By Paul Cantor
Stadium status: rappers talk about it, but few live it. Jay-Z and Eminem, however, lived it large last night.
Eminem and Jay-Z's historic "Home & Home" kickoff at Detroit's Comerica Park featured epic cameos from Dr. Dre, Drake, D12, 50 Cent and G-Unit, and Young Jeezy. By all accounts (like Sway and Shaheem Reid's who live blogged Eminem and Jay-Z's opening night), these hip-hop titans used every inch of the place.
The opportunities for hip-hop acts to put on shows in huge stadiums are actually few and far between, though, even for artists of their caliber.
“There aren’t many stadium shows these days,” says Pollstar’s Editor-In-Chief Gary Bongiovanni. “The fact that they’re doing two shows in each of those cities is something pretty remarkable, although you have to note that Detroit and New York are hometowns for those two artists. So even though it’s a formidable package, I don’t know that it’d be successful in stadiums in other markets.”
One of the reasons why stadium shows are a rare occurrence for rap artists is because traditionally the acts struggle to bring the experience of their recorded music to the large stages. Whereas rock bands (as well as acts in other genres) traditionally start off on the road, building their audiences bit by bit and creating a history of being able to sell their fans tickets to their shows over and over again, hip-hop fan bases are built differently- often through mixtapes, through industry cosigns, through their actual recorded music. At shows, hip-hop acts often perform to backing tracks.
“There’s something intangible about artists that motivates people to see them live or buy their records, and it’s not always the same thing,” says Bongiovanni. “For whatever reason, [hip-hop] just doesn’t translate as well.”
But the Eminem/Jay-Z shows are in stadiums, at least in the artists’ hometowns, because right now there’s a demand for them. Nobody is hotter on the charts than Em, and Jay-Z has been building a touring history over the past few years. He knocked out the Blueprint 3 arena tour earlier this year, playing to crowds of about 8,500 people per night.
“In Eminem’s case, he’s not toured very much,” says Bongiovanni. “So the pent up demand is there for him. Jay-Z has toured more, but neither one of them is extremely overexposed. With those two acts, in those two markets, it’s just a winning combination.”
It also boils down to economics. According to Bongiovanni, it costs a lot more to produce a concert in a stadium than in an arena. “If you’re going to sell 40 thousand tickets in a 60 thousand seat stadium,” he explains, “you would probably make more money by doing two nights, and selling out the arena shows. It’s still the same number of tickets, but a fraction of the overhead. And ticket prices have gotten so much higher in the last decade or so, artists can make a lot of money playing indoors.”