How to Become an Amphitheater Band

With my advising clients I often ask them to visualize the biggest version of their career. Many people imagine growing their band to the point that they could fill amphitheaters. This isn’t the only answer – some people see playing large theaters as the largest version, some would be happy filling clubs around the country. Of course, just thinking of the big picture vision isn’t enough to build a career. It’s necessary to also consider how to get to that place. What are the pieces that contribute to growing a career to that stage?

The dream of playing clubs and even theaters could be done through grass roots effort alone. Amphitheaters, arenas, and stadiums though… grass roots effort alone hasn’t ever created enough fanbase to justify a tour of these venues as far as I know.  In order to consistently tour venues of this size, a mainstream radio hit is required… ideally several of them.

I know many people will point to The Grateful Dead, but even they had a top 10 hit in 1987.  Phish is another example of a band that mostly built their audience through grassroots but again, they had “Down with Disease” hit mainstream radio (peaking at #33) in 1994.  It was this song that brought them into mainstream awareness (including mine) and not coincidentally the album that contains this single is their best selling album.

The point is that currently, I don’t know of any band that consistently tours 15,000+ capacity venues that hasn’t had mainstream radio success.  (Of course, if you know of any please comment below).  This also brings up the question of whether there will be another media outlet in the future that can catapult a band to this level of success.  As the power of radio decreases, it remains to be seen whether something else can fill it’s shoes.  In the meantime and until it all gets sorted out, if you want to go to the big time, radio is necessary.

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