Concert Industry Rushing To Make Shows More “Intimate”

Oct 29th, 2007 // 9 Comments

One of the rallying cries of displaced OiNK users last week was “We’ll make up for not buying records by supporting the band on the road, mannn“–but if news out of Denver is to be believed, not everyone is lining up for concerts in lieu of buying recorded music. A slew of shows in the area, by artists ranging from Maroon 5 to Bill Callahan, have been downsized recently, with concert promoters moving the shows to smaller rooms after initial ticket sales were lower than expected. In the case of the Maroon 5 show, capacity was slashed from 18,000 to 3,600. (So much for their road jaunt helping out their soft album sales!)

“It must not have been selling well, plain and simple,” said legendary former concert promoter Barry Fey. “They must have been sure it was going to bomb, and now they just want to recover whatever they can. That, and the act doesn’t want to be embarrassed.”

Peter Ore, regional vice president of booking for Live Nation, declined to comment.

Moving Maroon 5 to the Fillmore makes sense for Live Nation, which owns the venue outright. At the Pepsi Center, Live Nation would have needed to rent the space from owners Kroenke Sports, and would not have shared in coveted receipts from food and alcohol sales.

“The difference is night and day,” said Square Peg’s Steinberg. “It’s very cost-effective. I’m sure that Live Nation was aggressive about the deal that moved the show down, and obviously the band doesn’t want to play an empty room.

“You see a band playing an empty room and there’s definitely a vibe that it’s over, and nobody wants that. Everybody wants to play a packed room.”

As the Post notes, Denver is the major destination for concerts in the Rocky Mountain region; it has the largest potential draw of any city between Chicago and Phoenix. But that may have the unfortunate result of too many promoters trying to horn in on the area’s ticket-buying power, which then drives up prices.

“Denver’s always been unique because people go to shows, but there are too many promoters overtaxing it,” said Steinberg, who formerly worked in Denver but is now based in Seattle. “Everybody’s looking for volume. It’s attractive to agents and managers, but it creates bidding wars. It’s one of the harder markets in the country not only to get the talent, but to sell it.”

All promoters contacted for this story blamed high ticket prices for fans’ general disinterest. Competition for the consumer dollar normally drives down price, but in the concert business, promoters scramble to offer artists the highest guarantee to snag them for their company.

“What’s killing our business is these high ticket prices,” said Fey. “The competition for the groups is so torrid that you pay them more than they’re ever worth. The only way to recoup that is to raise ticket prices.”

Fey pointed to the example of the Rolling Stones, a band he booked in 1972 for $6.50 per ticket. Adjusted for inflation the ticket would cost about $30 today, but the Stones now charge some fans hundreds of dollars to attend their shows.

“Acts think a certain level of hotness demands a certain guarantee, and you have ticket prices that go along with that,” said Outback’s Jason Zink. “If those aren’t matching what the public wants to buy, it just doesn’t sell.”

This is similar to the note of alarm Philadelphia concert promoter Sean Agnew sounded earlier this month, when he started a message board thread about this fall being a bad season for many of the venues and promoters in his area simply because more artists are trying to rely on touring for too much of their revenue, resulting in a glut of too many bands touring too often and demanding too much money. (The whole thread should be eye-opening reading for anyone who thinks indie bands will–or should–make the money they lose from lost CD sales on the road; lots of artists chime in as well.) Together, these two stories puncturing holes in the “road = best way to make money” myth makes me wonder if we should expect to see another slew of stories like this from the merch side, about oversupply of stuff resulting in the slow contraction of that industry, in six months or so.

Concert promoters get reality check [Denver Post via TDS]

  1. coolfer

    there is indeed an overall trend toward smaller venues. live nation has spoken about how they are closing some larger venues and concentrating on medium-sized venues. as far as merch, i would expect bands/labels/companies to have an estimate of what to manufacture based on the tour, size of venue and ticket sales. there many be a slowdown of merch sales at concerts (although internet sales may be picking up, who knows?) but there really shouldn’t be an oversupply. (i assume, maybe irrationally, that people will act rationally and order for proper stock levels.)

  2. mike a

    Hard to complain about a trend away from sheds/arenas and toward theatres/clubs – at least as a fan.

  3. pixie/serpent_sky

    Here’s how I see it:

    With about two seconds’ thought, I bought a $100 ticket to see My Chemical Romance at Maxwell’s in NJ. There was no question: the place holds 200 people. I did not, however, but a $100 ticket to see them open for Bon Jovi at a huge arena that same week. Why? Ignoring the Bon Jovi factor, it was a *huge arena*, and I don’t want to go to shows like that.

    Actually seeing the band, feeling the energy, and being surrounded by people who really care is a good thing. Being one of thousands in a huge arena where you can barely see the band? I’ll stay home and listen to my iPod.

  4. supastah

    where in this does it say that making money touring is a myth? what i’m hearing is that the market doesn’t value some bands as highly as the bands would like them to. that doesn’t mean they can’t make money, but it does mean they won’t be gazillionaires and live in the predetermined opulence they expected. look, if fugazi can make a living on touring, then the model is proven. they’re not wealthy, and don’t want to be, but they make their money and get to live and survive as musicians without working at starbucks. sorry, marron 5, but that might be as much as you can ask for and maybe all you can expect.

  5. amandacobra

    This reminds me of a poster I saw recently for an upcoming Cure show here in Dallas.

    The poster read as follows:

    “A first-ever Cure tour featuring shows in an intimate setting……Live at American Airlines Center!” *

    * American Airlines Center also known as the stadium where the Dallas Mavericks games, Ringling Bros. Circus and J Lo. tour dates also occur

    PS – I just googled this information and apparently The Cure cancelled their fall tour. Maybe AAC was too intimate.

  6. SabreFanCS

    omg! oink users are such hippies! you know how to zing em Maura!

  7. Cos

    Soon to be classic quote from Sean Agnew on the linked thread:

    “As I am typing this the tour manager from The Klaxons is screaming at me because his band” are going to have to sit around for two hours between load in and sound check. It’s this prima donna bullshit that ruins things for everyone. I just wanna be like “yo nigga, motherfucing Defiance:Ohio sold twice as many tickets as “your band” did this week – shut the fuck up and load in your own gear”

  8. Reidicus

    They call the Pepsi Center “The Can.” Genius!

  9. goldsoundz


    Right on. Being an artist does not mean one can dictate the manner in which they will live. You don’t deserve a life of ease simply because you recorded an album.

    A major premise in that first piece of evidence is also that ticket prices (like cd prices) have soared. If ’72 Stones adjusted for inflation is $30, why are today’s big acts (not nostalgia tours) already 2-3 times that before fees?

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