Friday, Sept. 21, 2012 | 6:50 p.m.
The iHeart Radio Music Festival is still in its infancy, but it’s already outgrowing its crib.
The two-day festival, brimming with the most famous and fabulous artists in contemporary music, is being staged tonight and Saturday night at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Twenty acts are set to appear over the course of the two festival-style concerts.
Tonight opens with Green Day, Jason Aldean, Lil Wayne, Rihanna, Swedish House Mafia, No Doubt, Miranda Lambert, Megan & Liz, Bon Jovi and Usher. Saturday’s second night features Aerosmith, Brad Paisley, Deadmau5, Linkin Park, Mary J. Blige, Calvin Harris, Enrique Iglesias, Pink, Pitbull and Taylor Swift.
It is an embarrassment of riches for a venue that seats 12,300 for each show. Individually, almost any of these acts could easily fill the Grand Garden Arena in a matter of minutes. Tickets for the public, $71 to $423, for each night, sold out within hours.
This is the second all-star festival at MGM promoting the iHeart Internet platform owned by radio Goliath Clear Channel. The event could well turn into one of the year’s music highlights, if it isn’t already, and a fine way to showcase MGM Grand and the city of Las Vegas to an online audience over two nights on Clear Channel radio stations or on live stream for anyone tuning in on XBOX 360 systems.
The event is not committed to a return next year, or ever. Not yet. But MGM Grand President Scott Sibella says MGM Resorts’ dexterity on hosting wide-ranging events with multitudes of stars can help lure the festival back here.
“We have a great partnership with Clear Channel, and we hope to bring it back and make it bigger and better,” Sibella said during a phone conversation this afternoon.
Bigger and better, and maybe even longer. Sibella said resort executives are offering up Mandalay Bay Events Center as a possible second venue. The plan would be to alternate between arenas in the same way large-scale awards shows such as the Academy of Country Music Awards toggles its performances between the Grand Garden Arena and Mandalay Bay.
“We’re going to start talking about that after this year’s show, going back and forth between those arenas in future years for iHeart Radio,” Sibella said. “It’s already become so big and so popular. We’ve got a dream lineup already.”
Sibella said that adding a day to build the event as a three-day weekend and inviting other Strip properties and even Fremont Street Experience into the celebration is being discussed.
“We could have a festival that starts during the day and finishes at night, at the MGM, the host hotel,” Sibella said, comparing the idea to the way performances for the National Finals Rodeo are spread out across the city.
“The game plan is to attract as many artists and fans as possible and reach millions of people outside of Las Vegas,” Sibella said. “This is a great event not just for MGM Grand and MGM Resorts, but for the whole city. You look at the quality of the artists here, and it is huge. And all of them love coming to Las Vegas, which really helps in the discussion of bringing an event like this back to the city.”
MGM Grand is benefiting directly from a high volume of fans in the arena who can afford to pay top dollar for tickets, or are here as part of a business relationship with Clear Channel, record label or individual artist.
“We have a higher-end customer coming into the hotel, and our room rates reflect that customer,” Sibella said. “Our restaurants benefit. We see it in our retail, beverage sales after the show, gaming, everywhere in the hotel.”
The key, of course, is to bring the festival back to Las Vegas. After the music fades, it’ll be time to talk, and that might be the most important show of all.