CAPE TOWN MOORE: Kip Moore’s 2021 trip to South Africa saw 44,000 tickets sold in Cape Town and Pretoria, leading to the Cape Town Country Festival taking place at DHL Stadium Oct. 26-27. (PJ Brown)

Biggest country music fest outside U.S.

Country music in South Africa seemed incongruous until Kip Moore’s team looked at the numbers and made a leap of faith.

“South Africa was never on my radar,” said Moore, a multi-platinum singer/songwriter. “I’ve always wanted to expand as far as I could, but South Africa sounded like a fairytale. It didn’t sound like a real thing. In early 2021, my manager said we are seeing a crazy spike in your numbers in streaming in South Africa and we didn’t really understand why.”

“Honestly, I was a bit skeptical about going over and performing because there were a lot of unknowns,” said Moore’s manager Gaines Sturdivant of Red Light Management in Nashville. “But we did acknowledge that there was a little bubble on the streaming front and the data gave me the confidence to explore the opportunity.”

The numbers didn’t lie and in 2023, Moore sold 44,000 tickets in Cape Town and Pretoria, opening the door for country music and the debut of Cape Town Country Festival at DHL Stadium on Oct. 26-27. Moore joins co-headliner Zac Brown Band, along with Darius Rucker, Brothers Osborne, Cam, James Johnston, Morgan Wade, Craig Morgan and a full slate of South African artists.

“What we are most proud of is that we have blazed a new trail,” Sturdivant said. “We do a lot of great things in music and there are celebratory milestones with clients, which are always something to be proud of, but when you are able to open the door to something new and carve your own path that ultimately others will follow, that’s the biggest note we celebrate.”

Moore is feeling the love now, but in the beginning, there was a lot of skepticism about performing in South Africa.

“People don’t understand the risk that artists take a lot of times going overseas,” Moore explained. “The first time I went to play England, I lost around $37,000 to play a sold-out club tour. It costs so much for us to get there. The venues aren’t big enough. Everything costs twice as much: buses, the production, the rental, the room. You don’t get paid as much, so it’s a big risk/reward that you take as an artist.”

South African entertainment executive Wimpie van der Sandt, CEO of Bok Radio, is producing the festival and was responsible for bringing Moore to Cape Town. He knew there was an audience and he was persistent, traveling to Nashville to meet with Sturdivant. After several conversations, van der Sandt approached Moore and Sturdivant in January 2023 about playing GrandWest Grand Arena at GrandWest Casino that March.

“It sounds insane,” Moore recalled. “We want to book an arena and play in two months and this is a market I have never been in. You never do that.”

(PJ Brown)

But Moore agreed and tickets went on sale four days later.

“I said, ‘If we sell 100 tickets we know we can pull out of this thing real fast.’”

The venue sold out 6,800 tickets in seven minutes, the fastest sellout in arena history. A second show was added, which sold out in an hour. The 30,000-seat Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria reached out and sold all available seats.

“It was a risk, but it was a calculated risk,” said van der Sandt, who leaned heavily into response from listeners to Moore’s music on Bok. “I’d like to claim I’m a visionary and saw it coming, but I didn’t see it selling out in seven minutes.”

With the success of the shows, it wasn’t long before van der Sandt and Sturdivant created the template for the first country music festival at DHL Stadium in Cape Town, which opened in 2010 for the FIFA World Cup.

“Wimpie and I dreamt up this idea together on a napkin after watching Kip’s jaw-dropping success in South Africa last year,” said Sturdivant, executive consultant for CTC Festival. “I am incredibly proud of the new ground Kip has plowed for country music and music in general. We all took a chance on each other. Kip delivered colossal performances and the fans poured in. CTC ‘24 is the next iteration, and the door is now wide open for the entire country music world.”

“The success we had last year with Kip Moore in South Africa proved there’s a vibrant and healthy country music scene over here,” said van der Sandt. “People in the music industry were skeptical when we explored the market, but we proved the concept and that gave us confidence to build the biggest country festival in the world outside the U.S.”

Van der Sandt’s vision for CTC Festival is to create a Nashville honky tonk for 45,000 fans each day at DHL Stadium with American food, drinks, boots and hats. Tickets went on sale Feb. 16 and in the first week, 22% of the available inventory was sold.

“We are going to give South Africans a taste of what Nashville is like,” van der Sandt said.

Ten South African artists will take the stage over the two-day festival: Ricus Nel, Riaan Benade, Demi-Lee Moore, Juan Boucher, Appel, Ruhan du Toit, Brendan Peyper, Ivan Roux, West and Cheree.

Roan Ash, who left South Africa for Nashville in 2022, will return to his hometown for the inaugural CTC Festival to perform new songs crafted in Music City.

Moore characterized South African music fans this way: “It’s a cerebral audience and they want to hear melody, melody, melody. There  such a spirit to that audiencise. A lot of times people show up for the scene, but these people are there for the music. It carries you to new heights. There is no ceiling.”

Moore recently released his fifth studio album Damn Love, and his “Damn Love World Tour” in 2023 saw Moore playing sold-out shows around the globe in Australia, New Zealand, UK and the U.S.

In 2024, Moore will hit the road with Billy Currington as part of a limited Billy Currington & Kip Moore: Live In Concert run as well as joining HARDY’s summer Quit!! Tour.

“What we do as a band has always been conducive to breaking boundaries, that’s the first thing,” Moore said. “I’ve never wanted to be put in a box. I’ve always had this vision of playing for international audiences.”