Michelle Obama and the Clintons are touring music venues. Talk is no longer cheap
The political book tour is going rock star-level big, and you don't even need a book to go on one.Posted — Updated
A week after the election, Michelle Obama is kicking off her "Becoming" tour. Five days later, Bill and Hillary Clinton begin their "An Evening With" tour. Both are billed as "conversations" (Obama's as "intimate"), and both are produced by Live Nation.
Obama's tour, promoting her forthcoming memoir, has stops at venues with larger capacities. She will open her tour at Chicago's United Center, the largest arena in the NBA with a capacity of more than 20,000, though it can also accommodate smaller crowds, and will visit other large arenas. Ticket prices ranged from less than $30 to more than $2,000 for front section meet-and-greet packages. Many of her tickets are now sold out, and after it was announced, two additional dates were added, at Capitol One Arena in Washington and Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
The Clintons' tour is smaller. They have no book to promote, and Hillary Clinton is unpopular. A September Gallup poll found her favorable rating to be 36%. The Clintons' tour opens at the Park Theater in Las Vegas, home to residencies by Cher and Lady Gaga with a capacity of 5,200. Much of their tour will take place in theaters, and they will visit venues with large arena capacity in Canada. The Clintons and Obama both have dates at The Forum in Los Angeles, with a capacity up to 17,500. Tickets near the front for Clinton's tour are often several hundred dollars cheaper than for Obama's, with some front row sections going for less than $200.
Big political book tours were previously held at retailers like Barnes & Noble, where Hillary Clinton held signings for her books "What Happened" and "Hard Choices." Costco hosted signings for Clinton as well as for Sarah Palin's "Going Rogue" in 2009 and George W. Bush's "Decision Points" in 2010. But these type of book tours could soon come to a concert venue near you.
"The live music business is really robust right now," and other live events, like conversations with authors and live podcasts, are similarly seeing a growing audience, said Donna Westmoreland, COO of IMP, a company that runs D.C. music venues.
In 2017, to promote his book "Promise Me Dad," Joe Biden went on a 36-stop "American Promise" tour. He visited venues with capacities of up to several thousands and included special guest moderators every night, like Melinda Gates, Tom Brokaw, and Jenna Bush Hager. His tour wrapped this June.
The Anthem, one of IMP's venues with a capacity of up to 6,000, hosted Joe Biden's "American Promise" stop in D.C. and Pod Save America. Another one of the company's venues, Lincoln Theater, will host a conversation with "Fear" author Bob Woodward in December.
Westmoreland called Obama's two nights at Washington's massive Capitol One Arena "mind blowing."
"That's not an intimate experience," she said. "It's a reflection of how many people want to hear her."
Perhaps the biggest "touring" politician in the country right now is President Trump, who hasn't stopped holding campaign rallies since the election. He went on a "Thank You" tour after the election, and has held about two dozen "Make America Great Again" rallies so far in support of midterm candidates. Trump's venues include fairgrounds and local arenas and civic centers with capacities in the thousands.
Live Nation did not respond to questions about whether it has plans for further big political tours, but with former President Obama's post-White House book still to come, there's likely more arenas to be filled.
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