Mom's across America scrambling to find Fresh Beat Band tickets
LOS ANGELES - Sorry, Wiggles. You've been displaced. For years, the hottest ticket among the "I want it and I want it now" crowd -- preschool children -- has been live shows performed by the four Australian musicians known as the Wiggles. (They w...
LOS ANGELES - Sorry, Wiggles. You've been displaced.
For years, the hottest ticket among the "I want it and I want it now" crowd -- preschool children -- has been live shows performed by the four Australian musicians known as the Wiggles. (They were in Grand Forks in August.) Many a parental eardrum split in the process.
Now a new live tour aimed at the youngest of concertgoers is exploding across North America. Fresh Beat Band, a be-bopping quartet courtesy of Nickelodeon, has parents scrambling for tickets to sold-out engagements and the preschoolers who do get in going orbital. And shhh: Many moms and dads actually don't mind the music.
"It was like trying to get Springsteen tickets," said Jen Drexler, a Maplewood, N.J., mother of twins, Charley and Max, 5. With no tickets available for New York shows on March 25, Drexler found herself checking resale marketplaces like StubHub, where orchestra seats were recently selling for $2,000. "Finally, I just had to stop the madness and give up," she said.
The 15-week tour is a live-action spinoff of the Nick Jr. series "Fresh Beat Band," a type of "Glee" or "High School Musical" for itty-bitty eyeballs. Songs like "Great Day" and "Just Like a Rockstar" convey messages intended to teach lessons, while sillier numbers like "Bananas" simply entertain. (Sample lyric: "Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah. Let's go Bananas!") The concerts involve synchronized dancing, giant video screens and blizzards of confetti.
Nickelodeon had modest expectations for ticket sales, according to Paula Kaplan, West Coast general manager of the children's channel and executive vice president for talent. The show, comprising two 25-minute acts and aimed at children as young as 2, was booked into medium-sized venues like the 1,200-seat Best Buy Theater in Times Square. Nickelodeon figured about 65 performances would suffice.
But near-instant sellouts for the tour, which started Feb. 2 in Anaheim, Calif., forced Nickelodeon to cram in more performances; there are now 95. About 200,000 tickets have been sold overall (some are still available in certain cities). Jonathan Shank, executive producer of the tour, said he has offers from about 100 concert promoters to do additional shows.
"It has been a frenzy that totally took us off guard," said Mark Shulman, vice president and general manager of AEG Live Northeast, a concert promoter.
Wiggles and other draws
The Wiggles, which have sold 7 million CDs and 23 million DVDs worldwide over the last two decades, still tour, and there are other popular draws in this corner of entertainment, including Disney on Ice and the circus. But recent tours built around Nickelodeon shows like "Dora the Explorer" and "Yo Gabba Gabba!" have not generated anywhere near the heat of Fresh Beat Band.
Fresh Beat Band stands out, parents say, for various reasons, starting with the music, which is designed for parents and kids to listen to together. The show and tour also feature everyday people (albeit perky ones who love to sing and dance) instead of kooky performers (The Wiggles) or costumed characters (Barney). Some younger parents see Fresh Beat Band as a throwback to their own childhoods and "Kids Inc.," a 1980s-era syndicated series about children who form a band.
Concerts for preschoolers typically hit another level of pandemonium when parents start trying to one-up each other for access, and there are flickers of that with Fresh Beat Band. Kaplan, the Nickelodeon executive, says friends have been begging her to pull strings for sold-out shows in Los Angeles.
Black market for tickets?
"When my friend in Missouri said she was considering the black market for tickets, I admit that I did too," said Telisha Joyner, an Ellicott City, Md., mother of Kaci, 2.
"Fresh Beat Band" started its run on Nickelodeon in 2009, with Scott Kraft and Nadine van der Velde ("Miss Spider's Sunny Patch Friends") as executive producers. There have been a few bumps, notably the abrupt replacement of a popular cast member, Shayna Rose, who asked to be released from her contract to pursue other career opportunities, Nickelodeon said.
But the series is now on fire, ranking as one of television's top programs for preschoolers, with an average audience of more than 500,000 children age 2 to 5, according to Nielsen data. An album, "The Fresh Beat Band: Music from the Hit TV Show," was released on iTunes on Jan. 31 and is selling briskly - more than 17,300 copies so far, according to a Nickelodeon spokeswoman.
Its success comes as Nickelodeon is struggling in the ratings and bracing for a challenge from its archrival, the Walt Disney Co., which is introducing a stand-alone channel for preschool children called Disney Junior. Disney will introduce a tour tied to its own preschool hit, "Jake and the Never Land Pirates," this summer that will stop at state fairs and Radio Disney events.
For now, though, it's all about Fresh Beat Band. "It's a lot of money, but I knew it would be an experience that my little one would never forget," Sabrina Hughes Lochner, who spent $240 to take her daughter, Lauren, to a show Friday in Cupertino, Calif., wrote on her blog. "Lauren just glowed, and I couldn't stop smiling."
Distributed by New York Times News Service.