When the wife of heavy metal god Ozzy Osbourne came up with the idea of a tour featuring the heavy hitters of metal and hard rock, the reaction from the concert industry was lukewarm, at best.
“In my gut feeling, I felt that it would definitely work, because there was a huge void in the marketplace for it,” Sharon Osbourne recalled. “Not a lot of people in the market agreed with me at the time.”
Certainly, no one can disagree with her now.
Ozzfest, now in its sixth year, has consistently ranked as one of the top concert draws of the year, thanks to a lineup that this year features Ozzy Osbourne’s own Black Sabbath, Marilyn Manson, Crazy Town, and best new artist Grammy nominee Papa Roach. The tour kicked off June 29 in Chicago and will end Aug. 12 in Holmdel, N.J.
Gary Bongiovanni of Pollstar, a concert industry trade publication, noted that many multi-act music festivals, such as Lillith Fair or Lollapalooza, faded away after several years.
Ozzfest is still be going strong, however. Last year, Ozzfest drew some 19,000 per show, said Bongiovanni said. This year, it’s averaging about 18,000.
“The appeal is to largely teen-agers; the male teen-age demographic is one of the most active when it comes to concerts,” he said.
Ozzfest started in 1995, just around the time Lollapalooza, the summer alternative rock festival that featured such platinum acts as the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, was at its peak.
Even after a successful debut year, Ozzfest still had its skeptics.
“After the first year, everybody was like, ‘It’s a fluke, who else do you get to play in it?”‘ Mrs. Osbourne recalls.
But Ozzfest has never had a lack of talent to fill its bill. Over the years, top-selling acts such as Limp Bizkit, Godsmack and Tool have appeared on the tour.
“Ozzy Osbourne is the godfather of hard rock, I suppose, and a lot of young artists are interested in playing on that bill,” said Bongiovanni. “It (Ozzfest) has developed a reputation of breaking bands of that genre.”
Several acts have broken out big after touring on Ozzfest’s second stage for lesser-known acts.
“It’s just amazing that you get these bands, and they’ve come on the Ozzfest, and they’ve barely got a record out, and the next year, it’s a million-and-a-half sales,” said Mrs. Osbourne, who’s also her husband’s manager.
Among the acts appearing on the second stage this year: Mudvayne, whose debut album “L.D. 5.0” is approaching gold status. The group is headlining the second stage.
Band member Ryan Martini is hopeful Ozzfest can be a steppingstone to greater commercial success.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for any band that wants to reach large amount of people,” he said. “Ozzfest carries its own weight just by name.”