Overall concert ticket sales dropped by double digits in 2010, as economic concerns and fickle fans resisted attending many shows, causing artists and promoters to cancel shows or entire tours and lead live entertainment giant Live Nation Entertainment to rethink its 2011 model.

According to figures released this week by concert industry trade publication Pollstar, combined ticket sales for the Top 50 North American tours generated $1.69 billion in 2010, down 15 percent from $1.99 billion in 2009. The Top 50 worldwide tours generated $2.93 billion in 2010, a drop of 12 percent from $3.34 billion the previous year.

The total number of tickets sold to North American concerts dipped to 26.2 million, a 12 percent drop from 29.9 million in 2009. In addition, the show count was also less at 2,114, a 3 percent decrease, and the average cost of a show fell by $1.55, or 2 percent, primarily due to heavy discounting by Live Nation and others in an 11th-hour attempt to move slow-selling tickets.

At the worldwide level, the total number of tickets sold decreased 15 percent to 38.3 million in 2010, down from 45.3 million in 2009. The show count dropped 8 percent to 2,650, but unlike in North America, worldwide average ticket prices rose by $2.86 or 4 percent.

“The above numbers are all in line with what we were seeing throughout the year,” wrote Pollstar‘s Joe Reinartz. “Artists worked fewer shows in a tough business climate and those that overreached suffered the consequences.”

Live Nation, which dominates the concert and ticketing landscape, saw its numbers drop dramatically, particularly its stock price which fell from nearly $17 per share in the spring to less than $9 per share by mid-summer when news of its rollercoaster year was fully digested. The stock, which trades under the symbol LYV, has since rallied and closed today, December 30, at $11.82.

Fans reacted negatively to what they perceived as overpriced shows, and also stayed away from some veteran acts that they had seen one-too-many times before. Couple that with the fact that there are only a handful of artists under the age of 40 who can consistently sell out arenas or stadiums on their own.

In the secondary ticket market, brokers experienced some of the same problems that the primary ticket market did as it related to sales. Lines have been blurred between the primary and secondary tickets, with many artists and promoters pricing premium tickets at high levels after seeing brokers do the same thing for years.
“It’s harder and harder to make money with the primary and secondary markets being virtually the same,” Max Waisvisz, owner of Chicago-based Gold Coast Tickets, told TicketNews. “Only the very hot shows seem to do well.”

The difficulty is partly due to brokers not always being able to obtain the “right seats,” Waisvisz believes, and the often fickle nature of fans. For example, while he said his firm did pretty well reselling Lady Gaga tickets, another hot act, the Black Eyed Peas, were up and down.

“The first time they [Black Eyed Peas] came through the Chicago area, we did well, but the second time we couldn’t get rid of the tickets,” Waisvisz said.

Last Updated on January 7, 2011