News Segment


July 11, 2007

With the exception of self-proclaimed “Prince of Darkness” Ozzy Osbourne, this year’s Ozzfest lacks the usual powerhouse lineup that has made the annual hard-rock trek so popular during its 12-year history.

Past editions of Ozzfest have featured Tool, System of a Down, Disturbed, Pantera, Velvet Revolver, Korn, Marilyn Manson, Iron Maiden – the list goes on.

But this year, when Ozzfest visits Phoenix on Tuesday, the name recognition for casual fans drops pretty quickly after Osbourne, Static X, Lamb of God and Hatebreed.

And there’s a good reason for that: Many of the bands on this year’s tour are being required to perform for free and even cover their own touring expenses, to allow Ozzfest to provide free admission to most concertgoers. (Some “premium” seats are being sold.)

While record labels often help bands with their touring expenses, the play-for-free idea didn’t appear to fly with high-profile acts that receive tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars per show elsewhere.

How could an act demand such money from one promoter, the reasoning went, when Ozzfest organizers were getting either a discounted price or free performances?

Ozzfest organizers, headed by Osbourne’s manager and wife, Sharon, and global concert behemoth Live Nation, seem undeterred by the lack of big-name involvement this year.

“The spirit of this tour was to allow the working families and the loyal fans whose financial obligations don’t allow for the extravagance of a concert ticket at today’s prices,” said Jane Holman, Live Nation’s senior vice president of touring.

“I think the bands who make the sacrifice to play Ozzfest this year really are the superstars because they have a conscience and they care about all their fans.”

The organizers’ instincts seem to have been on the mark: Using a Web-based system, more than 428,000 tickets for 24 dates were distributed free to fans in four days last month.

Capitalism has kicked in, and prime seats for the Phoenix date are being resold online for up to $1,500.

Part of the interest no doubt centers on Osbourne, who announced he was retiring as Ozzfest headliner in 2005. Throat problems were blamed.

“After 10 years, the Ozzfest’s name and reputation have been established,” he said in a statement that year. “It’s time for me to move on and do other things.”

But Osbourne, who has struggled with drug and alcohol use over the years, returned to the Ozzfest stage in 2006.

Fans who are shelling out big bucks for this year’s Ozzfest may be banking on the theory that at age 58, Osbourne won’t be singing Crazy Train and Iron Man forever.

Despite the huge response to a free Ozzfest, a second Live Nation executive thinks the setup may be hard for others to copy.

“I don’t think you’ll see a wholesale shift to this kind of model for other festivals,” said John Vlautin, the promoter’s vice president of communications.

“However, we will undoubtedly learn from this experience and . . . this idea could translate to another project in the future.”

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