"Rich Men North of Richmond" Singer Cancels Concert Over Pricey Tickets

Oliver Anthony canceled a show in Knoxville and shared a plan for his future concerts.

Last month, country-folk singer Oliver Anthony scored an unexpected hit when his song "Rich Men North of Richmond" went viral. The song debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, which meant Anthony made history as the first artist with no prior history with the chart to debut in the top spot.

Anthony is currently touring, but fans who were hoping to see the 31-year-old at one of his shows in Knoxville, Tennessee this month are out of luck—at least for now.

The industry newbie recently announced that he canceled a Knoxville show over the ticket prices being too high. Anthony explained that he didn't mean for the show to go on sale with expensive ticket prices paired with an even pricier meet-and-greet. He also shared that he doesn't want his future shows to exceed a certain price limit.

Read on to find out more about Anthony, his concert cancelation, and his controversial song.

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Anthony said he didn't know how much the tickets would cost.

Warning: Video contains explicit language

In a video posted on Instagram on Sept. 11, Anthony said that he pulled his car over to the side of the road to film, because "I'm pissed off right now." He continued, "Don't buy Cotton Eye Joe tickets for $99 a piece and sure as hell don't buy VIP passes for whatever [expletive] price they're on."

Cotton Eye Joe is the name of the Knoxville venue where Anthony was set to perform on Sept. 27, as reported by Deadline.

Anthony went on to explain that he has a friend who is a plumber working as his booking agent, and that the friend agreed to the Cotton Eye Joe show without knowing how much the tickets would cost.

In the caption, Anthony wrote, "Don't buy $90 Cotton Eyed Joe tickets or $200 for a meet and greet. That's not acceptable … Miscommunication with my friend booking shows and I. My shows should never cost more than $40, ideally no more than $25. Hell, out of the 4 shows we have currently done, 2 of them have been completely free."

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He canceled the show altogether.

Later, Anthony commented on his own post and wrote, "Cotton Eyed Joe has been cancelled. I am so sorry about all of this. I will do better next time. We are still learning."

Anthony posted another video later the same day in which he explained that he was getting swept up in how touring works, saying, "I feel like I'm getting cornered doing what I don't want to do in the first place."

The country star wrote in the caption that he and Joey Davis, whom he performs with, "agreed on a good model that we will book shows around moving forward." He explained, "$25 ticket prices on all upcoming shows, excluding the two that we already have scheduled (Poppy Mountain and Louder than Life.) Free meet and greet at all shows."

On his Facebook page, Anthony said that he would find another venue to perform at in Knoxville soon. In addition to the show that was supposed to happen at Cotton Eye Joe, the musician is already performing in Knoxville on Sept. 29 at the Knoxville Convention Center. That show is sold out, but the tickets cost $25 when they were available.

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Anthony's hit song targets politicians.

Oliver Anthony performing in Farmville, Virginia in August 2023
Samuel Corum/Getty Images

"Rich Men North of Richmond" is about being working class, and targets politicians in Washington, D.C.—the city directly north of Richmond, Virginia. (Anthony is from a rural area of the state.)

According to Variety the song was embraced by several far-right political figures, including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and commentator Matt Walsh. The song was also part of at the first Republican presidential debate. As reported by The Guardian, a clip of the song played and Fox News host Martha MacCallum asked why the "song is striking such a nerve in this country right now." Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida, responded that it's because "our country is in decline."

After the debate, Anthony surprised some fans with his reaction to the song being used. On Facebook, he wrote, "Rich Men North of Richmond is about corporate owned DC politicians on both sides. Though [Joe] Biden's most certainly a problem, the lyrics aren't exclusively knocking Biden, it's bigger and broader than that. It's knocking the system collectively. Including the corporate owned conservative polticans [sic] that were on stage that night."

The song is controversial.

Oliver Anthony in Farmville, Virginia in August 2023
Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Outside of becoming a conservative anthem—which Anthony says was not the intention—the song is controversial for its references to welfare and deceased sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. One lyric that refers to people taking advantage of social programs has been criticized for promoting that stereotype of the "welfare queen" and for being fatphobic: "God, if you're 5 foot 3 and you're 300 pounds / Taxes ought not to pay for your bags of fudge rounds."

Another lyric reads, "I wish politicians would look out for miners / And not just minors on an island somewhere." The Guardian notes that this is a "reference to many conspiracy theories surrounding the crimes and death of Jeffery Epstein."

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Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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