Pollstar has released their 2012 Mid-Year report and it shows that the live music industry is back in action. After hitting new lows two years ago, sales rose 1.2 percent in the first half of the year while also finding the average ticket price going down 6.34 dollars to $60.68 from $67.02. The top 100 North American tours played a combined 2,822 different cities, 420 more than last year. Pollstar president Gary Bongiovanni states that, “ticket prices have been lowered and venues have been downsized. To make up the revenue, many artists have been working more shows.”
Leading the way domestically has been not an actual music act, but the popular Cirque du Soleil troupe with “Michael Jackson: The Immortal.” The tour pulled in 78.5 million dollars in 95 shows. It is important to note that Cirque du Soleil does have one of the highest average ticket prices of the year at $111.48. Coming in second is Roger Waters as he brings Pink Floyd’s 1979 classic “The Wall” live in 33 shows so far. “The Wall” has so far brought in 61.9 million dollars at the average ticket price coming in at 107. Rounding out the top three is Van Halen, who despite cancelling almost half the tour dates still managed to bring in 44.9 mllion dollars on 49 shows. Van Halen’s average ticket price was $100.11.
Of note, Country is again making a big showing with 12 out of 100 of the top acts including Kenny Chesney and Lady Antebellum rounding out the top 5. Lady Antebellum had the lowest average ticket price in the top 10 at $43.60 and selling the most tickets of any artist at 708,715, making them unique for a top 10 artist. Also, making waves is Electronic Dance Music or EDM. Nowhere to be seen just a year ago, 3 EDM acts broke the top 100, DJ Steve Aoki, Bassnectar, and Avicii. EDM is considered to be currently the next big wave in music as its influence is being felt across all genres. Acts have also been playing to larger crowds moving from theaters to arena shows.
Not everyone in the industry, however, is keen on the current uptrend. In an article by Rolling Stone magazine, Seth Hurwitz of I.M.P. which runs the 9:30 Club in Washington, DC and Merriweather Post Pavilion believes that the problem of scalpers high ticket prices still puts them in a tough spot. “It pisses people off. It makes it feel like an elitist experience," he says. "And, yes, they will pay it ... and then they don't have money for other shows. Until the hijacking of the best seats stops, this business will continue to have problems."
I’m glad the live music industry is on the rebound. As the perceived value of recorded music continues to nosedive in the wake of piracy and online streaming, I hope that artists who can “hack it” live will be more appreciated and in turn cause people to value music more, especially live music. While Hurwitz is right that scalping continues to hurt the industry as a whole, I would think that the economy is more a factor as why people are attending less shows. People have less money to spend so they have to decide more carefully what they will attend. It is also terrific that ticket prices have come down and that most likely also helped drive the increase in sales. I will hope that prices continue to come down as the economy continues to stall. The more affordable tickets are, the better fans can support the multiple artists they enjoy. Ticketmaster recently announced the results of Bruce Springsteen’s paperless ticket tour. Paperless tickets reduced scalping on his tour by 75% and 96% of fans surveyed thought Bruce should continue or expand paperless tickets. Let’s hope initiatives like this and technology to help can move this initiative and help curb ticket scalping so more fans can see their favorite bands.