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The Backstreet Phenomenon

The Backstreet Boys seem to break records faster than they make them. The Florida quintet sold out their entire 11-week, 39-cities North American tour in record time Saturday, with most of the 765,000 available tickets getting snapped up within a mere hour. "The Backstreet Boys are incredibly hot right now, and the young kids they appeal to are a very active demographic in the concert-sales market," says Gary Bongiovanni, editor-in-chief of Pollstar, a trade magazine covering live shows. Tickets were priced from $28.50 to $38.50, and final sales estimates rolled in around $30 million. Records were set from Birmingham to Boston, as fans formed mile-long lines and jammed the Ticketmaster phone lines and Website. Members of the screaming, Backstreet-worshiping masses, who actually scored tickets, were justifiably ecstatic. Those who missed out were downtrodden at the prospect of being shut out of a chance to see their idols on stage. "I feel like someone took a knife and stabbed me in the heart," says one dejected fan on a Backstreet newsgroup (alt.fan.backstreet.boys) after hours of waiting in line for naught. "It's absolutely heartbreaking." Other fans hope the multimillion-dollar statement will erase any New Kids on the Block disappearing act comparisons. "Hopefully, this can rub off the boy-band image people label them with," writes another newsgroup participant. "They aren't flash in the pans or one hit wonders. They have the voices and the goods to stick around for years to come." History doesn't bode well for the staying power of teen bands, however. "They are incredibly hot now, but unfortunately, the landscape is lined with ex-teen stars," says Bongiovanni. "The fact of life is that their core audience has a very short attention span, and as they grow up, they turn more to other musical acts. The New Kids used to sell out stadiums, and three years later, they couldn't sell out a club tour." Still, Backstreet's popularity shows no immediate signs of waning. The popsters reigned at the top of the album charts for the past 12 weeks, duking it out for No. 1 with Limp Bizkit, and their second album, Millennium, has sold more than 12 million copies since its May debut. Millennium holds the record for most albums sold in one week (1.13 million). The tour opens in their hometown of Fort Lauderdale September 14 and ends in Tampa December 2.

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