Billy Strings

He’s big everywhere but Texas. And maybe Santa Barbara. But in the rest of America HE SELLS OUT!

This is the artist development story of the year, and it’s been growing for the last half decade. Strings is finally breaking through.

You might have seen him briefly during the Grammy telecast, then again he was on that outdoor stage playing during commercial, so if you blinked, you missed him. And nobody watched the Grammy telecast anyway, at least no one on the cutting edge, who believes in music as opposed to stardom.

You won’t find Billy Strings in the Spotify Top 50. His success is not hit-based.

Used to be success of this magnitude was impossible without a ton of radio play on a specific track. But the recordings are not selling Billy Strings tickets, it’s the experience. As opposed to going out with production, hard drives, click tracks…his performances are organic, they evidence humanity, and that’s the essence of attraction. Machines are cold, blood is warm.

Now if you read through the concert grosses you’ll notice that they don’t align with the aforementioned Spotify Top 50. That’s a different game. Of course Olivia Rodrigo is doing well, but almost all of the big sellers are heritage acts. However, these numbers can be skewed, by virtue of who is on tour, the venues they’re playing, what they’re charging for tickets, was the gross even reported… But in truth, most of today’s hit music is not live-based, it’s recording-based, and the two worlds don’t necessarily align.

So Billy Strings sold an average of 4,457 tickets per show. For a gross of $251,545 per gig. Selling 94% of the tickets available.

Strings went clean at Red Rocks. 18,650 tickets for a gross of $1,78,178. Tickets were only $55 to $60, and Red Rocks is like the Hollywood Bowl, stuff sells out there that doesn’t elsewhere, but notice this is a different ethos from the touring dinosaurs. Tickets are cheap because music is the draw, as opposed to image. Yes, there was an article about Strings in “Relix,” but you won’t find him on the gossip sites, you don’t know who he’s dating, you don’t see him in TV commercials. Strings is the antithesis of the twenty first century paradigm, which is you maximize your income right away, because you may not last.

Strings only did 98% in Saint Augustine, Florida. But there were three shows. 13,637 tickets were sold. The gross was $720,261. Tickets were $39.50 to $74.50.

Like I said, Strings couldn’t sell every ticket in Santa Barbara, he only sold 80% of two gigs. Then again, the second was on Sunday, and it’s always harder to move tickets on that day as opposed to Friday and Saturday. But Strings grossed $518,755 on 7,859 tickets priced from $39.50 to $84.50.

Strings sold out two shows in Cincinnati $8,653 for a gross of $376,783. And tickets were under a hundred dollars, as they were for all of the Strings shows.

Strings went clean in Austin, which is almost a separate state from the rest of Texas, 4,374 tickets sold for a gross of $275,423.

Clean in San Diego: 4,370 sold for a gross of $220,235.

Clean in Denver at the Mission Ballroom: 3,803/$212,940.

But Strings was “soft” in Irving, TX, 84% sold: 3,641/$196,849.

Clean in Boston: 3,500/$176,086.

Clean in Cleveland: 3,119/$169,105.

54% in Houston: 2,512/$138,831. But that was a Thursday night in April. And that’s the last gig/gross Billy Strings has on the chart.

Now if you’ve been paying attention, you know that Kate Bush has a #1 record with “Running Up That Hill” as a result of the track being featured in the new season of “Stranger Things.” Most of the talk is about the value of a synch. But really, that’s not what I think is important. I believe this is an INTERNET story. Used to be product had to be manufactured, labels would have to promote it to radio, there was an inherent delay, momentum was lost and therefore most companies didn’t even try to amplify the use of a catalog cut. But with everything available online instantly, if you hear something you like you can immediately play it.

And anyone around back then, in 1985 when the track was originally released, knows “Running Up That Hill” is both different and better than what’s being sold today. Come on, compare it to the rest of the Spotify Top 50, it’s not even in the LEAGUE!

And we’ve seen this story again and again with the internet. The most famous example being that Fleetwood Mac song being featured in that TikTok clip.

You see greatness never fades, it’s just waiting for the light to shine on it once again, for new generations to be exposed.

Now “Running Up That Hill” went to #3 in the U.K. back in the eighties, but nowhere close in the U.S. They say it went to #30, but I don’t know a single person who got turned on to Kate Bush by Top 40 radio. There must have been some sales. But there was MTV airplay. But the video was not ubiquitous. But Kate Bush is an entire ethos, outside the mainstream, I remember buying “The Kick Inside” and being stunned at her voice and loving “Wuthering Heights.” Bush wasn’t even mainstream back then.

But all the gatekeepers have changed.

And in truth it is the public that is the gatekeeper.

So youngsters drive fresh product made for them up the chart, and this is promoted, but it’s only a small part of the music world today, many never listen to these “hits” at all. They’re foraging for something different, heartfelt songs. With melodies. Which is one of the reasons Morgan Wallen’s double album “Dangerous” is still Top Ten eighteen months in.

And there’s the whole player community. Keeping the music stores alive. People who marvel at playing. And that’s very different from the hit parade. Where it’s computer beats or some nitwit singing a song written by committee selected by their handlers and released in a gussied-up, overproduced final version.

We are going to see more examples of the Billy Strings paradigm.

And I’m not saying it’s going to dominate the business. It takes years to get the word out, to permeate every community, but that’s where the internet helps. And you don’t need radio AT ALL! And since the shows live and breathe, are different each time, you want to go back and experience it again.

I don’t think you’ll get it if you pull up Strings’s songs on Spotify. It’s not like he’s got a transcendent voice. But you will hear the picking. But it’s all refined, aligned in the studio. Whereas live, it’s a CELEBRATION!

And we all know you can only get this hit at the show. Web streams can’t compete, they’re a poor facsimile.

Strings is gonna get bigger. But who is the next Strings? Someone who’s been doing it for years, practicing in the shadows, not spamming the labels to sign them for an instant hit.

This is a great story, I can’t wait for more!

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