Music scene explodes in Tulsa, named among top cities for concerts
BY JENNIFER CHANCELLOR World Scene Writer
Thursday, August 16, 2012
8/16/12 at 4:50 AM
In so many ways, a rising tide lifts all boats. Not only has Tulsa's music scene exploded in the past five years, it's made it into national and international top-sales rankings and lists for cities with the highest-quality venues and talent.
Compared with other major markets, the Tulsa area's live-entertainment industry is thriving in ways that many call "recession proof."
Music lovers like Tulsan Jarrod Mizell, 32, used to spend more than $10,000 a year to travel to cities like Kansas City, Dallas and St. Louis to see his favorite bands. More than 40 percent of his "concert time" - and money - was spent on travel, parking and lodging.
"Oh my god, the parking," he said. "It's so much cheaper here."
These days, he still hits about 50 concerts a year, but since the BOK Center opened in late 2008, about 95 percent of them are right here, and not just at the BOK Center.
"Something's happened," Mizell said. "Everybody stepped up their game, and more great concerts started coming through town in every venue."
What he spends will only increase as his toddler daughter gets older, he said. "The family choices here are awesome. I can't wait to see 'Sesame Street Live' with her," which happens February at the BOK Center. On his own, he's already seen the circus and the "Walking With Dinosaurs" exhibit there.
There are still a handful of concerts he "must" travel to see, like The Police or Prince or Coldplay, but he estimates that he saves far more than $5,000 a year by not traveling so often. He also goes to more concerts.
Tulsa's concert scene is booming and is one of the most successful in the state, nation and even globally.
Of the top 10 earning touring acts in the United States, nine have come through Tulsa in recent months and years. Earlier this year, Cain's Ballroom was named one of the nation's top 10 "Fabulous Music Venues" by CNN.
Also, Livability.com ranked Tulsa one of the nation's 10 best music scenes, based on the number and quality of music venues, independent record stores and local musicians, and its ability to attract and produce talent.
Those numbers didn't exist here five years ago. Today, Cain's Ballroom and the BOK Center are two of the top-selling venues in the world for their size, according to Pollstar Pro.
"We're lucky we live in an area without so many of the economic stressors that the huge cities have. We're definitely having greater success than our friends on the East or West coasts," said John Bolton, BOK Center general manager.
"The casual fan who may have traveled to one show a year is now going to four or five a year here in Tulsa. Things are in front of them every week and every day. There's Cain's Ballroom, and casino venues like The Joint (at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa) and The Vanguard that helps introduce all segments of the population to music."
In other words, the combination of an 18,000 seat BOK Center to 2,700-seat casino venues and strong local historic venues such as Cain's Ballroom has helped diversify the sounds and talents that are attracted to our city.
Another music fan, Jason Pann, 37, goes to about 25 concerts a year, most of them local.
But some artists do seem to stay "outside our market," Pann and Mizell said.
"For some reason, they just aren't coming here," Pann said. "If U2 or Prince or Radiohead or Madonna or The Cure were to come to the BOK Center, I'd be there in a heartbeat." But for now, he has to travel to see those acts.
Bolton said that some touring bands might be just out of reach due to the Tulsa area's population size.
"We're always going to have Houston and Dallas to contend with," Bolton said. "It's just hard to beat those (population) numbers. That's just the reality. But we're at third or fourth in size and draw, and that's about as high as we can be in our market area."
The market area includes Houston, Dallas, Little Rock, New Orleans, St. Louis, Oklahoma City and Kansas City, he said.
"We can't always be the first choice, but on those big, big shows, we want to be the 'next' choice," Bolton said.
Take the upcoming Feb. 14 concert by rock megastar The Who. "We got really lucky because we're on the top of our game," Bolton said.
He also celebrates being one of the few arena venues to get Paul McCartney and Roger Waters' "The Wall" productions, as well.
"Success breeds success," Bolton said.
And that applies to everyone, from casino venues to historic ones such as Cain's Ballroom and the Brady Theater.
"The prices aren't prohibitive, either," Pann said. "Sometimes they're higher than I'd prefer - especially the convenience fees - but we're talking about really good shows with really high production quality."
Pann said he spends at least $1,000 a year on concert tickets - 90 percent of them in Tulsa.
Even with Tulsa's success, there's still a long list of bands that music fans want to see here, including Garth Brooks, Adele, Toby Keith, Green Day, Madonna, U2, Cher and others.
Bolton reads through his research list of most-requested music acts: "Motley Crue? They're coming. The Who? They're coming. Miranda Lambert? Yes. Aerosmith? Yes. Rod Stewart? Yes. Roger Waters? Yes."
New Direction, Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen, Lady Antebellum ... the answer's the same.
There are several he'd love to see return, too.
"All in due time," he said.
Brad Paisley returns to play BOK
Brad Paisley returns to the BOK Center, this time for his "Virtual Reality" world tour.
His last trip through Tulsa was in 2010.
Paisley has earned three Grammy awards, 14 Academy of Country Music Awards and 14 Country Music Association Awards, including Entertainer of the Year for 2010. He has placed 20 singles at the top of the charts, including a duet with Carrie Underwood, "Remind Me," and his single "Camouflage."
Paisley's current album, "This is Country Music," debuted at No. 1 on Billboard's Top Country Albums chart and is his sixth consecutive studio album to debut as the nation's country best-seller.
He also released his first book, "Diary of a Player," late last year. His 2011 H20: Wetter and Wilder Tour sold more than 1 million tickets across the United States and Europe.
The Band Perry's "modern throwback" style combines classic country with an eclectic infusion of rock, gospel and soul, all rounded out by three-part harmonies.
Easton Corbin is often lauded for his traditional country sound, authentic lyrics and mastery of understatement. USA Today says Easton "is a country music throwback with an easygoing, old-school style." He is the first country male artist in 17 years to have his first two consecutive singles reach No. 1 - "A Little More Country Than That" and "Roll With It."
Venue numbers and rankings
In July, the BOK Center ranked No. 35 in the world for arena ticket sales, with 131,073 tickets sold so far this year, according to Pollstar Pro industry tracker.
The venue ranked No. 37 in global arena sales for the last quarter, with 72,673 tickets sold, up from No. 41 late last year.
Another local venue, Cain's Ballroom, also made the list again, at No. 22 on the list of club venues under 3,000 capacity, with 47,829 tickets sold so far this year.
Cain's was No. 12 for this year's first quarter, with 25,868 tickets sold.
Top-selling U.S. tours
Mid-year numbers, Jan. 1-June 30, 2012, compiled by Pollstar Pro.
1. Cirque du Soleil, "Michael Jackson: The Immortal" (**2012)
2 Roger Waters: The Wall Live (**2012)
3. Van Halen (**2012)
4. Kenny Chesney (**2011) / Tim McGraw (**2010)
5. Lady Antebellum (**2012)
6. Drake (**2009)
7. Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band (**2009)
8 Elton John (**2009, 2010)
9. Dave Matthews Band (**2009)
** indicates the act has performed at the BOK Center, and when.
Source: Pollstar Pro
BOK Center general manager John Bolton said that, five years after opening its doors, the top-requested act for the BOK Center is still Garth Brooks.
Others include (in no particular order)
Source : BOK Center
Upcoming BOK Center concerts
Aug. 16: Brad Paisley
Aug. 26: KISS / Motley Crue
Sept. 22: Hillsong LIVE
Oct. 10: Journey
Oct. 23: Red Hot Chili Peppers
Nov. 2: Bob Dylan
Nov. 21: Carrie Underwood
Dec. 7: Eric Church
Jan. 9: Justin Bieber
Feb 14: The Who
More details on all shows available at tulsaworld.com/bok
with The Band Perry and
When: Showtime 7:30 p.m.
Where: BOK Center, 200 S.
Tickets: All ages. $25,
$39.75 and $59.75, plus
fees, available at
Original Print Headline: Concert Capital
Jennifer Chancellor 918-581-8346
The BOK Center, taken in Tulsa, Okla. on August 10,2012. JAMES GIBBARD/Tulsa World
Concert-goer Jarrod Mizell stands in front of the BOK Center, where he visits frequently for shows. As a concert traveler, he said the BOK Center is one of the best venues.CORY YOUNG/Tulsa World;
Brad Paisley comes back to the BOK Center for a show Thursday. Associated Press file
Kiss performs with Motley Crue on Aug. 26 at the BOK Center. Courtesy
The Red Hot Chili Peppers. Courtesy
Garth Brooks is still the top most-requested act by fans ofthe BOK Center. Courtesy
Prince is one of the most requested acts by fans of the BOK Center. Associated Press file
Van Halen, one of the top-selling touring acts in the nation, performed at the BOK Center in 2012. Associated Press file
John Bolton: "Motley Crue? They're coming. The Who? They're coming. Miranda Lambert? Yes. Aerosmith? Yes. Rod Stewart? Yes. Roger Waters? Yes."