Thanks for writing this Bob.
What has been core for Wesley and Jeremiah from the beginning is that they are true songwriters driven by creating full ALBUMS. In our age of disposable content they are consistently producing art that will live far beyond any one moment. That authenticity translates, fans feel it and own it. It also materializes into a captivating show that can move tickets because the set is not driven by any one song.
In 2012 in one of your newsletters you made mention of the band with the context “They’re on Dualtone!!”. Ten years and four albums later, they still are and we couldn’t be prouder.
Kudos to any incredible team and a once in a generation band.
Hey Bob –
I am glad you caught the article and took the time to shine some light on the recent successes of The Lumineers. I wish I could say you have just been out of the loop, but you captured the exact reaction I’ve been hearing about the band for over a decade.
This year in particular the band has risen to another level and I’ve made a point to cover a lot of shows and get industry folks out to see it in person, and the comments are always the same…
“Holy shit I had no idea”
“This is a SHOW”
I think the disconnect has been due to the fact that artist development isn’t flashy. It is hard work. It doesn’t get press. It doesn’t get clicks. These guys have worked their asses off for 10+ years to get to this point and did it the most difficult way possible.
And while you mentioned that it is all about the music, and that is true, it is only a half-truth. It is all about the SHOW. That has been the key to the band’s touring development. That is the special sauce.
Wes and Jer’s vision has always been crystal clear when it comes to the live presentation. Every last detail about the show is considered and mulled over, and that comes through in the final performance. The music and show are more in line with Tom Petty and Springsteen than anything else. Authentic, catchy, well-crafted songs and the live show to back it up…
And we’ve always kept ticket prices reasonable, knowing that if we got people in the room they would be converted. I can say with 100% confidence there is not one person who has been to a Lumineers show that felt like they didn’t get their money’s worth. They may not love the music, but nobody is leaving the show saying “I can’t believe I paid $X for that.” Live music is supposed to be entertaining. So, if a casual fan leaves a show feeling they got a good value on their experience, there is a strong chance they will come see the band again. That’s it…it’s not complicated. It just takes a LONG time to get to the point of playing stadiums.
It also helps, as you pointed out, that the team is a well-oiled machine all pulling in the same direction, which is very rare. Not only Activist and MTG, but Dualtone (their label since day one), Jim Merlis (their publicist since day one), Richard Grabel (their attorney since day one), Rit Venerus (their business manager since day 1.5), and Sara Full (their TM/PM).
If you’re trying to build a career slowly over a decade, it only takes one bad apple on the team to poison the well; to cast doubt on decisions made or someone playing politics to try and further their own agenda with the band. We all know how that goes…
So, when we started looking at 2022 touring Coors was a no-brainer. We had sold 55K+ tickets at Fiddlers on the last cycle. And when the idea of Wrigley came up, we decided it was time to make a statement. And I hate the term “statement play”, because most of the time it isn’t. But the guys (and team) put their asses on the line when we decided to play Wrigley.
I don’t know if you noticed, but there wasn’t another show at Wrigley the weekend we played, and you have done this long enough to know what that means. It ain’t cheap to play a stadium. And it is damn near impossible when you aren’t sharing expenses with another show. There was a real possibility we could do 60%-70% business and the guys would be going home with a payday that was more in line with playing The Riv than Wrigley.
But to the band and team’s credit, we knew it was time to make people notice. We had been flying under the radar for so long when it comes to industry attention, the entire team was on board with taking a shot.
And it worked. (phew)
The Pollstar article isn’t mainstream, but we didn’t need mainstream coverage. Fans know about the band and the show. The story needed to be told to folks like yourself. People who have been doing this for decades and didn’t know what this band was about.
You asked who put the Pollstar thing together. Besides our publicist, Jim Merlis, the reason that issue is so thick is because of Louie and his team, Sara Winter-Banks in particular. She found out what the record number of ads was for a Pollstar issue and she was on a MISSION to beat it. I watched her badger a venue GM to sign a napkin committing to a full-page ad. She burned up the phones, laying down just the right amount of pressure to get everyone on board.
And I feel like that is where Louie and MTG differ. When they are in, they are IN. And they aren’t “in” on many acts, so their team is more dialed than any other when it comes to the nuts and bolts of making a tour successful. When they are on board, they take ownership and pay attention. Louie is a larger-than-life figure, an absolute legend in the industry who makes shit happen. But you don’t get there (or stay there) without a team than can execute the finer details at the highest level. And he will be the first to point his finger towards his team when asked about the success of The Lumineers.
So again, thanks for taking the time to give the band some ink. It is what we have been missing.
Hope to see you at Soldier Field!
WASSERMAN MUSIC CHICAGO
Regarding the Lumineers and “paying their dues… starting out at the bottom” –
I grew up in the town next to them, we’re about the same age. Wesley and Jeremiah are actually from Ramsey, NJ. It’s a small, compact area in the shadows of NYC, where really – sports are king. Especially for the youth and gaining notoriety within your local community. A county high school athlete of the week is illuminated in the brightest of lights while the artists were considered the freaks, which was totally fine by us because it was the freaks who rose above while many of the athletes ultimately fell hard. But Wesley & Jeremiah woodshed and then woodshed some more. Quietly. In turn, it proved how passionate and sincere they were about their craft.
We had a mutual friend who owned a bar in a neighborhood area of the city. It was a sports bar, of course. The Lumineers would play there, just to have a chance to play. Often to a handful of people. Sometimes for only staff and passersby. Then…. they moved to Denver (W & J), the music became simplified, refined and clear. The launch of Mumford & Sons helped in terms of timing. But my point is, the Lumineers just never stopped. People were and are attracted to them because of the no frills. What you hear on the record can also be played on an acoustic alone, outside of the ball park. They touch important subject matters and have forged genuine relationships. One of them happens to be with a younger group called CAAMP, a band the Lumineers have now taken under their wing, and happen to be in a very similar genre. Go figure.
Your letter poses a question. Where we are to think there’s a confusing or complicated answer. But really – it’s very simple. The Lumineers are just sincere. I highly doubt they’d ever want another “Ho Hey”. They’re storytellers who are happy to share an old one, but seem more excited to tell new ones that are based off fundamental strengths.
Where we are? I don’t know where we are. But it will be okay.
– Jeff Gorra
Bob, I’m a community college teacher/writer/filmmaker. This week once again I screened the Lumineers’ short film The Ballad of Cleopatra for a couple of my classes. It’s 24 minutes long, it strings together a few music videos, but it’s NOT a music video. It’s a film. It’s worth your while if you haven’t seen it.
It’s here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tXsQJhoauxc
They tried it again with their album III with less success. It’s longer and darker.
See it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oPO_UfJieKs
My point is the Lumineers aren’t just doing the same old thing. Not only are their albums old school ALBUMS, but they’re telling cohesive stories.
I haven’t connected as much with their latest release–and I’m not sure if there’s a film to go with it. Can they do it another time?
Check these out if you haven’t, particularly the first one. I keep exposing college students to it because I want to spread the word. Most of them know the Lumineers, but they’re blown away by the film.
I’ve probably seen over 1000 shows in my lifetime and The Lumineers at MGM last month in Las Vegas was one of my favorites. Their music is a feeling, a vibe, that to me I associate with road trips through America. Their production and visuals were top notch.The whole experience was very cinematic. A true performance where the music itself spoke louder than all the outside BS artists use to cover up what they lack. It’s classic storytelling with a classic sound that is built to last the depths of time. Their music will never get old to me, which is saying something when nowadays I’ll rip through an album once and never go back. The Lumie’s music will be around for a long time, and hopefully the band too.
Co-Founder We The Beat
Las Vegas, NV
I ended up seeing the Lumineers because my daughter was sick and had to took her friend. I was blown away. The dynamic and the delivery of their music was powerfully simple and completely captivating in the arena setting. They made the room feel small. To be clear, i change the channel when Ho Hey comes on because I’ve heard it too many times. But live…they’re incredible. They totally won me over and I’m jaded. I believe the reason why they’re selling stadiums as large as they are is because they have a deep connection with their fanbase and it’s been growing for 20 something years.
Hi Bob, we just saw The Lumineers in Austin (the new Moody Center) last month and it was an incredible show — one of the best acts we’ve seen over the few years. You read it well. They create a vibe. And while we love their music, it took us by surprise. We had seen them 8+ years ago when they broke and their stage presence and performance has improved SO much. Wesley Schultz, Jeremiah Fraites and the entire band put everything into their show, running around the stage, dancing, etc. to every song. Unlike many bands where only the singer comes alive, everyone in the band is energetic, comes out front to play for the crowd and pulls the audience into the show. There’s an authenticity to the band, even if they play the same setlist at every stop. They have honed their live act so much over these past years. So it’s not a surprise to me after being there that they are selling out stadiums now.
It’s so rare these days for bands to put that much into a show night after night….
Bands can learn a lot from The Lumineers live.
Because they put on a great show! They convert the side liners. I was one but I went with my wife 6 years ago and was blown away by their show which was not flashy in any way shape or form. It was for the fans and they played their freaking hearts out.
Good for them.
I got to The Lumineers through a beer spot.
They play long, they sound great live and they connect with the audience. What else do you want?
Thanks, Tom Quinn
I think that their popularity has remained partially because their songs seemed to have been played at every wedding since 2012. Wedding DJs can keep bands alive. It certainly is the case with Bollywood tunes in Asia.