Five touring acts to watch in 2008

NASHVILLE (Billboard) - Look for these five artists to make a big splash on the touring scene in 2008.

Kristian Bush (L) and Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland hold their award for Vocal Duo of the Year in the photo room at the 41st annual Country Music Awards in Nashville, Tennessee November 7, 2007. REUTERS/Tami Chappell


Country duo Sugarland -- Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush -- experimented with headlining dates in 2007 in between opening for Kenny Chesney on the latter’s massive Flip Flop summer tour. The pair headlined about 50 dates last year at theaters and downsized arenas, with seven shows reported to Billboard Boxscore totaling nearly $1 million.

“Touring for us is the most important thing,” Sugarland manager Gail Gelman says. “We feel it’s important to do it right, take it slow and make the right decisions along the way.”

Sugarland will expand its international base by touring Australia in March and Europe in the fall. In the late spring it will play some cities it hasn’t performed in yet in North America. The summer will include festivals, fairs, radio shows and special events. Another high-level support slot is still an option.

Chesney tour producer Louis Messina predicts Sugarland will be selling out arenas within two years.

“I have not felt this way since I saw Kenny 10 years ago,” Messina says.


Creative booking has helped build My Morning Jacket’s reputation as one of the premier live rock bands on the touring scene. Last year was supposed to be a light year for the band (with only a handful of dates reported to Boxscore), but the gigs the group did play were high-profile.

“We were lucky enough to be invited to play three shows with Bob Dylan at Red Rocks and Telluride, as well as Lollapalooza with the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra and the Austin City Limits Festival,” says the band’s manager, Mike Martinovich, who says the live year came to a “euphoric” end when MMJ played Neil Young’s annual Bridge School Benefit near San Francisco.

MMJ just finished recording its next studio album in New York with frontman Jim James and Joe Chiccarelli (the White Stripes, the Shins) co-producing. The band hopes for a June release, then will tour in the United States, as well as the United Kingdom and Europe.

The band will perform at this year’s South by Southwest event in Austin for the first time since 2002, and James will do an acoustic show in addition to the full-band set. Other U.S. dates are being booked.


Latin rocker Juanes has been touring the United States since 2001-02, but he will likely enjoy his most successful North American run yet in 2008.

Juanes’ latest album “La Vida . . . Es un Ratico” just came out in October, and its leadoff single “Me Enamora” was the longest-running No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot Latin Songs chart in 2007.

“Juanes has genuinely reached the arena level across the country at this point,” says his agent, Michel Vega at the William Morris Agency, who adds that Juanes’ tour capacity will top 250,000 on the first leg alone.

The tour begins March 6 at Madison Square Garden in New York, and the first leg will be about 30 dates through May, including multiples in some markets. “Then we will come back again and do between 25 and 30 shows in October-November,” Vega says.

Sponsors Sprint and Ford will provide the 2008 tour “a ton of marketing juice, cross-platform, from traditional radio and TV to a very hefty online campaign,” Vega says. The tour works with individual promoters -- a mix of Latin, independent and national ones -- on a market-by-market basis.

“America is about to find out what the rest of the Latin world already knows,” Live Nation Texas president Bob Roux says. “Juanes is a true international superstar, and his upcoming tour is going to set some serious records here in the U.S. and around the globe.”


Predicting a Disney-driven touring success isn’t too much of a stretch, but the Jonas Brothers are making major noise even before the Disney machine fully kicks in.

The trio is still reaping the mania of the Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus tour, and will surely be headlining major venues on its own by the time 2008 comes to a close.

The Hannah Montana tour has provided massive exposure. “Now we’re looking forward to headlining dates in a smaller situation that will hopefully turn into something bigger for the fall of 2008,” manager Johnny Wright says. “In between we will have a new album, a TV show and a movie.”

The Jonas Brothers were scheduled to begin shooting a Disney TV series in January, but because of the Hollywood writers’ strike the show has been put on hold. So they’ll play some first-quarter headlining dates instead at 2,000- and 3,000-seaters. “Our touring plans weren’t scheduled until September of 2008,” Wright says, “but now we’re actually going to start doing some smaller venues in February of 2008 as a headliner.”


Kanye West has already achieved superstar status in terms of hit records and music industry awards since breaking big in 2004. And though West has been consistent at the box office, as is usually the case in hip-hop, concert ticket sales have not paralleled retail and radio success.

That will change in 2008 if the charismatic rap star opts to pursue building a touring fan base. He will begin a North American tour of arenas and outdoor venues in April, and return for a second leg in the fall, says his agent Cara Lewis at William Morris.

West is booked by the William Morris Agency’s Cara Lewis, who says he will continue to tour in Europe, Australia and Japan in the first quarter, then take the tour back to the United States starting in April in arenas and outdoor venues, with a second U.S. leg in the fall.

West’s broad demographic is a major plus, according to MAC Presents president Marcie Allen Cardwell, who booked West to play a sold-out homecoming event at Nashville’s Vanderbilt University last fall.

“It was the most diverse show I’ve seen in a while at Vanderbilt, which is a testament to his reach,” Cardwell says.