Trouble for the Tour Biz

By | August 5, 2002 at 12:00 AM

The concert business is thanking Paul McCartney for a big first half in 2002. But don’t be fooled: A closer look shows that attendance is actually down, and the increase in revenue is due solely to a hike in ticket prices, which have jumped by about four dollars.

Rock concerts in 2002 have split into two separate markets: nostalgia fests for baby boomers willing to pay as much as $100 a ticket, and tours by current bands whose younger fans usually aren’t expected to pony up more than $30. The result? More money spent on fewer tickets.

According to concert-industry publication Pollstar, the Top Fifty tours grossed $538 million during the first half of the year, a rise of six percent from the same period last year. But the 10.6 million tickets sold were 300,000 less than what the Top Fifty tours racked up during the same period last year. Not surprisingly, most of the money was made by older acts, such as McCartney (whose average ticket is $130), Billy Joel and Elton John ($109), and the Eagles ($91). The bargain tickets among concert leaders came courtesy of the Green Day/Blink-182 tour ($31.50) and Dave Matthews Band ($42). Meanwhile, Top Fifty tours by Weezer, Kid Rock, Incubus, Linkin Park, Nickelback and No Doubt all had average ticket prices in the $20 to $30 range.

Some critics blame the hike in prices on Clear Channel, the radio-and-venue behemoth that dominates the concert business, mounting sixty-seven of this year’s 100 best-selling shows and championing premium prices. But Pollstar editor in chief Gary Bongiovanni points out that other promoters have done the same, and says that artists bear some of the responsibility as well. “If Paul McCartney thinks he deserves $130, and the public is willing to pay it, promoters can’t dictate that it should be $60.”

With upcoming tours from the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen and Aerosmith, and an encore swing by McCartney, second-half grosses should be even higher. And so should prices.

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