Will Kings of Leon be the Eagles of the Future?

Posted by Rob Walker on August 21, 2009
Posted Under: Music

John Seabrook’s interesting New Yorker story about the concert business (abstract here; no full text online I guess), included an assertion that I found hard to swallow. Seabrook at one point wonders to Irving Azoff about the prospects of the concert business when the current crop of aging mega acts  leaves the road.

Azoff: “Taylor Swift — and she’s not even my client! — or the Kings of Leon. These are career artists that are going to be around for a long time.”

Okay, but, Seabrook writes: “Would they fill stadiums and arenas forty years into their careers, as the Eagles do?”

Azoff: “Absolutely.”

Now, Azoff has obvious bias on this matter, so maybe I shouldn’t even be thinking about it. But I find the assertion dubious. What do you think?

Further diversion may be found at MKTG Tumblr, and the Consumed Facebook page.

Reader Comments

Thank you for flagging that. It was definitely an awkward part of that piece. Wasn’t Seabrook suggesting that the tentpole acts are aging out of the business (there just can’t be many more Stones tours left for this world) and implying that era is basically over? I don’t know what kind of venues those acts play but having it sustain seems kinda unlikely. Somebody must have some numbers about lifecycle/career arc of acts that came out at various times. Pearl Jam and REM have struggled, haven’t they? I am talking outa my ass, a bit, but I’m wondering about who from this decade is going to maintain that level of concert audience.

I believe, as Seabrook seems to, that they’ll be around, but I don’t believe, as Seabrook implies by his question, that they’ll be playing stadia.

Sorry for just restating everything that has been said. But I would like to see a chart about trajectory based on decade of launch.

Written By Steve Portigal on August 21st, 2009 @ 3:07 pm

Wait, didn’t I imply by my question that they wouldn’t be playing stadia?

Written By John Seabrook on August 21st, 2009 @ 5:52 pm

John S., yes, you did, sorry if I characterized otherwise. My big picture read is the same as yours. My skepticism is aimed at Azoff, not you. Good piece!

Steve P., I’m interested in the Pearl Jam/REM point — I don’t know the data on that, but basically: Yeah, I can’t imagine REM having an Eagles-y afterlife, let alone Kings of Leon.

The only reason I even bring any of this up as a question is that, you know, I’m old. Maybe somehow the Kings of Leon have an Eagles-like impact on culture today that I’ve missed. Anything’s possible!

Written By Rob Walker on August 21st, 2009 @ 6:58 pm

There are a couple at least- Radiohead, U2. I think those acts will, for better, but most likely worse, be around awhile. For a long time I believed that U2 were grooming the next generation for Las Vegas, but now I’m not so sure. I think they’ll maintain stadia bombast levels well into their Rolling Stones/Paul McCartney years. Kings of Leon I have no idea about. But if we are talking REM/Pearl Jam, I think U2/Radiohead fit a little better. At this point I’d just like to point out that I think the Eagles and U2 are pretty crummy.

Written By cousin lymon on August 22nd, 2009 @ 12:34 am

Hey CL. Obviously right on U2, I imagine they will indeed fill huge arenas for as long as they walk. Radiohead is an interesting one.

As for the Eagles: You can stab them with your steely knife but etc etc

Written By Rob Walker on August 22nd, 2009 @ 8:52 am

It seems implausible to me too – the market is and has been much too fractured for too long. I’d guess it will be like TV programs, when there was less choice there was a greater percentage of the population watching, ergo more cultural buzz, ergo more force of nostalgia later.

Might there not also be a problem due to the radio formatting of the 80’s onwards which slotted in inoffensive resolutely non-classic “classic rock” along side those 60’s and 70’s classics instead of engendering new audience tastes?

Written By Andrew Condon on August 22nd, 2009 @ 10:16 am

I can’t imagine KoL doing those big arena tours for decades to come, i reckon they’re hitting it so hard now cause that’s not what they want to be doing in years to come, to be honest i can’t see them wanting to do the same things in a decade.
I’m pretty sure they’ll have the offers but i feel that’ not where they’re at. What they’re doing now isn’t gonna be around forever. They’re setting themselves up for creative freedom – and success – for their more personal ventures.
I’m excited to see what is to come! They’re fascinating and when you cut the bs you see quite clearly, those guys are genius.
Considering things that way, i forgive them for Only By The Night. There’s more going on.

Written By Lolo on August 22nd, 2009 @ 5:56 pm

im (choke) 59 years old.. a huge nine inch nails fan.. love tool… this year i took my 3 kids and husband to see kings of leon and no i didnt come to this band via ‘sex on fire’ .. i do my research .. have all! of their cd’s and love their deep and wonderful music and incredible backstory.. i will say this .. if they want to.. they will be around for a long LONG time.. they are first and foremost excellent and sophisticated musicians.. this fact can not be over looked. anyone who has seen this band live can attest to this. secondly they care about their fans… at the san diego show last night .. many people left after the second hour .. thats when the band really pulled out the stops and poured their heart and souls out for many more songs for those of us who stayed.. true fans who were there for more than ‘sex on fire’..

and to conclude.. this band has a back story that could only happen in America … Pentecostal preacher father .. traveling as small children from state to state ‘spreading the word’ later living through the divorce of their parents.. the falling of the father from the church and into alcoholism … they themselves 3 brothers and a cousin forming this band… just all the elements that make them an American story to watch… to cherish and to remember.

Written By jayne on August 22nd, 2009 @ 7:25 pm

Seems pretty self-evident: There won’t be any groups with touring pull akin to Eagles because there aren’t any groups that sell equivalent amounts of music. Eagles’ best of album has sold 20, 25M +. Plus the other individual albums, etc. Nothing remotely like that on the horizon, and hasn’t been for years.

Which means that the very last mega-touring act will be U2, and perhaps a couple of the country acts (Rascal Flatts? You tell me – I don’t follow country as well as I should).

Doesn’t mean that KOL, or the many jam bands, or whatever, can’t or won’t have long-lived touring acts. Just not at the same scale.

Written By Peter Kafka on August 23rd, 2009 @ 12:08 pm

Peter: Great to hear from you! Where’ve you been?

On the big picture you seem to agree with everyone, from Seabrook to me to … well, everyone.

On the specific thing about record sales as a barometer, I thought all you digital-expert dudes said that such things don’t matter any more b/c free downloads/sharing help artists. I’m sure many millions own Kings of Leon music via download, probably on a scale not far from how many owned Eagles records in their heyday, right?

I sort of know your answer to that, and again we are clearly in agreement on the real point here, but I’m not sure record sales is what makes it “self evident.”

Written By Rob Walker on August 24th, 2009 @ 12:30 pm
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