Pricey Pop Concerts Keep More Music Fans at Home

By | July 15, 2002 at 12:00 AM

Rock ‘n’ roll has turned music fans into rebels. Not only are they pirating tunes on the Internet rather than paying upwards of $20 for a compact disc, they are also increasingly reluctant to fork out for costly concert tickets.

A survey of the North American concert industry by trade publication Pollstar showed the top 50 acts sold a combined 10.6 million tickets in the first half of the year, down about three percent from the year-ago period (10.9 million tickets) and off 18 percent from 2000 (12.9 million tickets).

The average ticket price for those top 50 tours rose 11.3 percent to $50.81 from last year, Pollstar said. By contrast U.S. consumer inflation rose 3.6 percent in the year to May.

“A substantial army of fans will still pay the freight for great seats to see their superstar heroes,” Pollstar said. “But one has to wonder where the millions of ticket buyers we lost since 2000 have gone. Can we get them back or have they been priced out of the market for good?”

The report is more bad news for the music industry, which is reeling from Internet bootlegging and a paucity of exciting new acts. Album sales in the United States have tumbled 10 percent year-to-date, according to data from tracking firm Nielsen SoundScan published in Billboard magazine.

But rock royalty need not cry poverty. Even if their new albums are not big sellers, they can make lots of money on the road. Higher ticket prices propelled old soldiers like Paul McCartney and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young to the top of Pollstar’s top touring acts.

Indeed ticket sales for the top 50 acts reached $538.2 million during the first half, up 17 percent from the year-ago period, but off seven percent from 2001.

McCartney was the top earner with ticket sales of $52.8 million, Pollstar said. Undertaking his first North American tour in a decade, McCartney, now 60, received glowing reviews for his hits-heavy set. He played 27 shows in 20 cities, and is reportedly planning to return later this year. His average ticket price was $129.59.

The double bill of Billy Joel and Elton John was the No. 2 act with a $44.4 million haul from 23 shows in just eight cities. The average ticket price was $108.70. The piano men could have been No. 1 if Joel’s “acute laryngitis” and other maladies had not postponed 10 dates until the fall; Joel checked into a substance abuse center last month.

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young were third with $34.9 million from 40 shows in 36 cities. The combustible folk quartet charged an average $80.08 per ticket.

Other veterans in the top 10 included the Eagles at No. 6 with $20.6 million, Jimmy Buffett at No. 9 with $17.0 million and Barry Manilow at No. 10 with $14.7 million.

Flying the flag for the youngsters were ‘N Sync ( news – web sites) at No. 4 with $33.2 million, followed by the Dave Matthews Band with $24.0 million. A double bill of punk combos Green Day and Blink-182 came in at No. 7 with $19.7 million while Britney Spears was No. 8 with $18.9 million.

Green Day and Blink-182 were the busiest acts in the top 10 and offered the best value: 45 shows in 44 cities at an average cost of $31.56.

Pollstar was confident receipts for 2002 would surpass 2001’s record of $1.75 billion. The Rolling Stones, whose 1994 tour grossed a record $121.2 million, will hit the road in September. Others gearing up for shows include Aerosmith ( news – web sites) and Bruce Springsteen.

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