Concert grosses hold steady in first half of ’08

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

While much of the record business is singing a sad song, musicians and fans apparently can’t wait to get on the road again, according to a midyear look at the concert business just released by Pollstar magazine.

Despite skyrocketing gas prices and a generally sluggish economy, Pollstar reports that the combined gross from the top 100 tours during the first six months of this year held steady at $1.05 billion, identical to the figure for the same period last year.

“The concert industry did far better in the first half of 2008 than it should have,” Pollstar editor Gary Bongiovanni noted in the report. “Despite the worsening economic climate, whatever it is that triggers the off-switch on consumer spending for tickets doesn’t appear to have happened yet.”

Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band were No. 1 and 2; Bon Jovi grossed $56.3 million and Springsteen pulled in $40.8 million.

Following them in Pollstar’s top 10 are Van Halen ($36.8 million), Kenny Chesney ($35.3 million), Michael Bublé ($32.5 million), Kanye West ($31.6 million), Jay-Z/Mary J. Blige ($30.7 million), Rascal Flatts ($25.4 million), and the Spice Girls and the Police (virtually tied at about $23.3 million each).

Among the other highlights:

* Each of the top four tours grossed more than $1 million per night, on average, with Bon Jovi surpassing $2 million from night to night through 39 shows.

* Another four acts -- Bon Jovi, Chesney, the Dave Matthews Band and the Eagles -- averaged more than 20,000 fans per night, with the Eagles’ average topping 30,000.

* Hip-hop made impressive inroads in the concert world. In 2007, no rap or hip-hop acts landed in the top 50 of the year’s highest-grossing tours; so far this year, two made the top 10: West and the Jay-Z/Blige co-headlining tour. Bongiovanni pointed out that West sold almost double the number of tickets of Jay-Z and Blige, with an average ticket price about half of theirs.

* Country music continues to be strong, landing 15 of the top 100 spots, up from 11 a year ago. Chesney, year in and year out one of the most popular touring performers in any genre, was the only act besides Bon Jovi to sell more than half a million tickets.

A 5.6% drop in overall ticket sales, or about 1 million fewer than last year, was offset by an increase in average ticket prices of about 5.9%, to $62.07. “The industry’s continuing trend of growth based on selling fewer but more expensive tickets,” Bongiovanni said, “is not a sustainable path for a business that should be constantly adding new customers.

“The conventional wisdom used to be that the concert business is recession proof,” Bongiovanni said. “That may have been true when tickets cost $10 or $15, but when we’re talking three-digit ticket prices, when money’s tight, that’s going to have some impact. Now, maybe some people are skipping more exotic vacation options and they’re staying closer to home, in which case it may seem a fair trade-off for them to spend money going to a concert.”