Anecdotally, the concert business in the North America has been in the doldrums for most of the year, and now there are numbers backing that up, as the industry has suffered a dip in sales over the first half of this year, according to newly released data from Pollstar.
The concert industry trade magazine reports that North American touring has seen a 15 percent drop in “key concert indicators,” a trend reflected in the number of recent cancellations by artists like Christina Aguilera, the Eagles and Rihanna. With higher ticket sales happening in geographic areas with higher employment stats, it seems clear that the still sluggish U.S. economy is largely contributing to industry woes.
The combined gross for the top 100 North American tours for first and second quarters dropped by nearly $200 million over the same period last year, to $965.5 million compared with last year’s $1.2 billion. This constitutes a 17 percent drop year over year. Mexico has been affected similarly, as a number of American artists are not including the country in their schedules. Canada has been impacted the least by this trend, but the health of the Canadian industry was not enough to sufficiently boost North America’s numbers.
Tickets sold on the top 100 North American tours reached 15.9 million, dropping 2.1 million year over year. For this indicator as well as the tours’ combined gross, these are the lowest numbers seen since 2005. Average gross and average ticket sales per show saw similar declines, down 14.4 percent and 9 percent, respectively. This occurred in the face of an average 6 percent drop in ticket prices over the same period last year.
Grosses for the international concert industry have generally maintained at last year’s levels, with the exception of some European festivals not faring well.
The first half year’s losses come in direct contrast to Pollstar’s reported upticks in worldwide concert sales for Q1.
Overall, the highest grossing show for the first half of the year was April’s 3-day Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, taking in nearly $22 million. Paul McCartney’s two dates at Mexico City’s Foro Sol in May ran a distant second, grossing $12.6 million.
For the top 100 North American tours, Bon Jovi ($52.8 million) dominated the list, followed by James Taylor and Carole King ($41 million) and Taylor Swift (34.2 million). The top grosser worldwide by far, AC/DC ($177.5 million), was the sole act to hit seven figures in tickets sold (at 1.8 million), exceeding even last year’s totals for the group.
The number one arena on the list, the O2 in London, was the only venue to top 1 million in tickets sold. Madison Square Garden (MSG) was the best North American finisher, in fourth place with 336,482. In club venues, Ancienne Belgique in Brussels, BEL, claimed first place (131,981).
North American theaters dominated Pollstar’s top theatre rankings, with U.S. venues taking up eight of the top ten spots. In first place was Auditorio Nacional in Mexico City, with ticket sales of over 400,000. Next was Radio City Music Hall in New York (309,929), followed by the Fox Theatre in Atlanta, GA (296,637), the Colosseum at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, NV (191,884) and the Fox Theatre in Detroit, MI (187,517).
No surprise for which company was the top promoter for the first half of the year: concert giant Live Nation. But, number two AEG Live made big gains here, boosting ticket sales to 5.6 million and its affiliates producing 46 of the 100 top grossers, compared with Live Nation’s 27.
Despite the downturn for North American sales, the trade publication projects good health for the concert industry over the long term, noting that big names like Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber can still easily put fans in seats this year.