“In the media, she’s everywhere,” Chip McLean, Sr. VP of Buena Vista Concerts for Disney Music Group, told Pollstar. “But there’s nothing about it that feels like it’s a flash in the pan or that people are getting tired of seeing her so much. There’s a real young lady there with a real family and a real good head on her shoulders and nothing but talent.”
It all started for Cyrus less than a year and a half ago with the premiere of Disney’s “Hannah Montana” TV show, in which Cyrus stars as Miley Stewart, a teen living a double life as a regular high schooler by day and the rock star Hannah Montana by night.
She toured as an opening act for the Cheetah Girls last summer to build momentum for the fall release of the first “Hannah Montana” soundtrack. The release of the second soundtrack, her two-disc Hannah Montana/Meet Miley Cyrus, made history for Billy Ray Cyrus’ daughter, making her the youngest recording artist with two No. 1 albums in less than a year. After introducing herself to fans with her latest album, for which she co-wrote eight tracks, she’s busy gearing up for her “Best of Both Worlds” 54-date nationwide tour, where she will do double duty as herself, sans the blonde wig, and Hannah Montana. While the logistics of the tour are still being worked out, the Jonas Brothers will also be along for the ride, not just as openers but available for a duet or two.
“The kids have been really open and also just really kinda taken me in and really given me a chance as not just Hannah but as myself. So I really appreciate that,” Cyrus told Pollstar. “They’ve gotten a chance to see Hannah on stage and now that they know who I really am, they get to see me too. I think that’s exciting for both me and the fans.”
Cyrus’ manager, Jason Morey of Morey Management Group, whom she met through her “Aunt” Dolly Parton, attributes her success to the way she’s able to connect to the fans just by being herself.
“My personal opinion is that the reason this is so successful really starts with Miley and the fact that Disney had enough foresight not to cast the typical Los Angeles actress into this role,” Morey told Pollstar. “She’s basically a very talented actress but she’s a normal kid from Nashville. I think that’s what these kids respond to. This new generation, they want real. They want someone that doesn’t seem like it’s all marketing. They really, really responded to her as a person because they can relate.” At the core of the Disney concert experience is keeping ticket prices low enough for the whole family to enjoy the show.
McLean notes that while this is the most expensive tour Disney has ever done because it’s the costliest show the entertainment giant’s ever put on, top tickets are still at $55-$65.
“What we’re trying to do is launch a concert division that gives parents and families an opportunity to go see a top-notch, give you goose bumps, blow your mind kind of concert experience,” McLean said. “We’ve worked very hard to get the best in the way of productions but try to do so at a reasonable price.”
While seats to the shows are flying as soon as they’re up for sale, Cyrus and her management must also look to the future to grow with Cyrus’ audience and eventually move away from Hannah Montana as a solo artist. “It’s something that we looked at from the very beginning. It’s a difficult proposition,” Morey said. “The plan is to try to grow this fan base with her in a really meaningful way. It’s a difficult thing because we’re going to have to do a lot of it without radio. Just the fact that she’s one of the biggest artists in the world and she’s never really been on radio outside of Radio Disney is pretty amazing.”
Debra Rathwell, Sr. VP of AEG Live, who is promoting the tour, doesn’t expect Cyrus to say goodbye to Hannah just yet.
“I think it’s all about embracing and having fun with it at this point,” Rathwell told Pollstar. “The whole Disney market, just the whole sort of tween / teen thing is just heating up. I mean, who would want to leave any of that at this point? … I don’t know when your little wings tell you to fly, but that’s not going on here yet.” Morey has no doubt that when it is Cyrus’ time to move on to an older audience on her own, it will come easily to the girl that earned her nickname from her happy smile.
“I think she’s going to handle it just fine,” Morey said. “There’s a lot of young artists that have been able to make the transition. It’s definitely over-hyped that every young kid is going to turn into a Britney or a Lindsay.”
For Cyrus, along with her family, friends and faith, it’s the fans that keep her going.
“When you’re on stage and you look out and you see 60,000 people … and they’re all singing the words to your songs, it’s really inspiring – not only to perform a great show but also to keep working really hard,” Cyrus said. “What keeps me and my fans close is that we’re growing up together and I think that’s really cool.”
The “Best of Both Worlds” tour kicks off October 18th in St. Louis and wraps up January 9th in Albany, N.Y. It only gets bigger after that as Morey says following the North American tour, the plan is to take Cyrus and Hannah Montana international.