He’s calling it a residency. His people are calling it a residency. The press is calling it a residency. I’m calling it a residency. But right now there are only a couple of shows scheduled.
Prince has recently announced plans for two concerts at the United Center in Chicago on Sept. 24 and Sept. 25. The shows are being dubbed “Welcome 2 Chicago.”
Conventional wisdom says Prince will announce more gigs in the Windy City in the near future.
There is precedent for Minnesota’s favorite son playing several shows in a major city. In 2010 and 2011, the “Purple One” had extended runs in both New York City and Los Angeles. In 2007, he performed 21 concerts at the O2 Arena in London.
The official trailer for “Welcome 2 Chicago” explains that there will be “a different experience every night.” That’s not something you’d say if you were only playing two nights.
Prince is quite mercurial. He may very well not launch a residency in Chicago but the safe money says he will.
A Prince of An Idea
Regardless if he plays one show or one-hundred and regardless if the host city is New York, Los Angeles, Chicago or London, Prince has stumbled onto something very significant. I would say it’s the wave of the future.
If I was a mayor of a major U.S. city I’d highly consider wooing a big-time performer to set up a residency at one of my town’s premiere performance venues.
Having someone like Prince perform in your city is a tremendous draw. Think of how many people are scheduling a vacation in Chicago just so they can see Prince perform. He’s a tourist attraction. He’s like the Field Museum only more funky.
The Prince of Tourists
Chicago doesn’t really need help attracting tourists but there are a lot of cities in the United States that do. Luring an iconic rock star should be a lot easier than building the continent’s largest ball of yarn or the country’s tallest cowboy boot.
City officials can offer one of their city-run venues at no cost. If there’s a dearth of city-run venues there’s probably something municipal or state lawmakers can do to make a residency far less “taxing” on a performer.
For one, they can guarantee a certain number of tickets will be sold. If the mark isn’t reach, the city will make up the difference.
Of course, if you pick the right performer, and the right venue, you won’t have to worry about selling tickets. Country artists in the South, heartland rockers in the Northeast, hard rock bands in the Southwest, and the hippies set in the Northwest.
Artists should be drawn to residencies because they don’t have to travel all over the country to get a payday from 10, 15, or 20 concerts. All they have to do is hang out in one city for a while. And as long as that city isn’t Cleveland the performer won’t care where he or she is booked.
Of course, there’s at least one wrinkle in Prince’s business model.
I doubt that in this economic climate elected officials are eager to enter into financial partnerships with rock and pop stars. Singers, guitarists, drummers, and bassists are not known for their sanity, sobriety, or common sense. The again, either are politicians.
Cities compete to host conventions and similar events. I can’t imagine a trade show or a company’s annual retreat being more lucrative than hosting half-a-dozen concerts by Prince or some other living legend.
If given a chance, I think rock and roll tourism will definitely work.