Inside The 1Q Stats

The concert industry appears to be off to a healthy start in 2005. The feedback from the trenches has been positive and the public seems to be largely supporting the shows going on sale.

First quarter tours by Mötley Crüe and Josh Groban have posted surprisingly strong numbers, and even Ashlee Simpson, who some may have given up for dead after her SNL and Orange Bowl fiascos, has demonstrated decent turnstile ability.

The initial round of summer shed dates have reported encouraging sales. Superstars like U2 and Bruce Springsteen have largely sold out their entire tours, and in the case of U2, the dates run all the way through the end of the year. The premium-priced Paul McCartney dates are about to go on sale and will likely go clean long before the tour begins. Still to come is the on-sale for The Rolling Stones dates in the fall.

An analysis of the first quarter 2005 Top 50 stats published in our April 25th issue reveals some interesting trends. The total tickets sold by the Top 50 concert promoters was up a modest 3.4 percent while the Top 50 tours actually sold about 4 percent fewer tickets than last year. That seems to be evidence of an increased level of winter touring by a broader range of acts.

The large amphitheatres are not a factor in Q1 and touring on the large arena level was down by 3 percent. That was countered by significantly increased activity at the theatre and club level. The Top 50 theatres sold more than 2.4 million tickets, up 20 percent over 2004. The Top 50 clubs recorded an even stronger 21.6 percent increase to 1.3 million tickets.

The industry also experienced a good first quarter in 2004 but sales seemed to screech to a halt in mid-April. Such is not the case this year. By late April last year, promoters were already well into their trail of tears and tales of woe over the horrific advance business they were suddenly facing for their 2Q and 3Q shows.

No one is sure why business fell off a cliff a year ago. Suggested causal factors in 2004 – including a spike in gasoline prices, the ongoing war in Iraq, and the faltering stock market – still exist today, yet the public reaction is not the same. The industry can only hope that business is so much better in 2005 because we are paying greater attention to pricing and producing a more customer-friendly product.

Gary Bongiovanni