The hardest touring band in rock is Shinedown -- a dedicated group that is always playing, in arenas, festivals, almost anyplace that will have them.
Last year, according to Norman Records, Shinedown was rocks's top touring band, playing 136 shows and traveling 47,470 miles to do so.
“We break records every year,” said singer Brent Smith. “We love what we do. I think it has to do with the audience, man. I’ve said this for years, we only have one boss. It’s everybody in the audience.
"This band is never going to get comfortable. We’ve been touring for 20 years and we don’t ever do the same tour. We don’t make the same album. We tour internationally. There are 8 billion people on the planet. That’s a lot of people to play for.”
By constantly changing and always striving to play for more people, Shinedown is never going to get stuck in its ways. And by switching up its record-setting stage show, the band is finding a way to navigate the tumultuous music industry that has seen sales of recordings and the money from them plunge to new depths as live performances become ever more critical.
“There a great line in the movie ‘Moneyball’ where Brad Pitt tells Jonah Hill, ‘you’ve got to adapt or die,’” Smith said. “You have to make a decision for yourself. You can’t be finger-pointing. If you want to make a change, do it. It takes work and creativity.
“There’s nothing about this tour in the production that even resembles last year's. We’re working it up now. We believe in the theatrical. We believe in fire. We believe in pyro. We believe in making a spectacle of the show.”
The tour will stop at Pinnacle Bank Arena Friday, where Shinedown will be accompanied by Asking Alexandria and Papa Roach -- a very different follow-up to last year’s co-headlining tour with Smackdown.
“You’re not getting a tired four-band slog,” Smith said in full sales mode. “You’re getting three bands at the top of their game. Asking Alexandria, they call them a lifestyle band. They’re insanely out of control. Papa Roach at this point has legendary status and they’re showing no signs of losing it. Then you have us, and we have a lot to say with the new record ‘Attention Attention.'”
When we talked in January Smith wasn’t sure how many songs from “Attention Attention,” the band’s chart-topping 2017 concept album about overcoming negativity and being reborn, would make the show.
“I can tell you it’s an 18-song set,” he said. “We’re going to make sure we play everything the audience wants to hear. We choreograph the show to a point. But there’s going to be four or five audibles a night. Every city will get a different set list -- at least four songs from the show before.”
Five “Attention Attention” songs were in the show that Shinedown played in Green Bay, Wisconsin, Saturday, including “Get Up," the band’s inspirational rock radio chart-topping anthem.
“Get Up” is Shinedown’s 13th No. 1 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Songs chart, the second most for any band. The song with a message of perseverance and extending a hand to others was written by Smith about bassist Eric Bass’ struggle with clinical depression and has garnered more than 30 million streams.
Surprisingly Smith said that a good portion of the Shinedown audience at each show has not previously seen the band.
“We have a tradition in Shinedown. When we come out on stage, after a couple songs, I ask people how many of you are seeing Shinedown for the first time. About 80 percent of the building always raises their hands. I love that. We’re always growing, expanding.”
Formed by Smith in Jacksonville, Florida, in 2001, Shinedown is one of the last bands that flourished under the old system of major label promotion and support, generating radio play and CD sales.
“We recorded our first album 'Leave a Whisper' going back to 2003,” he said. ”It was a different way of doing business. Did it help? Absolutely. We came right before, a couple years before, MP3s, downloading all of that. Everybody was going ‘it’s going to be fine.’ They said it was never going to replace the CD. I was like, ‘Oh boy.’
“After our second album, “Sound of Madness.” was when I started to look at where it was going. It was all about your website then. Then all of a sudden, Myspace became a thing, especially for bands. Where we are today, there’s a whole generation who doesn’t think about paying for music. They don’t know anything about CDs, they don’t know what they are.”
Today’s audience gets most of its music via streaming services, which pay artists far, far, far less for their music than do sales of the physical product and downloads. Spotify, for example, now pays 0.437 cents per play. That takes a lot of streams to equal even the $2-$3 bands received from the sale of a CD.
“It’s the ‘Moneyball’ thing again, you’ve got to adjust,” Smith said. “I hear an older generation of bands pissing on streaming and downloading. Let me do you a service here -- you’re essentially ruining your fan base by excluding a generation. It’s old guys and old girls complaining that they're not making as much money anymore.”
Many of those old guys and girls, and plenty of new artists, are trying to navigate the new music world on their own. Smith remains sold on being on a major label.
And, contrarian that he is, Smith said the drop in record sales has, more than anything, shifted musical spending to live shows.
“It’s actually enhanced and given a shot to the touring industry and has given employment to hundreds, thousands of people,” he said. “It’s led to more venues being built and used, more shows and more people coming out.”