Between 1998 and 1999, the U.S. concert biz saw a huge 30 percent jump in ticket prices among the Top 50 tours. The cost of going to see a band went from an average $33.59 up to $43.63.

But in 2000, the ticket price explosion seemed to have stabilized and ducats were up only slightly at an average of $44.80 at the mid-year mark.

It turns out that the average ticket price dropped slightly in the second half of the year and for all of 2000, the average was virtually unchanged at $43.75.

The consistency in consumer cost didn’t prevent the industry from booming, however.Total gross ticket sales in North America hit record levels for the second year in a row. Pollstar estimates $1.7 billion worth of major concert tickets were sold in 2000, up about 14 percent over 1999’s record of $1.5 billion.

In July, Pollstar predicted that based on the first six months of the year, the industry would hit a new high with a record gross of around $1.8 billion.

If the economy had kept humming along, that number probably would have been accurate; but a souring business climate toward the year’s end resulted in slower ticket sales as people began hanging on to their money a little tighter.

Instability in the stock market, daily news of layoffs at companies big and small, and a disappointing holiday shopping season do not bode well for the concert industry in 2001. If the economy doesn’t rebound quickly, overall ticket sales next year could be severely affected.

The last time the U.S. was in a down economic cycle, the price of concert tickets was much lower and it was still possible for people on a tight budget to afford the occasional concert. Today, it costs the average fan in the hundreds of dollars to take a date to a show.

When it comes down to a choice between the rent, car payment or concert tickets, the result will be empty seats every time.