Organizers are calling iHeartRadio Music Festival the largest live concert event in radio history. Tickets sold out in 10 minutes and are now going for quadruple their original price on auction and broker websites. Thousands of people across the country have called radio stations repeatedly in hopes of scoring free seats.
Plenty of buzz is circulating about iHeartRadio’s two-night festival, being held at MGM Grand Garden Arena on Friday and Saturday, but on the surface many see this as just another concert or festival. What is the event really about? And why should you care?
When it was announced earlier this summer, festival organizers promised an unprecedented lineup from different genres, and they have delivered some big-name acts in pop, rock and country music.
On Friday, Jay-Z, Coldplay, Alicia Keys, The Black Eyed Peas, Carrie Underwood, Bruno Mars, Kelly Clarkson and Jane’s Addiction will perform. Saturday brings to the stage Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez, Steven Tyler, Kenny Chesney, Nicki Minaj, Rascal Flatts, David Guetta and Sublime with Rome. Usher, Sting, Jeff Beck and DJ Pauly D are also scheduled to make special guest appearances.
John Mayer was also scheduled to appear but was forced to cancel after being diagnosed with granuloma, a serious throat condition. Nicole Scherzinger, of Pussycat Dolls and Dancing With The Stars fame, has been added to the lineup.
In order to handle their loaded lineup, the MGM Grand Garden Arena will use a giant rotating stage equipped to handle two acts. This means that while one act performs, another can setup behind the scenes. This Lazy Susan setup should cut down on the time between sets significantly. Tom Poleman, the president of National Programming Platforms at Clear Channel, estimates only five minutes between bands.
The MGM Grand Garden Arena will be packed with tens of thousands of people, however the potential audience for the iHeartRadio Music Festival is much, much larger.
In each radio market across the country, iHeartRadio owners Clear Channel will air the festival live on one of their stations. (Here in Las Vegas, that station is 93.1-FM KPLV.) Meanwhile, those with an Xbox Live account will be able to stream live HD video through their gaming devices, and anybody with an Internet connection can watch the festival live at iheartradio.com iheartradio.com or 93.1’s website.
The iHeartRadio Music Festival is not about making money for owners Clear Channel, at least not in the short term. The festival is a promotion for the re-launch of iHeartRadio as a viable competitor against Pandora, the dominant online radio service.
Pandora allows users to create personalized radio stations by starting with an artist or song they like and tailoring the station using “like” and “dislike” ratings of suggested songs. In its previous form, iHeartRadio only allowed the streaming of terrestrial stations. Now, with the revamping, iHeartRadio allows user-controlled stations in addition to streaming traditional stations. Poleman claims iHeartRadio offers 10 times the number of songs as Pandora, and he touts their social media tie-in features as superior.
Currently, only 3 percent of radio listeners are listening online, but that number is large enough to get Clear Channel’s attention. “We know that number is growing,” Poleman says.
Clear Channel’s public and costly focus on iHeartRadio is a bold step, meant to stop what happened to Blockbuster after Netflix arrived on the scene (i.e., bankruptcy) from happening to terrestrial radio station owners.
“A lot of broadcasters are fearful of Internet radio,” says Poleman. “We have taken the opposite approach. We need to be everywhere the listeners are.”