Irish pop singer Ronan Keating, is set to make history when he performs at
Olympic Stadium on May 9 as the first major international popstar to perform in
Cambodia. But despite massive marketing efforts, ticket sales have been
sluggish, raising concerns that "the nicest guy in pop," will be singing to
The former Boyzone frontman, with more than 20 hit singles
to his name, will now sing to a scaled-back audience of 7,000 inside an
undercover arena instead of in the full stadium, which has a capacity of
Glen Felgate, general manager of local television network and
concert organizer CTN, claimed this was in order to avoid interruption from the
encroaching rainy season.
"The initial plan was to do an outdoor
concert, but because of the potentially very heavy rains that could be a risk,"
Keating's concert is part of an Asian Tour, which includes
performances in Bangkok and Taipei. Tickets to the event are priced at $15, $25
and $65 - slightly cheaper than the Bangkok concert where tickets are priced
from $30-90 - but still pricey in a country where civil servants make an average
of $35 a month and a large proportion of the population live on less than $1 a
The event's organizers predicted tickets would sell out within days,
but less than a third of the 7,000 tickets were sold nearly month after they
became available on April 12. Felgate remained confident the show would sell
"Based on past experience, people seem to buy late. They leave it
right up to the event," he said on May 3, adding that the telephone ticketing
hotline was receiving an average of 200 calls each day.
But the lack of
sales has prompted organizers to open a ticket booth at the stadium itself and
intensify their marketing efforts. Over the last week, a number of Phnom Penh's
university campuses have had mini-vans - plastered with Ronan posters and armed
with loud speakers playing his hits - stationed nearby in an attempt to bolster
Felgate said Cambodians are accustomed to free concerts and will
need to get used to the idea of paying for entertainment.
"It's the only
way to get Cambodia onto the tour circuit," he said. "Because concerts do
Felgate said local singer Lida, who stars on the reality TV-show
"Girl Band Quest" - a Cambodian version of the popular "American Idol" talent
contest - will open the show.
Keating's performance is in line with
previous CTN promotions, such as Danish band Michael Learns to Rock's
performance in Phnom Penh in 2005. Hugely popular in Asia, the band's single
"Take me to your heart," was a hit in Cambodia and spawned local Khmer cover
But Keating's celebrity is of a far greater scale - at least in
Boyzone was formed in 1993, with five members chosen from
hundreds of hopefuls and became one of the UK's most successful "Boy Bands,"
with 16 top five singles and 15 million albums sold worldwide.
was plucked from his job as a shoe assistant and thrust into celebrity life, but
the devout Catholic managed to maintain a clean cut image in the UK tabloid
press, and was often called "the nicest man in pop."
In 2005, Keating was
appointed as a UN Goodwill Ambassador and he has worked as an ambassador for
Felgate said Keating would be visiting some local charity
organizations in Phnom Penh on his whistle stop visit, mirroring the efforts of
other Western celebrity emissaries on their trips to the
Keating, 30, has recently tried to toughen his image, confessing
last year to the "rock'n roll" lifestyle he led when touring with
"We weren't throwing TVs out of windows but we'd be up all hours
drinking every night. Next morning we'd get on the plane drunk," he told the
Daily Mail in June 2006.
In the same interview Keating also denied
speculation that he was still a virgin when he married, and revealed that he had
tried marijuana in Holland.
"I think people would be shocked if they
heard Ronan Keating took drugs," he said. "But between you and me, I've tried it
Keating launched his solo career in 1999 and his eponymous debut
album went on to sell 4.4 million copies worldwide.
His latest album
"Bring You Home," released last year, entered the UK album charts at number
But Keating seems little known in Cambodia, despite marketing
efforts by Mobitel, who have had his 2002 hit song "If Tomorrow Never Comes"
available for download as a ring tone.
Kunthea Yem, 23, a waitress who
earns about $60 per month, is a huge fan of the song and has almost mastered the
chorus in her broken English. But when asked who the singer was she had no idea
- nor did she know Keating was about to play in Phnom Penh.
someone said an international singer was coming here," she said, as the song
crackled out of her mobile phone. "Runarn Keytarn? No, I don't know him. Anyway,
I guess the concert will be too expensive."