And yet Bentley, a headlining act in the U.S. with a half dozen No. 1 hits, didn't plan to make a dime.
"On this tour we don't expect to make any money, and we shouldn't," the 33-year-old singer explained in an interview. "This will be the first time we're playing there. We're trying to lay the foundation for future tours."
As the Country Music Association kicks off its annual festival in Nashville on Thursday to connect with its U.S. audience, artists are trying to bulk up their presence overseas. Few contemporary country hitmakers tour outside North America with regularity. The international market for country isn't anywhere near what it is in the U.S., and the cost of hauling a crew, band and equipment across continents is brutal.
"Most country acts are reluctant to go overseas because they can't make the same money," remarked Joe Galante, chairman of Sony Music Nashville. "But you have to go there and spend some time and build a marketplace."
A few are making a go of it. Besides Bentley, Keith Urban regularly tours abroad. Brooks & Dunn, Sugarland and Taylor Swift are also making inroads. Alan Jackson and Martina McBride are both preparing to play shows in Europe.
In a recent interview, top-seller Rascal Flatts said one of their main goals with their latest album was expanding their audience overseas. And Swift _ who is queen of both pop and country these days _ has been greeted by energetic fans in Europe.
"I've been very lucky that it's been so successful over there, because I certainly expected it to be harder, having there been an absence of country music over there," she said in a recent interview.
Still, it isn't easy. Most countries don't have radio stations dedicated to country music or TV networks that play country videos. And unlike pop and rock, country labels don't typically release albums worldwide.
As a result, some of the genre's biggest stars sell comparatively few records outside of the U.S., with Canada and Australia usually accounting for the largest chunks.
According to their respective record labels, 19 percent of Jackson's total sales last year were international; 9 percent of Brad Paisley's; 8 percent of Kenny Chesney's; 11 percent of McBride's; and 10 percent of Carrie Underwood's. Brooks & Dunn, which has toured Australia the past two years, had 27 percent international sales in 2008. George Strait averages about 5 percent to 6 percent a year.
"Country music used to tour a lot more internationally than it does these days," Urban said recently. "The artists I grew up listening to _ the Glen Campbells, Dolly Partons, Charley Pride, Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash _ they were touring Europe a lot."
Born in New Zealand and raised in Australia, the 41-year-old superstar is probably more attuned to the universal potential of country music than most.
"We played this place in Berlin not too long ago and I was up there singing 'Raining on Sunday' and let the audience sing and they sing in English but it's this real thick German accent," Urban recalled. "It seemed pretty surreal."
Bentley tries to go overseas every year. Besides Australia, he's performed in Europe and Japan. Even with the tight profit margins, he says it's worth it.
"You can't forget that little dream you had to begin with," Bentley said. "If someone told you when you were 17 years old that there would be a chance to go to Europe and sing in front of people, you would have jumped at the chance. It's not all about making money."
But for artists who take a long-term view, the reward can be substantial.
Cash, Campbell, Parton, Pride, the Bellamy Brothers, Don Williams and others who regularly toured internationally in their heydays continued selling records and conert tickets abroad long after their hot streaks ended in the U.S.
"I can't tell you they got rich doing it, but they understood what it was. They built that base and now their catalog 30 or 40 years later still sells," Galante said.
Jeff Walker, president of Nashville-based Aristo Media Group, which promotes the genre outside the United States and publishes an international report, thinks country record labels are missing out by not taking a more global marketing strategy, like their counterparts in pop and rock. In country, he said, it's mostly up to the individual artist to build an international base.
"I see so many international acts breaking in the pop area and many American acts breaking overseas," he said. "I think we're underutilizing our acts breaking over there."
Often, the country acts who do tour abroad frequently and successfully are veterans who've been going for years on a smaller scale, people like Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle, Ricky Skaggs and Dwight Yoakam.
Yoakam has been going to Europe since his 1986 debut, "Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc." While the travel can be expensive and time-consuming, he said it's given him a "marketplace to go perform that is broader than had I just stayed in the U.S."
"There are elements that make it a tougher business model, but if you are an artist who has some potential over there, I think it's important to go," Yoakam said, "just like it is for me to go to Canada or to the Northwest United States or wherever and try to connect with that audience."