George Strait Is Surprising Winner of Billboard Touring Award

The Billboard Music Awards occurred last week (October 14th), and though it has to be one of the most inconsequential and perfunctory awards shows out there—with winners a 6th grader could prognosticate weeks in advance with some simple chart data and a calculator—there was one cool and interesting development that went down, and rather unexpectedly.

Despite George Strait officially retiring from full-time touring in 2014—a commitment he’s actually stuck to unlike other superstars, only playing sporadic stadium shows and limited-run Las Vegas residencies—Strait surprisingly walked away with Billboard’s “Top Country Tour” award on the night, based off his continued strength as a live music draw and the insane, sold-out money he fetches for tickets.

That’s right. It wasn’t Eric Church, nor Garth Brooks who’s the reigning CMA Entertainer of the Year, nor Carrie Underwood or Thomas Rhett who recently split the ACM Entertainer of the Year trophy. It was George Strait.

Now granted, there were some extenuating circumstances involved, though surprisingly, COVID-19 was not one of them. Instead it had a lot to do with the eligibility period for the award, and the way it lined up with the limited dates George Strait did play. Winners were determined using gross ticket sales data from March 23, 2019, through March 14, 2020. It happens to be that window favored George Strait and the way his live dates fell. Strait performed multiple shows early in 2020 when other headliners in country were idle, and that’s when he was able to overcome the competition.

But it also has to do with the handsome purses George Strait continues to command for a single show. Over the eligibility period, Strait was able to amass a total tour gross of $71 million. In tour gross for the calendar year 2019 (not during the Billboard award’s eligibility period), Eric Church did beat all comers with $65 million, followed by Florida Georgia Line in 2nd with $53 million, Carrie Underwood with $50 million, Thomas Rhett with $47 million, and then George Strait with $46 million. But adding $25 in early 2020 before March 14th is what put George Strait over the top.

So George Strait won the Billboard Country Tour award fair and square, even though he’s still officially retired from touring. And though the trophy is comparatively meaningless to many of the other accolades Strait has accrued over his career, what it does speak to is the continued strength and appeal for both Strait’s music, and traditional country in general.

Overall, George Strait has been continuing to enjoy success and set milestones in music, even with his limited schedule. In February he crossed the 10 million tickets sold milestone, in 2019 he set the record for some of the highest grossing tour stops in history (which helped him win the Billboard award), and he also achieved his first Top 20 single on radio in six years with “Every Little Honky Tonk Bar.”

Even retired, George Strait is still achieving what some active mainstream artists aren’t able to pull off. That’s the reason he’s still worthy of retaining the title of “King” George.

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