Days before the giant, all-female Lilith tour kicks off in Calgary, the festival's co-founder is not ruling out cancelling more of its dates. In one of the most difficult summers for concert promoters in recent memory, Terry McBride says ticket sales for Lilith have fallen short of expectations.
"Lilith's been doing better than almost anything else, but it's soft. It is just brutal," says McBride, CEO of the Nettwerk Music Group. "We're still going to have great shows, but a lot of people are ... buying late."
So late, he says, that he and his partners (including headliner Sarah McLachlan) are examining the books weekly to determine how to proceed.
The last thing I want is snow on Lilith in Edmonton. It's not going to help my cause any. Nettwerk CEO Terry McBride
"People are waiting so long [to buy tickets]so ... you kind of don't know when to make up your mind. If we do cancel any [shows] it's not because we want to. It's because we just can't take the risk of everyone buying in the last week. I don't want to screw around artists too. There's a lot of things to weigh here.
"It's a week-by-week situation. We'll look at it again. We look at it every single week. We kind of have to."
When asked whether he considered cancelling the tour, McBride said: "You've always got to look at that, because there's obviously a cost to do a show. And if you don't think that you're going to get there, how much are you willing to lose?"
Lilith's Nashville and Phoenix shows have been cancelled. But McBride says Nashville was cut so artists could take part in benefit concerts for flood relief, and said there were "a number of reasons" for the Phoenix cancellation - which appear to include Arizona's controversial new immigration law.
In Canada, specials have been offered on tickets, and shows in Vancouver, Edmonton and Montreal have been moved. Soft ticket sales were only partly to blame. People in Vancouver were put off, McBride says, by the perceived distance to the original venue in Pitt Meadows. In Montreal, McBride says the Bell Centre offered a better set-up. And in Edmonton, weather was a factor in the decision to move indoors (although the B stage will still be outside). "It snowed there [recently]" McBride says. "And the last thing I want is snow on Lilith in Edmonton. It's not going to help my cause any."
Lilith, whose artists include McLachlan, Sheryl Crow, Kelly Clarkson and Mary J. Blige (McLachlan is the only artist to play every show), is now scheduled to play 34 dates across North America, beginning in Calgary on Sunday.
The original Lilith Fair was a groundbreaking and highly successful event, running from 1997 to 1999.