The prophets of doom are working overtime predicting the mother of all recessions, but artists and promoters are more likely thinking about the profits of doom.
Bank of England Governor Mervyn King said the global economy is in its worst shape since World War I, but the message apparently hasn’t made it to music fans as concert tickets are flying out the door.
Live Nation chief Michael Rapino said history proves a recession doesn’t stop people from going to shows. As the financial pages were all but edged in black, fans of bands including Depeche Mode, AC/DC, Oasis, Kings Of Leon and The Killers were busy reinforcing his point.
“I think it was the worst week in financial history to have put shows on sale,” said Andrew Zweck from LN’s Sensible Events, shortly after the Depeche Mode tour he’s organising appeared to make nonsense of the doomsayers by selling more than 250,000 tickets in three days.
In the previous few days, the papers had been full of stories about governments borrowing billions to bail out banks, slumping property prices, plummeting stock prices and grim warnings about rising unemployment.
Zweck was expecting another ticket-buying surge the following week, as only half of the 30 or so stadium shows had gone on sale.
In Germany, Marek Lieberberg sold 70 percent of his 360,000 Depeche Mode tickets for June within a week of going on sale. Meanwhile, the ticket figure for Europe, including many of its weaker markets, moved past the 500,000 mark.
Lieberberg has added a second date at the 46,000-capacity Dusseldorf LTU Arena and is confident that all of the tickets for the German shows will be gone long before Christmas.
He also expects his seven Metallica shows to be close to an instant sellout and says the market is buoyant because of the stature of the bands putting tickets on sale.
He also said he believes that acts that take time to promote themselves, even when they haven’t released new material, can do a lot to contribute toward their touring success.
He said the Depeche Mode campaign was kick-started by the Oct. 6 press conference in Berlin, which was attended by 1,500 fans lucky enough to win tickets in a raffle and more than 300 journalists. The band’s new album will come out a month before the shows start.
It’s the first tour the band will do since the “Playing The Angel” dates in 2006, which sold 1.8 million tickets.
The “Tour Of The Universe” starts May 10, when Lieberberg and Israeli promoter Shuki Weiss will co-promote the act in Tel Aviv’s Ramat Gan Stadium.
Two years ago, the act canceled a Tel Aviv show because of security issues, but Depeche Mode keyboardist Andy Fletcher told visitors at the press conference that the band doesn’t have any reservations about scheduling another.
“We don’t regard Israel as being permanently in a war situation. It just was very unlucky at the last tour, it just happened for that period, so we were very unlucky,” he said.
The May 12 show Nana Trandou of Didi Music is promoting at Athens’ Terra Vibe Park was scheduled to go on sale Oct. 24, but the company is confident that sales will follow the pan-European trend.
“The Greek audience has proven to us that they can be potential buyers even eight months before the concert,” Didi Music’s Eleni Temponera explained. “The most recent example is Madonna’s concert, which was sold out in a few days, four months before the show date.”
Depeche Mode is also doing well in the slower markets in central and southeastern Europe, as the three Tuborg-sponsored Greenfests in Bulgaria, Serbia and Croatia (May 18-21) have all opened strongly.
All three of the brewery’s shows are co-promoted by Live Nation and its local partners. The Belgrade show, which is being run in cahoots with the team behind the country’s Exit Festival, has already sold 34 percent of the Usce Park’s 40,000 tickets.
Shows at the 55,000-capacity Sofia Vasil Levski Stadium and the 19,800-capacity Zagreb Arena have both sold more than 25 percent.
The Tuborg shows are among eight that Live Nation-Hungary chief Tim Dowdall is promoting or co-promoting. He’s also doing May shows in Romania, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Czech Republic.
Further north in Latvia and Lithuania, Baltic Development Group – which is promoting the May 25 show at Riga’s Skonto Stadium with LN’s Helsinki office – has sold more than 70 percent of its 25,000.
Makroconcerts chief Giedrius Klimasauskas has sold about 40 percent of his 25,000 tickets for Zalgiris Stadium in Vilnius (May 27).
Apart from Depeche Mode, the European leg of AC/DC’s Black Ice World Tour sold out 14 arenas in a matter of hours.
Live Nation’s eight Scandinavian Metallica shows sold out all 106,000 tickets in 40 minutes. Those dates are in Stockholm, Helsinki, Oslo and Copenhagen.
As the Copenhagen dates come at the end of the tour, Flemming Schmidt from LN’s Copenhagen office has been able to add a fourth show at the city’s 10,000-capacity Forum.
“That’s creating a little history, as no rock act has done four Forums in a row,” he said.
Although LN’s Nordic branch also sold all of its 45,000 tickets in about 20 minutes, European ops chairman Thomas Johansson is still sounding a note of caution about the months ahead.
“I think it will be like the recessions of ’87 and ’91 when big acts sold in the same way, but further down the line the smaller acts suffered,” he told Pollstar. “This time I think it will be even harder for them as now there’s nowhere near as much record company support.”
Zweck also said he feels the lower end of the market may suffer, because finances may force people to be more selective and they’ll be more inclined to see proven acts.