Big Shows By Veteran Acts Boost Concert Biz

The numbers are in for Pollstar’s third quarter ticket sales charts and it appears early predictions about how fans would spend their money this year were right: They still want to see shows, but they want to make sure they get more bang for their buck.

Overall sales of tickets were up by about 2.8 million units, but much of that increase is due to stadium tours by acts like U2, Madonna and Bruce Springsteen.

While arena-level sales were also up, movement up or down on the club and theatre front was negligible. And despite Herculean efforts like Live Nation’s weekly Wednesday deals aimed at getting butts in seats at amphitheatres this summer, sales of tickets at the outdoor venues were down almost 1.2 million units, continuing a trend that began a couple of years ago.

Photo: John Darwin Kurc /
Scott Stadium @ Univ. Of Virginia, Charlottesville, Va.

The top five spots on the Worldwide Tours chart for the first nine months of 2009 were claimed by four big name acts (U2, AC/DC, Springsteen and Coldplay) and an elaborately staged prehistoric spectacular (“Walking with Dinosaurs”), with Madonna, Britney Spears, Nickelback, Kenny Chesney and Pink rounding out the top 10.

In fact, looking back, veteran acts have dominated the Pollstar charts all year. Although the top place on July’s mid-year Top 100 North American Tours chart went to a revitalized Britney Spears, Fleetwood Mac staked out the No. 2 spot and Elton John/Billy Joel, Eagles, Celine Dion, Springsteen, Dave Matthews Band and The Dead all landed in the top 10. Country and comedy acts were also well represented, with Kenny Chesney coming in at No. 7 and Dane Cook at No. 10.

Photo: AP Photo / The Times
Century Tel Center, Bossier City, La.

That’s not to say there haven’t been a few surprises in 2009. A look at the leading 10 events on the mid-year Top 100 Concert Grosses chart (also from July) reveals the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival landed at No. 1, dwarfing the competition by earning more than $15 million in three days, and its country sibling Stagecoach claimed the No. 5 spot with a gross of more than $6 million.

And in a testament to the growing popularity of electronic music in the States, Miami’s Ultra Music Festival, which featured acts like The Prodigy, Tiesto, Paul van Dyk and David Guetta, quietly slipped onto the mid-year list at No. 9 with a two-day gross of more than $5 million and an attendance of 39,000.