Concert Business’ Behind Sorta-Saved By Ever-Increasing Ticket Prices

Jul 14th, 2008 // 4 Comments

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.

New Jersey Rockers Top Mid-Year Tours [Pollstar]
Pop Tours Still Sell, Despite Economy [NYT]
Live Nation Sings A New Tune [WSJ via The Daily Swarm]

  1. Al Shipley

    Hasn’t this been the movie industry’s strategy for keeping pace for, oh, forever?

  2. Anonymous

    Take a look at most ampitheatre summer shows this season. Regardless of your opinion on the music, a lot of these bands shouldn’t even be playing these big shows.

    3 Doors Down/Staind/Hinder? Rock radio hits no longer equal big concerts. I really doubt there are a lot of people who would be willing to watch butt-rock bands go through the motions for $50+ at their local Live Nation/Clear Channel ampitheatre where they have to sit 200 feet away (a spot check on TM master for most shows prove my theory correct).

    Another laughing matter is the Rock The Bells concert here in the tri-state area which still seems to be struggling to fill just the Orchestra section (roughly 1/4 of the place).

  3. MrStarhead

    The 3DD/Staind/Hinder show is playing mostly secondary markets that aren’t going to get a Bon Jovi or even a Nickelback to come to town. Just look at the dates: Portland, Maine, Kearney, Nebraska, Wichita, Kansas, and Bossier City, Louisiana. If you’re the only show coming to town that summer, the heshers will save up their beer money.

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