Concert Draw Slows on Heels of Rock Stars' Booming First Half

From United Press International

Rock 'n' roll promoters are having a hard time coming up with an encore to this year's first half.

Ticket sales boomed in the first six months of the year as some of the biggest names in rock took to the road. Monster tours by Billy Joel, Aerosmith, Paul McCartney, Janet Jackson and Madonna kicked the concert season off to an unseasonably early start.

But now that Paul McCartney is yesterday's Visa commercial and Madonna wrapped up her energetic Blond Ambition tour--even in Europe--much of the glitter has left the stage, industry executives said.

"These acts create such a pull that after you've seen them it's hard to go out and see an act that's not as good," said Fred Rosen, chairman and chief executive officer of Ticketmaster, the world's largest computerized ticketing company. "The market gets soft behind them for a period of time."

Many industry executives are predicting a lot of empty seats this fall. Ticket sales have already slowed in the last six weeks, Rosen said, and he expects the slowdown to last through the end of the year.

It was a banner spring for many promoters. The top 100 money-making concerts in the first six months of the year generated a record $110 million in ticket sales, up from $64 million in the first half of 1989, according to the trade magazine Pollstar.

Two-thirds of the money came from just five acts--Billy Joel ($22.8 million), Aerosmith ($21.2 million), New Kids on the Block ($19.7 million), Paul McCartney ($18.9 million), and Janet Jackson ($17.9 million).

Normally, the summer is the biggest concert season, with the most famous acts topping it off toward the end.

This year the pattern was reversed, and some industry observers think the early flood of major stars prematurely tapped the concert budgets of a lot of fans.

"The cost of going to shows has gotten so high people can't afford to go to concerts every month," Pollstar Editor Gary Bongiovanni said. "Everybody wants to see Paul McCartney and they'll pay the high prices. It's the middle of the pack that gets hurt."

Slow ticket sales recently prompted San Francisco rock promoter Bill Graham to move a concert featuring the Ramones, Debbie Harry, the Tom Tom Club and Jerry Harrison from the 15,000-seat Arco Arena in Sacramento, to the much smaller 2,250-seat Warfield Theater in San Francisco.

But overall sales remain strong, Graham said, listing a number acts that are doing good business, including Eric Clapton, the Grateful Dead and Bonnie Raitt.

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