Things are about to get busy for the 500 or so part-time employees of Tampa's MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre. For full-time staff, it'll be even busier.
"Through the summertime, we put our hours in," said David Harb, the venue's general manager. "We have a lot of fun. We work really hard, we play really hard, and towards the end of the year — October, November, December — we get to take a step back and relax."
From Saturday's concert by Daryl Hall and John Oates to upcoming shows by the likes of Keith Urban, Slipknot and Snoop Dogg, this will be one of the busiest summers ever at Tampa's 12-year-old shed, owned and managed by Live Nation through a long-term lease from the Florida State Fair Authority. The Amp has currently has 25 events on the books for May to the end of August, up from 19 in 2015, 17 in 2014 and 15 in 2013.
In other words, weekends off are in short supply.
"When we came to Tampa, we said our job is going to be to grow the entertainment business … and make Tampa an entertainment mecca," Harb said. "Which we have."
The bump in business mirrors Live Nation's greater corporate strategy over the past few years: More concerts equals more fans equals more revenue. Globally, more than 63 million fans attended Live Nation concerts in 2015, an increase of 12 percent from 2014, and ticket sales are up yet again in the first quarter of 2016, particularly in amphitheaters.
Where did all these new shows come from? In Tampa, some of them represent frequent return guests like Brad Paisley, Tim McGraw or Dave Matthews Band. Others are big names who haven't toured in a while, like the Dixie Chicks or Gwen Stefani. And still others are making the leap from large clubs and theaters into amphitheaters, occasionally as part of a co-headlining tour: Counting Crows and Rob Thomas, Dashboard Confessional and Taking Back Sunday, G-Eazy and Logic.
"What you want to do is package these artists to get the artists out to play a larger venue, and also to provide a value to the fan," Harb said. "If I'm a Dashboard Confessional fan and a Taking Back Sunday fan, and I can go see them both for one ticket price, that's a great value to me."
That's also the strategy behind the company's "$20 Passport to Summer," a promotion offering select tickets for $20 to concerts at all of its amphitheaters through Friday. Most Tampa shows are included in the deal (see box).
"What's important to us is not necessarily the guy that sits in the front row, but the guy that has to save his money to be on the lawn," Harb said. "That's the guy we care about. That's the guy who really has to think, 'Am I really going to get a steak, or am I going to get a hamburger so I can go to the concert?' "
Live Nation has to be competitive with ticket prices at the Amphitheatre because there are plenty of big shows elsewhere. In Fact, Live Nation is promoting a few concerts at Tampa's Amalie Arena, too, including Pitbull on July 30 and Drake and Future on Aug. 27 — the same night as a Brantley Gilbert show at the Amp.
"The nice thing about this summer is, not only are we busy, but the mix of music we have this year is nice," Harb said. "If you look at Tampa as a whole, and the fact that we have three performing arts centers, two arenas, an amphitheater and parks that do festivals like Vinoy and Coachman, we're the biggest little music city you'll ever go to."
Contact Jay Cridlin at [email protected] or (727) 893-8336. Follow @JayCridlin.