UK Arena Crowds Down 20%

The number of people attending music shows in the UK’s major arenas has dropped by a fifth in the last 12 months, according to figures from the National Arenas Association.

This year’s International Live Music Conference in London heard that, according to a survey of 17 of Britain’s largest arenas, 10.9 million attended concerts in 2010. That’s 19 percent less than the record-breaking 13.6 million that showed in 2009.

Although the figures suggest arena shows are being squeezed by the financial climate, the 2010 attendance is still slightly up on 10.4 million that saw arena shows in 2008.

Outgoing NAA chairman Phil Mead, who presented the figures at an ILMC session March 12, said the main reason for the fall is the drop in the number of shows the venues staged in 2009.

The arenas will be wary of whether it’s a blip or a trend. The 2010 figure of 2,182 shows was 6 percent lower than the 2,333 they staged in 2009. But it was still a little more than 10 percent up on the 1,978 shows the arenas put on in 2008.

Live music is still the arenas’ crowd puller, accounting for 60 percent of the foot fall, but only three of 2010’s top crowd-pullers were concert tours.

“X Factor” came out at No. 1, pulling 478,000 punters, followed by Lady Gaga (331,755) in fourth and Rod Stewart (214,535) at No. 10.

Mead believes another reason for the drop could be that touring acts don’t play as many UK shows as they once did. He said more acts are hand picking a few dates in each country, rather than spending a month at a time working their way to every corner of it.

“Once an act becomes big internationally they simply don’t have the time to tour up and down arenas in the UK, so increasingly it’s domestic things like ‘X Factor’ that are keeping them alive,” he said. “The business is not as big as it used to be. The NAA numbers show that arenas should be down on their knees to Simon Cowell.”

The other big shows doing well in the arenas included Disney On Ice, Cirque de Soleil, and Strictly Come Dancing.

Huckstep, who stepped down from a three-year stint as chairman when Mead picked up the reins in March 2009, says he feel honoured to return to the role at a time when the live music industry generally is facing a number of challenges on issues such as ticket touting, the environmental agenda and an economic climate that’s affecting all sectors.