5 Ways Michelle Obama Has Reinvented the Book Tour

As the former first lady heads out on the second leg of her Becoming tour, here’s a look at how she has become the rock star of book events.

By Michele Laufik February 6, 2019, 7:02 AM EST

During the first stop of her book tour in Chicago, Michelle Obama sat down with Oprah Winfrey to chat about her new memoir.

Photo: Courtesy of Live Nation

In November, former first lady Michelle Obama set off on her U.S. book tour, Becoming: An Intimate Conversation with Michelle Obama, starting in her hometown of Chicago.

In support of her widely popular memoir, Becoming, which currently holds the top spot on Amazon’s most-sold chart for non-fiction books (for the week of January 27), Live Nation and the Crown Publishing Group organized the 10-city tour that featured conversations between Obama and moderators including Sarah Jessica Parker and Oprah Winfrey.

At the end of last year, an extension of the tour, produced by Live Nation, was announced and will include 21 additional events across North America and Europe.

“The response to the 2018 run was so incredible, with 12 sold-out arena events across the U.S., Mrs. Obama, her team, and Live Nation decided to add the 2019 dates to meet the demand,” explained Tara Traub, senior vice president of Live Nation Touring. “Mrs. Obama also wanted to visit cities she couldn’t on the first round of dates, so we have added 21 new cities, including 11 events across the U.S., four in Canada, and six in Europe, to try to reach as many fans as possible before the tour officially wraps.”

The second leg of the tour kicks off this Friday at the Tacoma Dome in Tacoma, Washington, and will conclude in May at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville.

The fact that a book tour earned additional tour dates is unprecedented. From the start, Obama has been compared to a rock star, selling out major arenas in record time. With a slew of new dates on the horizon, we take a look at how the event series rewrote the book on book tours:

1. She sold out arenas.
Events for the first leg of the tour were held in impressive venues such as the United Center in Chicago, which has a seating capacity of 23,500; the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, which holds 19,000; and the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, with room for 19,500—not exactly the neighborhood bookstore.

“Arenas were chosen to meet the incredible demand and make sure Mrs. Obama’s events were accessible to as many people as possible,” Traub said. “It was also a priority of Mrs. Obama to add a few theater dates in 2019 to continue the Becoming conversations in more intimate settings.”

The second leg does mix in some smaller theaters like the Ryman Auditorium, which only holds a little over 2,300, but most dates will continue to take place in large arenas like the O2 Arena in London, which holds 20,000.

2. The tour has its own tunes.
For the tour, Questlove created a soundtrack with a three-volume, almost 600-song playlist titled the Michelle Obama Musiaqualogy. It features artists such as Sam Cooke, Ella Fitzgerald, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Michael Jackson, George Benson, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, and D’Angelo, and is played live in the venues during the tour. Plus, the soundtrack can be streamed on Spotify and Pandora.

3. Some tickets are pricey, some are free.
During the first leg of the tour, ticket prices went for as high as $3,000 (that included a front-row seat with a meet-and-greet package). Right now, you can score a third-row seat at the Ryman for $1,750.

To help make the tour more accessible, 10 percent of ticket inventory in each market of the first leg (nearly 15,000 tickets total) was donated to organizations such as charities, schools, and community groups that were selected by Obama such as the Democracy Prep Public School in Harlem. A portion of tickets for the 2019 shows will also be donated. Plus, this time around, Crown is sponsoring a sweepstakes for book clubs to win tickets to see the tour. One book group per city (in select cities) will win eight tickets to the tour.

Also, to ensure tickets got into the hands of fans, not scalpers or bots, the tour used Ticketmaster’s Verified Fan platform. Fans could register for Verified Fan presales, allowing them to purchase tickets before the general public.

4. There’s swag.
Like any rock concert, fans can scoop up branded merchandise like Becoming T-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, pins, and even candles at the gift shop.

5. There are no pyrotechnics but Barack showed up.
In order to create that “intimate conversation” atmosphere in a massive arena, two chairs and some end tables are set up on stage, as a way to draw the audience into the discussion between the former first lady and the moderator. During the first leg, Obama chatted with an all-female lineup of notable names including Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, and Valerie Jarrett. Plus, during the stop in Chicago, her husband, and former president, Barack Obama popped by for a quick hello.

It was announced yesterday that late-night TV show host Jimmy Kimmel will serve as moderator in Tacoma, with Phoebe Robinson at the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon, and Valerie Jarrett at the Comerica Theater in Phoenix.

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