UPDATE 3:24 p.m. Oct. 2: The story has been updated to include a comment from Branson/Lakes Area Chamber President Jeff Seifried. The comment was mistakenly omitted from the original story.

After 13 seasons hosting “big name” shows in Branson, Up Close Concerts Owner and Promoter Bob Cannella has announced 2020 will be his final year booking in the “Live Show Capital of the Universe.”

“Next year will be our 14th year presenting national touring artists in Branson,” Cannella said in an email to the Branson Tri-Lakes News. “We have a few shows already announced and a couple more for which we have signed contracts but not yet announced, otherwise these will likely be our final events in town. 

“We will be expanding our schedule at the beautiful Juanita K. Hammons Hall in Springfield and place many of the artists we feature in Branson at our Springfield location.”

Cannella said it was easy as a “business decision,” but not so from a personal level.

“We have hosted legends like Merle Haggard, Glen Campbell’s very emotional return to Branson after a long absence for his final Branson appearances as part of his ‘Goodbye Tour,’ Huey Lewis & The News, Jay Leno, David Spade, and hundreds more amazing entertainers,” Cannella said. 

Cannella laid out several reasons for pulling out of the area.

“The people of Branson have been extraordinarily supportive of our events, yet unfortunately, the people who make the decisions about the way Branson is marketed and managed have put the town in a position from which it will be difficult to recover,” he said. “It would be foolish for us to continue to invest in the city when the tax dollars we generate are regularly misspent and frequently wasted.

“The Chamber/CVB needs to be held accountable for every dollar they spend. Continually spending money on research studies, focus groups, marketing surveys, etc. in the hope of answering the most simple questions indicates the current leadership is highly ineffective and unqualified. Giving close to $100,000 to a company to survey how to improve the Branson theater business is the height of incompetence.”

Cannella also referenced the fact the Chamber/CVB put together a “task force” to review the data and make recommendations over a 9-month period “adds another layer of insanity to the process.”

“This is what people do who don’t want to be held accountable for their decisions,” he said. “They spend money on research, focus groups, etc., and then if things don’t work they point to the research study to say it wasn’t their fault, they were just going on what the ‘research’ indicated. The Chamber/CVB management is paid well, so based on their income they should be expected to have answers on their own, not waste additional money because they are incompetent in the areas which need to be addressed. Leadership needs to be changed, more money doesn’t need to be spent.”

“Think about it, the people who live, work, and spend every day of their lives in the market are paying an outside group tens of thousands of dollars to tell them what is going on in their own backyard,” he said. “It’s a bizarre approach to business, as if they are saying ‘we know we can’t be the problem, we are smart, there must be some unknown factor causing a decline in business.’ 

“For any hard-working person at a local restaurant, box office, golf course or any business, imagine if your boss came up to you and said ‘your department is not getting the results you were hired to achieve,’ and all you had to do is say, ‘thanks for your input boss, I will need $75,000 to hire someone to determine what the problem is because it can’t be my fault.’”

Cannella also cited a direct incident involving an event last season.

“Last year Jeff Seifried, president and CEO of the Branson Lakes/Area Chamber of Commerce and CVB, gave $15,000 directly to Shepherd of the Hills to sponsor a concert and event,” he said. “This was beyond unacceptable. That money was generated by people’s tax dollars on things like our concert tickets, yet it was given to a direct competitor. When I asked Seifried why he gave a large amount of money to one area business but not others he did not have a response. Why am I killing myself to generate funds that are then given to a competitor? It is absolutely unbelievable.

“The marketplace will determine which shows succeed and which shows fail, provided the Chamber/CVB does not get in the way. Good shows with good marketing will succeed. But the problem is that the Chamber/CVB is complicating that natural process by ineffectively spending its advertising budget, and wasting a huge sum of money on unnecessary projects. Good use of the marketing dollars we provide them is all that is needed to solve many of the problems.”

Seifried chose not to respond to each of Cannella’s comments individually, but did provide a statement over the phone Wednesday morning.

"We want to thank Bob for his years of investment in bringing national acts to the Branson market, and we as a community, and the chamber and CVB, look forward to working with others who want to continue to bring national acts to the market to help drive new and returning visitors to Branson," Seifried said.

Cannella also cited the time share industry as a hindrance to the live show scene.

“All time share sales operations should be required to post on their signage and all advertisements, in type size and font as large or larger than any other words in their ads or signs, that they are a time share sales operations, and receiving free or discount tickets is dependent upon the customer being solicited to purchase time shares, vacation clubs, or any other service they are pitching,” he said. “No one should ever walk into a building without knowing they are not entering a ticket outlet, but rather a time share front. The legitimate ticket outlets will not be impacted because they are not using another product to lure in unsuspecting customers.”

Cannella said he’d also like to see ticket outlets clearly state they do not sell tickets to “all” shows, and their list isn’t updated to include “all” shows.

Even though Cannella makes his living booking live shows, he doesn’t see the current “attraction boom” as the thing hurting shows the most.

“We need to get away from the idea that ‘more is better,’” he said. “The town would be much better off with 10 great shows. Branson was overbuilt, and it will never be the Branson of 1991.”

The fact so many shows are vying for “butts in the seats,” results in many owners “marking down” their product.

“Because so many shows are desperate to bring bodies into their buildings, they have discounted tickets to an unsustainable price, and in many cases practically give away their tickets with the hope that someone will buy some concessions when they arrive,” Cannella said. “The less reputable ticket outlets send people to the bad shows because those shows frequently give the ticket resellers huge profit margins to push their tickets. A show with a $40 face value ticket may be getting just $5 from the ticket resellers.” 

Cannella stated he and Up Close Concerts don’t do business with “those type of people,” and urged other show owners to take a similar stance.

“If other show operators would also take that stance their income would increase and the shady operators would soon be out of business because they don’t have a product to sell,” he added. “But unfortunately it seems there is always someone desperate enough to cut bad deals with the resellers in a struggle to survive.”

Despite his issues working in  Branson, Cannella again mentioned his stellar working relationships with many folks in town.

“We are so grateful to have worked with wonderful folks like Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theater and Welk Resort Theatre,” he said. “Having top notch dedicated professionals as our venue partners makes our job much more enjoyable. 

“I want to stress that Branson is a great place in spite of poor leadership. It can be even better if these serious issues are addressed.”

Remaining Up Close Concerts at Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theater include Gary Lewis and the Playboys and the original lead singer of the Buckinghams Dennis Tufano and The Crystal’s lead singer Lala Brooks Oct. 12, as well as Moe Bandy and Joe Stampley Oct. 16, Mel “Sonny Boy” Tillis Jr. Oct. 23, Pat Boone Nov. 6, Lee Greenwood Nov. 10, T.G. Sheppard Nov. 13. Crystal Gayle will present her Christmas show Nov. 20, 2019, followed by a Greenwood Christmas show Dec. 4.

Peter Noone with Herman’s Hermits along with special guest Mitch Ryder  perform Oct. 18 at the Welk Resort Theatre.

Shows set for 2020 at Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theater include Amy Grant March 8, Ronnie McDowell April 1 and Wink Martindale April 2 as part of the Branson Elvis Festival, Billy Dean on Mother’s Day, May 10, and Janie Fricke with special guests Moore & Moore on Father’s Day, June 21.

Phil Vassar and Billy Yates will perform at the Welk Resort Theatre March 28, 2020, as well as Michael W. Smith on May 9, 2020.

Visit upcloseconcerts.com.

(13) comments

Garth Bock

When I read the article I had to laugh and feel sad. I moved down here from Bloomington, Illinois. Anytime an issue came about roads, infrastructure, the city council would immediately hire a consulting firm to tell them how to do their job. Very sad. In the twin city of Nomal sits Illinois State University. Hire students or a department to do the consulting? No way...gotta pay thousands of dollars to a Chicago consultant. Shows and events have left the twin cities because of the waste and high taxes. After all these years the city had to add on another gas tax to fix city streets which were supposed to be fixed 10 years ago. Sad to see Branson falling into the same trap.

Mar

Hi Garth, I live in Normal. You're 100% correct. They deliberately funnel our tax dollars in order to enrich their friends. It's really too bad the liberal progressive marxists have infiltrated Branson.

Kcgunesq

I've been visiting Branson since the late 1970's. There wasn't even a McDonald's. With my own kids, we've visited at least one each of the last 12 years. IMHO, Branson has two large entertainment problems. 1. It is hard to find good places to eat. They exist, but it is very difficult to filter through the hundreds of lousy places to find the gems. Second, the live action and live music theater options don't cater to families with children. Older parents grew up in the 1970's and the 1980s. Younger parents in the 90's. Yet there is very little of those eras. Tour buses of Boomers probably isn't a good long term business plan.

Dexter

Bring back the Sammy Lane Resort! Good old Branson days!

Buck

Wow! This guy is doing exactly what he accuses the Chamber of doing. Looking for someone else to blame. HIS marketing wasn't that good. His website looks like it's from the 1980's. I never see or hear advertisements about his concerts on local radio, social media or cable. And for the record, if it wasn't for the millions of dollars that the timeshare industry spends on tickets and dinner vouchers in Branson, half of these places would be out of business. Instead of blaming everyone else, he should be more focused on adapting to or overcoming the circumstances he claims to exist.

tmtboss

Wow, honest truth spoken, Bob. Thank you for taking the time to provide your objective assessment, for free. I would like to emphasize one important fact you pointed out in your critique of Branson Tourism and that is the negative impact the “discount ticket” industry has on your first time guest. As a first time guest I was insulted, irritated, angered, (the list could go on and on) by the “conman” presenting “the never ending” pitch, when all I wanted was tickets. City of Branson, please think of everything you do as to how it effects the First Time Visitor. It only takes one bad experience for them never wanting to come back. And in the case of the Discount Ticket business that bad experience is ofter the First Time Visitor’s first experience when entering your city.

duck

Yea its going down fast...big thing now is renting out all the old hotel rooms....want be long....the management is way behind times but hey its working for a select few.... I mean look at the landing it will be trash in 5 years....if not for Bass Pro.....which can easily be moved or closed....

1st timer at Branson

I just logged into this site because I just had to respond. This was our first visit to Branson, and, as we are on a traveling vacation, this was a last minute choice to stop here. Bottom line is, we are so glad we did!

BUT...

Our first stop was at the “Branson Visitor Center” on 65 coming south, thinking it was an actual visitor center. As seasoned “skeptics” we were alerted as soon as we walked in the door. Fortunately, we had made reservations the day before at Musicland Campground, And had purchased a few tickets through them. But, as soon as we mentioned that fact to the swarm of “greeters and associates” we were ignored, and left alone to pick out our maps and brochures, all the while listening to the heavy handed sales pitch going on at neighboring tables..

It was with mild humor mixed with disgust, that we started passing one visitor center after another, AND THEN started the ”sell your Time Shares here” and “Attorneys at Law” to settle your time share disputes!

Hmmm, I see a problem here: is there an actual official, legitimate Visitor Center? And how would I even recognize it?

Besides buying tickets at each individual box office, how do you know you are buying from a reputable dealer, or what price is fair? $5.00/ ticket, $38.00/ tkt, $68.00, or $86.44/ tkt. All these prices for the same exact show, same date, time, and seats! Amazing!

I thought I was on an official Brandon Website (sure looked official), and had picked out a few shows. While taking to our campground front desk, they literally gasped at the prices I told them we had found. We proceeded to get all our tickets through them, and were delighted with the wonderful seats we had at all 5 shows.

There needs to be some type of “warning” at these Visitor Centers/ Time Share places, at the door, in their ads, on their signage, etc.

We ended up having a terrific time, felt we paid a reasonable price for tickets, but that could easily have been a totally different experience!

Thanks for allowing me to have my say!

Pritch1

I think he is entitled to his opinion but since he does business with Welk and Clarks theatres, I do not see his problem. Not getting a slice of the ticket action that is satisfactory. He would have control over that. I really would like to know why he is really moving most if not all of his shows to Springfield.

Up Close Concerts

Thank you to Branson Tri-Lakes News for accurately reporting my quotes. The response has been overwhelming and we appreciate everyone’s kind words. We do not have any problems with the way we are treated by our wonderful theater partners, we love the town and we love the hard-working people. Our issue was not that we do not get a “slice of the ticket action,” we sell our tickets directly from the box office. We do not have any interest in working with any disreputable ticket resellers. Our issues is with the way our money has been spent and how the entire economy of the town is being damaged as a result of bad decisions and bad spending. People have to pay 12.1% sales tax on each ticket they purchase and a portion of that money is spent to promote the entire market. All one has to do is see all of the empty theaters in town or theaters that are for sale to realize there is a problem. We have been very pleased with our success in town, but just as any citizen can vote to replace a politician who does not represent them properly we are voting with our dollars that new leadership is needed in town. We have a beautiful venue in Springfield and by continuing to present concerts there we are still able to provide entertainment for the many people who live in the Branson area who can make the short drive to Springfield.

Jblair

To the 1st Timer In Branson that commented, I am so glad your stay here was overall good. While this article criticized the chamber/Cvb, please know that your chamber has incredible hardworking, thoughtful, wonderful people doing the work and the chamber is your Go To place for area info. You will get more there than anywhere else by just walking in the front door to the Visitor Center or by utilizing the chamber website, the real one, explorebranson.com.



I am a citizen of Hollister, formerly Branson. I moved here from crappy Illinois and I love it here. I volunteer at the chamber and I see the work the employees produce and do. I, too, am ashamed of the Welcome centers using that to pull people in for timeshares sales. Calls come in often about this and it is incredibly sad people get suckered into these things in town and the scams on the phone.



For those wanting a real place to get a discount, seek out All Access Branson or Branson 2 for 1 Tickets. Honest, helpful, no timeshare sales and reputable.

Dan Picht

I started coming to Branson Missouri in 1989 while working for Roy Clark where he performed about 15 days a year at the theater bearing his name. The theater sat about 1000 people on the main floor and there was seating for up to 200 in the balcony dinner theater. At that time full houses were the norm and sold out houses were not uncommon. Branson was a bustling place; Hwy 76 was at a dead stop from Hwy 65 all the way to the west side of town. “The world’s longest parking lot” People would routinely leave their cars in traffic and go in to a local business to use the rest room and then go back to their cars where the traffic had still not moved. The “season” was April 15th to October 15th and the entire town prospered during these months. Branson was the place to play, it seems everyone was here, their shiny buses parked all up and down the strip; Loretta Lynn, Mickey Gilley, Mel Tillis, George Jones, Conway twitty, etc, etc, etc. Every theater had a country music stars name on their marque. “Will the last one leaving Nashville please turn out the lights.”



On December 8, 1991, the “60 Minutes” TV program said Branson was the “live music capital of the entire universe,” there were only 22 theaters at the time. Over the next few years that number doubled and the number of theater seats more than quadrupled. From 1991 to 2000 Branson added 33304 theater seats to the area. It’s no wonder that a majority of these theaters now sit vacant, have been torn down or been turned into churches.

Throughout the 1990s, Branson not only saw tremendous growth in the number of theaters, but the number of hotels, motels, Bed & Breakfasts, lakeside resorts, restaurants, attractions, shopping malls, and time-shares. All were over built. Healthcare facilities grew as well. Though they all grew leaps and bounds the growth far exceeded the inflow of people in to the area.

We spent millions in back roads and alternate routes it was too little too late by the time the system of back roads caught up it was too late.

I am not trying to blame the roads for the failed Branson music industry it is just one of the reasons Creed plays a part; everybody wanted to get in on the action, poor planning played a part; who allowed the construction of so many businesses without the clientele of infrastructure to support them. Even today someone builds a Zip Line and a year later we have six. We are up to nine go-cart tracks at least as many mini golf courses, now we are adding water parks. We continue to build strip malls that sit with empty spaces, Branson’s original outlet mall is a baseball complex and one of the two built during the boom sits largely empty. The “World’s longest parking lot” has turned into the “World’s longest carnival midway” and finally the Branson landing has sucked every last tourism dollar that’s left down to the water front. Few people get more than 30 hours a week or make a living wage then they get laid off for 3 or 4 months out of the year. 10% of Branson’s populations are homeless or living in weekly hotels and that is something that no one likes to talk about.

Why is any and all growth is good? It seems to me that with so many businesses dividing up the tourism dollar we need to stop and let things get caught up. Especially when someone comes to the city and says “Hey, we want to build this “great huge thing”, we just don’t have any money.” “How about you guaranty our financing or give us some Tax increment financing. City hall is sitting right in the middle of every decision they ever made. You want to improve the Branson theater business Find some talent!

jlo72601

All those old country folks are now gone too. No more singing legends to draw people here.

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