Pollstar‘s Top 100 Tours chart for 2008 so far is led by Bon Jovi ($56.3 million for 39 shows; average ticket price $87.98) and Bruce Springsteen ($40.8 million for 29 shows; average ticket price $99.02), and a superficial gloss on the overall numbers would indicate that the music business’ new “let ‘em make it back on the road” strategy is at the very least holding steady. North American concert grosses totaled $1.05 billion between January and June, a figure that’s unchanged since last year. But Pollstar editor Gary Bongiovanni thinks these numbers are better than they should be, given the dire economic news greeting the country’s front pages every day, and he went so far as to ask the New York Times, “When is the bottom going to drop?” The answer seems to be “whenever promoters get tired of not selling overpriced tickets, and adjust prices accordingly!”
Grosses might be holding steady, but attendance has been slipping for years, as the industry has remained profitable by selling fewer tickets for more money. The total number of tickets sold in the first half of 2008 fell by 5.6 percent to 16.9 million, though that was offset by a 5.9 percent increase in prices. The average ticket price for Bon Jovi, for example, was $88, and for Jay-Z and Ms. Blige it was $111.
Mr. Bongiovanni said high prices made the business vulnerable if the economy continues to curb discretionary spending.
“When times are tight, and there are fewer of those dollars around,” he said, “the first thing that’s going to get cut is a $200 concert ticket.”
Especially if that ticket has 15-20% worth of surcharges piled on top of its price. It kind of makes Live Nation’s Michael Rapino sunny outlook about his company’s future, and his claims that because people have got to get out, they’re going to scrimp and pinch in order to see Tim McGraw, seem kind of, well, deludedly quaint, no? Or at least hampered by the tunnel vision that executives, particularly those in the music business who have had their whole existence mediated by assistants who aren’t paid huge sums of money and who actually have some grasp on the real world, seem to chronically have.