tool in our toolbox to keep scalpers out of queues to buy our tickets, which kept the value-to-seat for fans accessible. We staggered onsale times for registered fans and avoided peak hours on ticketing sites. I think we saw great success and it does feel like we made a dent. It’s an ongoing conversation at TNA and we apply what we learn each time to the next.
What do you see as the international touring possibilities for country artists now and in the future?
A big part of international tour growth possibilities is country music is more accessible thanks to streaming. The globalization of country music is happening right now, and it’s healthy — we see it with our current stars of today who continue to prioritize going overseas, exploring and investing in meeting their international fans where they are now in the early stages of their careers. We’ve also invested in international by having a dedicated international agent. Wallen put up an O2 show and sold it out immediately and that’s his first time headlining in the U.K. — I don’t believe that’s ever been done before.