What Would You Say? Dave Matthews Tours Without a New Album

The Dave Matthews Band’s tour starting June 19 in Columbus, Ohio, has the band playing 52 stadium and arena shows in 29 cities with an expected attendance totaling more than 1.5 million fans.

There’s one thing missing, though: a new album.

Few acts mount major tours without a new album (or, in business parlance, “product”) to sell. The fact is this tour was originally planned to coincide with a new release, but the Charlottesville, Va., band hasn’t finished it, and now it’s not due until November.

But all those folks coming to the shows won’t be wasted, as far as commerce goes. The band and RCA Records are rolling out a plan to make the most of the opportunity: A bus traveling on the tour will be armed with computer terminals that allow fans to, among other things, hear samples from the album-in-progress and--more important--pull out their credit cards to pre-order the release. The consumers will be allowed to make their own choice of which retailer they want to order from, and on the album’s release date a copy will arrive at their homes in the mail.


“I think we can have as many as 200,000 pre-orders before the street date for the album,” says Bruce Flohr, RCA senior vice president of A&R;/artist development. “Maybe that’s a pipe dream, but how many artists can sell out stadiums without the advantage of new music in the marketplace?”

That number of pre-release sales would be noteworthy, says Bob Bell, new music buyer for the national Wherehouse chain.

“So far online pre-orders are still a small fraction of the numbers being done at retail,” says Bell, who doesn’t know enough of the Matthews plan to predict the impact.

Not that the DMB really needs the help.

Each of its major-label studio albums has sold between 3.5 million and 5 million copies in the U.S., while the band’s three live albums--with almost no significant promotional campaigning--have each sold more than 1 million.

The bus is being put on the road under the auspices of, a music merchandise and information Web site founded by the band’s manager, Coran Capshaw. The plan is for it to set up in the parking lot before every show--where Matthews fans traditionally congregate throughout even multi-day stands. A few tents will be erected to house the computers, and a sound system will play unreleased live and rare material. And on days with no shows scheduled, the bus will head to various recreation sites (beaches, parks, etc.) or events.

Incentive to order ahead of release--in addition to potential convenience--will probably be offered, such as online access to a downloadable version of the first single later in the summer and perhaps some streaming video of recording sessions. In addition, many concertgoers who don’t get a chance to use the bus computers will be given “flash card” discs they can use at home to order via the MusicToday site.

“Nothing has been done like this before, involving a presence on site at concerts,” says Hugh Serratt, RCA senior vice president of artist development. “But tailgating is a big part of the experience for DMB shows, so this literally allows people to hang out around the bus and tents listening to DMB music, looking at videos, etc.”



ROYAL FLUSH: Rather than get caught in the recent collapse of the ambitious Internet programming venture Digital Entertainment Network (DEN), the company’s music division, headed by former Capitol Records President Gary Gersh and manager John Silva, seems to have been freed to move ahead.

With Rage Against the Machine having joined its G.A.S. Entertainment management roster (which also includes the Beastie Boys, Foo Fighters and Beck), the pair is now negotiating major-label distribution for Grand Royal, the multimedia company owned by the three Beastie Boys. Grand Royal had come into the DEN fold after its Capitol deal expired at the start of the year, but it had been paralyzed as DEN fell apart.

Grand Royal President Mark Kates lists Sean Lennon and Buffalo Daughter among those on the Grand Royal roster working on new albums, with new collections also on tap from At the Drive In and Bran Van 3000, acts Gersh signed to DEN before Grand Royal came on board. In addition, the Beasties’ company is making plans to fulfill long-standing plans for forays into a wider range of film, Internet and merchandising territories.


BMG and Virgin have been mentioned prominently as vying for the Grand Royal deal, though sources close to the situation say that others have been in play as well.


VOICING OPINIONS: There are some surprising voices that pop up on Wyclef Jean’s upcoming “Ecleftic: Two Sides of a Book,” due July 25. At the top of the list must be Kenny Rogers, who turns up to deliver a wry, dry reworking of “The Gambler” with lyrics and backing tracks altered to reflect a hip-hop sensibility.

But the voices that are likely to get the most raised eyebrows around the music business are those that open the album--vocal caricatures of Sony Music Chairman and Chief Executive Thomas D. Mottola and Columbia Records Chairman Don Ienner, pleading with Wyclef to reunite with Lauryn Hill and Pras for a new Fugees album. Apparently it’s an issue Wyclef can’t escape, with the next track a rap “Where the Fugees At?” in which he says that everyone keeps asking him about the group.


That, in fact, is where Rogers comes in, his “know when to hold ‘em/know when to fold ‘em” line here referring to turntables rather than cards and emphasizing that for now at least, the Fugees are apparently folded. Neither Hill nor Pras appears on the album, though both Mary J. Blige and Wyclef’s sister, Melky, sing in guest spots.