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Oliver Anthony Hits Out At Knoxville Venue For Overcharging Fans

13 September 2023 | 12:15 pm | Ellie Robinson

The venue’s team have responded in their own defence, heatedly telling promotors to “be careful” booking Anthony for shows.

Oliver Anthony

Oliver Anthony (Facebook)

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Oliver Anthony has taken a stand against overpriced concert tickets, cancelling a scheduled show in Knoxville because punters were being rorted for more than twice as much as he expected them to pay.

The up-and-coming country star, who went viral last month with his song Rich Men North Of Richmond, was scheduled to play the 1,500-capacity Cotton Eyed Joe venue on Wednesday September 27. But as he explained in a video shared to Instagram earlier this week, the gig was swiftly cancelled after he learned how much the venue was charging for tickets.

“Don’t buy Cotton Eyed Joe tickets for $99 apiece,” he told fans, “and sure as hell don’t buy VIP passes for whatever bullshit price they’re on. I have a buddy of mine, who’s not a booking agent – he’s a friend of mine, he’s a full-time plumber and I’m trying to hire him full-time as my booking agent – and he agreed to the show, I guess without asking what the ticket prices are.

“Don’t pay $100 for a ticket, that’s horseshit. If we’ve got to cancel the venue and play somewhere else, we will. I didn’t agree to it and I don’t want you to pay it, so please don’t. I’m just trying to get the word out now – I don’t know when the event got posted but just hold off for a little bit.”

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In a caption shared alongside the video, Anthony claimed that VIP passes to the show were being sold for an eye-watering $200 USD ($312 AUD), and stated: “That's not acceptable. Just saw the [venue’s Facebook post advertising the show] and lost my shit. Miscommunication with my friend booking shows and I. My shows should never cost more than $40, ideally no more than $25. Hell, out of the four shows we have currently done, two of them have been completely free. This will get straightened out tonight. Hold off on buying tickets for now.”

He later confirmed in a comment that the Cotton Eye Joe gig was cancelled, adding: “I am so sorry about all of this. I will do better next time. We are still learning.”

The venue’s team, however, were not keen to let Anthony hit out at them without consequence. In a since-deleted statement made on Facebook (as per Country Now), they called the incident “a damn shame” and shifted the blame onto Anthony. “Most times we say a show has been cancelled due to circumstances beyond our control… Well we are cancelling the Oliver Anthony show under our full control,” they wrote.

According to the unnamed staffer who wrote the post, Anthony was contracted to perform at Cotton Eyed Joe for $120,000 ($187,000), which wouldn’t be financially viable for the venue unless they charged the prices they did. They explained: “After doing the math and knowing we can only hold [approximately 1,500] people, paying the ticket website their fee to sell the tickets, paying the tax man, opening the Joe on a closed night... we set the ticket price to break even and bring our customers a show we thought would be fun.”

The venue closed their post out with a snide warning for their “talent agency and [promoter] friends” – to “be careful” booking Anthony for their own venues.

Responding to the statement, Anthony did shoulder some of the blame for the show’s cancellation, writing: “Ultimately, it’s my fault for not being more directly involved with the venues who have reached out. My plate has been full and I delegated the responsibility to someone else to help me book. I am not pointing fingers at Cotton Eyed Joe, I don’t know where the miscommunication took place.

“I’m just upset seeing those prices. We will find another place in Knoxville area that can do $25 ticket and free meet and greet. I will work to get your tickets refunded from my own budget if they can’t. This will never happen again. Thanks for your patience. I am still learning how all of this works.”

Speaking to ABC 6 WATE, the Cotton Eyed Joe’s owner, Chuck Ward, said he and his team were blindsided by Anthony’s original video: “We negotiated a price, and nothing was ever said about how much to sell the tickets for. Nothing was ever said about charging for meet and greets. We talked about the price. I sent him a contract. Everything was cut in stone, black and white and when we put the tickets on sale, we were at 500 tickets that we had sold in about four hours.”

Anthony was ultimately able to reschedule his show to Friday September 29 at the Knoxville Convention Center. Tickets for the new gig are yet to be made available on the venue’s website, but given it can hold up to 6,500 people, their bookers should have no problems selling tickets for much less than the Cotton Eyed Joe.

In the short time that’s elapsed since his viral moment, Anthony has made a name for himself as an outspoken artist. A few weeks after Rich Men North Of Richmond took off, for example, he blasted conservatives for “trying to characterise me as one of their own”.