LOS ANGELES Women rockers have become the latest victims of a weak concert season in North America.
Organizers of the all-female Lilith Fair festival tour, co-founded by Canadian singer-songwriter Sarah McLachlan in 1997, announced on Thursday that they would cancel almost one-third of the scheduled shows.
Lilith, which kicked off in Calgary on Sunday after an 11-year break, is to drop such big markets as Montreal, Houston and Dallas, with organizers citing "one of the most challenging summer concert seasons."
To be sure, it is not just a gender issue. Artists such as Christina Aguilera, the Eagles, Rihanna, John Mayer, Limp Bizkit, and the Go-Go's have either canceled shows or entire tours.
U2 also canceled a big stadium tour, but that was after singer Bono suffered a back injury.
Billboard magazine recently cited such factors as high ticket prices and consumer resistance to numerous fees, as well as ill-advised touring by artists with nothing new to promote.
It also pointed the finger at industry giant Live Nation Entertainment Inc, saying it pays artists too much money and struggles to give acts enough promotional attention since an estimated 70 percent of touring traffic occurs during the warm months.
A spokeswoman for Live Nation, which recently slashed prices and unveiled other promotions, was not immediately available for comment.
Lilith certainly received a lot of media attention, riding the nostalgia wave generated by the festival's original 1997-1999 incarnation.
Organizers originally scheduled 33 dates, but co-founder and co-headliner McLachlan said in May that sales were "pretty soft." Coincidentally, the Canadian singer recently suffered a 74 percent sales slide for her first album in seven years.
The Calgary show, also featuring the likes of Sheryl Crow, Erykah Badu and Colbie Caillat, drew just 9,000 people to a 35,000-capacity stadium. A Lilith spokeswoman said the venue was reconfigured to hold 11,000 people.
The lineup will vary as the tour proceeds, with artists such as Emmylou Harris, Carly Simon, Mary J. Blige, Queen Latifah, Selena Gomez and Heart lined up. Still, fans appeared to be reluctant to shell out as much as $250 (before fees) in some markets.
"We are in the midst of one of the most challenging summer concert seasons with many tours being canceled outright," Lilith co-founder Terry McBride said in a statement.
"Everyone involved with the tour would like to apologize to the fans and artists scheduled to play in these markets, and express appreciation for all the support for the festival's return. Lilith remains the only tour of its kind, and we are confident that fans will be amazed by what each date has to offer."
The affected stops are Salt Lake City (July 12), Montreal (July 23), Raleigh, N.C. (August 4), Charlotte, N.C. (August 6), West Palm Beach, Fla. (August 10), Tampa, Fla. (Aug 11), Birmingham, Ala. (August 12), Austin (August 14), Houston (August 15) and Dallas (August 16).
(Reporting by Dean Goodman; Editing by Belinda Goldsmith)