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Edmonton attracting big musical acts in 2014

EDMONTON – Cher, Justin Timberlake, Black Sabbath and Keith Urban – those are just a few of the big acts heading to Edmonton in 2014.

“As the years have gone by, Edmonton has become more of a concert-going spot,” said Todd James, a radio host at K-97. “And we just keep going up and up.”

“I think Edmonton in general just likes to get out and likes to enjoy,” added SONiC 102.9’s Program Director, Al Ford.

In November 2012, Edmonton attracted arguably one of the biggest artists in the world in Paul McCartney, who played two sold out shows at Rexall Place. This year, Justin Timberlake’s January show was so popular he added a second show.

READ MORE: Thousands of fans pack Rexall Place for Paul McCartney concert

The city has come a long way in the past decade or two. James describes the concert scene in those days as “death.”

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“There was nothing. I can remember when, if there was one big concert at the old Coliseum a year, that was good year.

“When Springsteen came to town in the late ’90s and didn’t sell out here – the only market in all of North America that didn’t sell out for Springsteen – that sent a ripple of shock waves throughout the industry and a lot of people said ‘we’re not going to Edmonton. If The Boss doesn’t sell out in Edmonton, we’re not going there.'”

But times certainly have changed since then. According to Pollstar’s 2012 report on concert ticket sales, Rexall Place sits 26th in the world and third in Canada, behind Montreal’s Bell Centre and Toronto’s Air Canada Centre. Last year, more than 375,000 tickets for concerts and other events were sold in Edmonton.

But why? Those in Edmonton’s music scene say it comes down to a couple of factors, the first being economics.

“These big acts know that they’re going to make money in Edmonton because, let’s face it, we’ve got the money,” James said.

“We are a fairly affluent city. We do do pretty well when it comes to wages and income here. And I think that expendable income is a little higher than in some of the other provinces,” added Ford. “Vancouver is a great place to live, it’s a very expensive place to live. So you have to decide whether or not you’re going to go see Jay-Z or you’re going to pay your rent.”

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Above that, Ford says a passion for entertainment also plays a big role.

“The audiences here in Edmonton — and I’ve stated this ever since we moved here — they are the most passionate, loud and really engaged audiences that you’ll ever see.”

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“You see the fans and then you see the reaction of the bands or the artists on stage and you can tell that that audience is giving it 100 per cent, and they’re genuinely enthralled and excited by the amount of passion that is coming back to them,” Ford added.

And with a new downtown arena set to open in 2016, Live Nation’s Executive Vice President of Talent, Ian Low, says it’s only up from here for the City of Champions.

“We have two buildings in Vancouver and with that sees actually more artists wanting to play the market as a whole. And we envision the same thing happening up in Edmonton, no question.”

Lady Antebellum, Arcade Fire, Kings of Leon, Pink and Lady Gaga are just a few more big acts hitting Edmonton in 2014.

“There are so many acts, and again, of all stripes. It’s not just rock and roll. There’s country and blues shows and some great Broadway shows coming to town too, we can’t forget about those,” James said.

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“It’s going to be a great concert year. No doubt about it,” Low added.

With files from Laurel Gregory, Global News.