Mar 22, 2023 - Things to Do

Northwest Arkansas' concert scene is gaining notoriety

Illustration of a microphone cord forming a line chart going up.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

You can't buy more street cred for a music venue than having the Foo Fighters perform— at least in the opinion of Brian Crowne, who would know. He wears many hats in NWA’s music scene, including vice president of the Arkansas Music Pavilion and co-owner of George's Majestic Lounge.

Driving the news: NWA is beginning to see more prominent headliners on its concert calendar. Tickets for the Foo Fighters' June tour stop at Walmart AMP sold out 22 minutes after going public, Crowne said. It's one of three U.S. non-festival concerts the band announced.

  • Country sensation Garth Brooks sold out 80,000 tickets at Razorback Stadium last year. The Momentary just announced Wu-Tang Clan. The AMP also has Snoop Dogg and Eric Church on deck. And the list goes on.

The intrigue: Crowne credits much of the AMP's ability to attract big-name artists to word of mouth, adding there's a ripple effect on other venues.

  • "The artists in the industry and the agents and the managers — they talk to each other. They have limited amounts of dates that they want to play, and they will pick places they want to go to," he told Axios.
  • The AMP, which opened in 2009, expanded in time for the 2021 concert series, investing in backstage accommodations. Because musicians and their crews live on the road while on tour, services as small as laundry go a long way towards building good will.
  • Musician Megan Trainor performed at the AMP in 2016. "Her agent was worried to death that pop music wasn't going to sell … because they didn't know where Rogers, Arkansas was. We had the No. 1 ticket count in the country," Crowne said, adding Trainor's experience opened the door for One Direction's Niall Horan's 2018 performance. Likewise, Dave Matthews' experience helped draw Phish in 2021.

Zoom out: The Momentary in Bentonville offers a midsize concert venue with a capacity of 5,000 attendees — about half what the AMP can hold but larger than most NWA venues. The museum also wants to offer a variety of genres and to book artists who are popular in larger cities and Europe, spokesperson Amanda Horn told Axios.

  • Italian musician Caterina Barbieri will perform at The Momentary in April. Her only other U.S. tour stops are New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Knoxville, Tennessee.
  • The concept for the museum always included hosting events including concerts, Horn told Axios. The museum opened just before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, causing its closure and later delays. It's since hosted electronic music and bluegrass festivals and artists like hip-hop group Run the Jewels.

What's next: The AMP announced Monday it will default to digital tickets and a rotating QR code to reduce scalping and scams.

Of note: Talk of hosting the Garth Brooks concert started in 2019, when he had done a few campus stadium shows and was looking to find iconic venues, Hunter Yurachek, U of A's director of athletics, told Axios in an email through a spokesperson.

  • "With all that it takes to host a concert in Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium, it is probably something we would only consider every 4-5 years at the most," Yurachek said when asked whether the university will host big concerts in the future.

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