The Dixie Chicks and their camp will continue their struggle this week to figure out where their own Mason-Dixon Line lies on a map of America's arenas. The reason is that ticket sales for their upcoming road run, the Accidents & Accusations Tour, have not as gone as they expected; basically, in many Southern states and Midwest markets, the Chicks have not been forgiven for perceived political sins of the past. Concert industry watchers say some radio station chiefs are extending their boycott of the group's recordings to include advertising bans for the group's concerts.
"Obviously there are political overtones to this," says Gary Bongiovanni, editor of Pollstar, the concert industry trade publication. "It personally bothers me when I hear that two country stations in Atlanta have refused to accept advertising for the show at Philips Arena, which at this point is not selling well. These shows are in September, so I think it's a little early to be panicking."
There are two major country music stations in Atlanta, Kicks 101.5 and Eagle 106.7, and airplay statistics show that neither has played a Chicks song since 2003, when Chicks singer Natalie Maines fired the insult heard 'round the world at President Bush from a stage in England.
The Chicks don't appear to be losing their heads, but they are recalibrating their Accidents & Accusations Tour. "The tour is not being postponed or canceled at all," group spokeswoman Kathy Best said. "There is a reshuffling of dates.... There will be some cancellations due to rerouting and additional dates being added."
It's not as simple as avoiding cities with a Southern accent; the new music by the Chicks has been yanked in Miami and Salt Lake City.
"In the first two weeks their new album has sold 800,000 copies and it's a No. 1 record, so you know there's an audience for the Dixie Chicks," Bongiovanni said. "But when country radio is not playing their music, boycotting their records and not accepting advertising for their shows, that sets up certain obstacles."
-- Geoff Boucher and Randy Lewis