The worldwide concert industry exceeded $1 billion in ticket sales in the first quarter (Q1), a first for the business and a sign that...

The worldwide concert industry exceeded $1 billion in ticket sales in the first quarter (Q1), a first for the business and a sign that 2010 is off to a strong start despite slow economy.

According to numbers reported by Pollstar for January through March, total tickets sold numbered 18.6 million, with 12 million sold in North America. Last year’s Q1 worldwide gross revenues reached $941.6 million.

Q1 numbers for the top 100 tours are also up from the past two years. This year’s top 100 sold 10.9 million tickets in the first quarter. Compare that to 10.1 million in 2009 and 9.9 million in 2008.

Pollstar also released the top world venues for the first quarter, and with 299,884 tickets sold, London’s O2 arena was number one, while New York’s Madison Square Garden was number two with 215,006 tickets sold. Rounding out the top five in order were Color Line Arena in Hamburg, GER (188,573); The Palace of Auburn Hills in Michigan (187,914); and the O2 – Dublin (170,922). Three other North American arenas made the top 10, The Wachovia Center in Philadelphia; the St. Pete Times Forum in Florida; and the Bell Center in Canada.

North American cities dominated the top theater rankings with nine of the top 10 spots, and four of the top five. The Fox Theater in Atlanta led the pack with 147,498 tickets sold, followed by Dreyfoos Hall in West Palm Beach with 136,615. Mexico City’s Auditorio Nacional was third with 130,493 tickets sold, followed by Carol Morsani Hall in Tampa, FL with 120,287, and Radio City Music Hall in New York with 112,289.

Washington DC’s 9:30 Club had the most tickets sold (65,183) in the club venues rankings, followed by Ancienne Belgique in Brussels, BEL (64,361); Boston’s House of Blues (45,854); Terminal 5 in New York (41,385) and The Tabernacle in Atlanta (39,978).

Not surprisingly, the top Q1 promoter is Live Nation with 3,018,601 tickets sold. AEG Live is number two with 1,761,647 tickets sold. Promoters based in the UK, Australia, and South America fleshed out the rest of the promoter top ten.

Pollstar is projecting a record year for revenues, though they warn that profits are subject to booking deals made by promoters.