Europe: Live Market Cooling Down

It’s enjoyed its boom years while CD sales have suffered, but there’s evidence that the European live music market is slowing down, PRS for Music economist Chris Carey told The Great Escape conference in Brighton May 12.

Although 2010 European festival attendance was up 6 percent, including a 15 percent increase in capacity and 10 percent more festival sellouts, Casey said his organisation’s figures show that overall live music revenues dropped by 6.7 percent.

He gave examples such as Bon Jovi failing to sell out its 2010 tour and Paul McCartney tickets being available at less than face value to show that the touring circuit at arena level and larger has been hardest hit.

He said the situation was more noticeable in mainland Europe, where arena shows reported a 16 percent drop in attendance.

“I don’t think this is a disaster, I think it is a blip,” Carey told delegates, pointing out there was a lack of big-name live acts touring last year. “I’m not worried about the future of live music.”

He said he was hopeful for 2011 and cited Robbie Williams going on tour with Take That as a “game-changer,” explaining that PRS believes the live side of the business is merely cooling to a more sustainable growth level.

Photo: AP Photo / Pool
"Ween Dass" broadcast, Halle, Germany

He also said the picture is much bleaker for recorded music, which saw an 11 percent drop in trade value in 2010.

He said he believes the phenomenal success of Adele, who’s 21 and has the best-selling digital album of all time, spending 14 of the past 15 weeks in the top spot, would help 2011 sales figures. But he stressed that the health of the recorded market would depend heavily on the future of HMV.

“The role of supply on the high street is going to be critical,” he explained.

Elsewhere, other speakers at The Great Escape worried that the drop in music industry takings is resulting in a lack of investment and fewer new bands making it into the charts.

In a panel called “How To Make Money From Music,” David Bianchi from Various Artists Management argued that very few new bands are coming through the charts because record labels are putting money into only a smaller number of acts.

“When there is a spark of life, like Plan B or Adele, they invest the whole farm on it,” he said, claiming others are suffering from a lack of investment on all sides.

The same day Carey spoke, current British Phonographic Industries chairman and former EMI chief exec Tony Wadsworth painted a rather brighter picture for recorded music when explaining that it’s unfair to describe labels as “the dinosaurs of the music industry.”

He claimed that they are in fact “a leaner and a more flexible beast” that will play a vital role in the future of the industry.

“Record labels are unrecognisable compared to the ’90s,” he told The Guardian two days before TGE opened. “They are smaller, more efficient and they have diversified and taken on many more functions,” he said.

Wadsworth’s appearance came a couple of days before the launch of the MusicTank report “Remake, Remodel: The Evolution of the Record Label.”

The report takes a comprehensive look at how record labels have changed according to the demands made by artists, and how they now seek a return on other revenue streams such as merchandise, touring and sponsorship.

The Great Escape was at Brighton’s Queens Hotel May 12-14.

The acts on the evening showcase bills included current ETEP leader Anna Calvi, Friendly Fires, DJ Shadow, Sufjan Stevens, Katy B, The Vaccines, Frank Turner, and The Naked and Famous.