When rapper Kanye West pulled the plug this week on the Nationwide Arena concert scheduled for tonight, the cancellation marked the latest in a string of high-profile no-shows for Columbus. The Jonas Brothers, Elton John, Bob Dylan, Chaka Khan - they, too, have backed out of performances here in recent months. What gives?
When rapper Kanye West pulled the plug this week on the Nationwide Arena concert scheduled for tonight, the cancellation marked the latest in a string of high-profile no-shows for Columbus.
The Jonas Brothers, Elton John, Bob Dylan, Chaka Khan — they, too, have backed out of performances here in recent months.
The cluster of departures is coincidental, industry officials say, and not necessarily unusual.
“The live business is unpredictable,” said Gary Bongiovanni, editor-in-chief of the concert-industry publication Pollstar. “There aren’t a lot of absolutely-have-to-play markets (for A-list stars).”
The Wednesday announcement from West’s camp put the kibosh on the Columbus date as well as previously booked gigs in Denver, Minneapolis, Montreal, St. Louis and Vancouver.
The news wasn’t entirely unexpected — the rapper had already nixed earlier concerts in four other cities after a truck crash last week left some of his customized stage props damaged — but it left central Ohio concertgoers hanging until 48 hours before showtime.
His “Yeezus” tour is now set to resume on Nov. 16 in Philadelphia.
As for the other recent Columbus cancellations, the explanations varied:
• Last month, the Jonas Brothers — engaged in a sibling feud — not only backed out of an Oct. 24 stop in Columbus but also their entire tour.
• Elton John in September cited a “scheduling conflict” in abandoning plans for his Nov. 20 concert at Nationwide Arena. Other contiguous dates, however, remain a go.
• No reason was given when the ax fell on a July stop at Nationwide for a bill featuring Bob Dylan, My Morning Jacket and Wilco.
• Chaka Khan blamed strained vocal cords when, a week before a June 14 appearance, she pulled out of the Picnic With the Pops season opener at Columbus Commons.
Regardless of the prestige of an act, Bongiovanni said, backing out — especially at the last minute — doesn’t help performers.
“From a career standpoint, it’s never good to cancel,” he said. “It tarnishes their image — a little, at least, if not drastically.”
A potential salve to fans is whether or not the act offers an alternate date.
Last month, when the rapper Drake bailed on a Value City Arena concert, he rescheduled for Dec. 13 at Nationwide Arena.
Like West, John and Dylan did not reschedule; Khan was replaced by the Pointer Sisters.
The fallout from a cancellation that isn’t rescheduled is widespread, affecting most directly the fans who buy tickets for a show as well as the venue that booked it.
Venue officials say they worry first about ticketholders.
“We want to make an inconvenient situation as convenient as we can for our guests,” said Nationwide Arena spokeswoman Leslie Lane.
Facebook and Twitter have proved effective in helping to communicate a cancellation, but late changes complicate such efforts, said Marissa Luther, marketing director for PromoWest Productions, whose venue stable includes the LC Pavilion and Newport Music Hall.
A recent example, she said, was the scheduled Oct. 21 performance by British pop singer Emeli Sande — canceled on the afternoon of the show because of “unforeseen personal issues.”
For out-of-town ticketholders, the frustration was only heightened.
Said Bongiovanni: “You’re disappointing fans. People have allocated time to go to a show, arranged a baby sitter.”
There are other ripple effects, too.
For part-time venue employees — concession-stand workers, ticket-takers, security officers — no concert means no paycheck.
At Nationwide Arena, Lane said, losing out on a full house might mean 400 people go without those earnings.
Venues, too, lose income — from food, drink and merchandise sales. They also can take a hit from money spent on pre-show promotions and marketing.
Neither Lane nor Luther would discuss financial specifics related to the cancellation clauses of A-list artists, noting that every contract differs.
Bongiovanni said the venue and the artist are both hurt under such circumstances, with the musician who rescinds the performance likely to suffer more in the pocketbook.
Luther said she has noticed a few more cancellations in recent months, but the number is “really not that big” in the context of her employer’s busy music itinerary.
Such perspective, though, provides little consolation to Chris Elam, a longtime Kanye West fan who’d planned to take a break from his studies at Lincoln Trail College in eastern Illinois to drive today to Columbus for the concert.
“We all know Kanye — he has to put on a big, grand display,” said Elam, 18, a native of West Chester, Ohio, who said he might catch a Chicago show but is put off by the higher ticket price there.
“It would have been great to just hear the music.”