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U.S. concert business slumps despite reunion tours

High-priced reunion tours by the Police, Van Halen and Genesis failed to prevent the North American concert industry from posting its worst year since 2004, according to a music industry trade publication. The top 20 tours generated $996 million, down 15.6 percent from the year before, according to preliminary data issued on Friday by Pollstar, which covers the concert business. The previous low was $951.1 million in 2004, when Prince and Madonna topped the box office, it said.

The comeback tour by Anglo-American rock trio the Police was the top draw this year with ticket sales of $131.9 million, followed by country star Kenny Chesney with $71.1 million, and pop singer Justin Timberlake with $70.6 million.

The Police tour ranks fourth on Pollstar’s all-time list, behind the 2005 treks of the Rolling Stones ($162 million) and Irish rock band U2 ($139 million), and the Stones’ 2006 outing

($138.5 million). This year, the venerable British rockers limited themselves to a 12-week tour of Europe.

Rounding out the top five of 2007 were Celine Dion’s just-completed exclusive engagement at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas ($65.3 million) and rock band Van Halen ($56.7 million) with original singer David Lee Roth at the helm for the first time in two decades.

Pollstar editor Gary Bongiovanni said the big tours all did well, particularly those by Timberlake and crooner Josh Groban (No. 9 with $43 million). But whereas four acts in the top 10 each sold more than 1 million tickets last year, this time only the Police and Chesney passed that figure.

He suggested that some major artists may have been a little conservative with their ticket prices, noting that the Dave Matthews Band (No. 11, $41.1 million) charged an average ticket price of $49. Bruce Springsteen, hitting the road with the E Street Band for the first time in three years, came in at No.

14 with $38.2 million. But his average ticket was just $92.

Both acts are noted for their fan-friendly policies.

Dion’s average ticket price was the most expensive in the top 20, at $141. Genesis, with drummer/singer Phil Collins back in the fold, charged an average of $130 per ticket, which put the British art-rock band at No. 8 with $47.6 million. The Police charged an average $114 and Van Halen an average $111.

Chesney was a relative bargain at almost $63.

Those prices would have been a steal to the many frazzled parents who forked over massive amounts to scalpers so that their little girls could see Hannah Montana, the fictional pop star played on the Disney Channel TV show by Miley Cyrus.

The tour came in at No. 15 with $36 million, but with tickets evidently underpriced at an average of $54, venues sold out within minutes, and scalpers offered the prized tickets for many times their face value. Angry parents sued the Hannah Montana fan club, politicians launched investigations, and Federal Reserve economists issued a report that reminded people about the basics of supply and demand.

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