Concert-goers pay up for tours

Michael Lucarz

As early as June, concert promoters were forecasting a “bummer summer” as far as attendance was concerned. After years of steady revenue growth and attendance rates, increased ticket prices now discourage virtually every demographic of concert-goer. With very few notable names, concert bills in venues around the country are being shunned by fans, increasing the demand for bands that could fill the entire venue.

Ironically, concert ticket sales almost exclusively make up the touring musician’s paycheck, a reality that has forced even the biggest names to complete an arduous set of dates. Today however, increased expectations are contributing to the pressures of launching a profitable tour, and many top draws can’t face the heat. Über-stars like Madonna, Britney Spears and Jessica Simpson all bailed on their much-publicized schedules for varied, and oft-convoluted reasons, initiating a phenomenon that left concert promoters empty-handed and in the red. But with huge endorsement deals and television contracts always on the horizon, pop stars don’t miss out on too much by canceling an alreadylagging tour.

Although some speculation has been offered as to why ticket sales took such a huge blow this year, it still seems to run consistent with the diagnosis given each and every summer: bad or unfamiliar bands coupled with high ticket prices. The reality, however, is that every season is met with the same criticism, and has been since the inception of touring acts. Researchers say that 2004 represents a transitional year for the concert industry, one that is exhibiting sources of strain from areas that at one time weren’t considered relevant.

Just like the industry itself, concert-going requires far more investment now than ever before, and many just aren’t willing to deal with distant parking lots, high surcharges and even the possibility that an artist’s show simply won’t happen. But in many cases, it’s still the same old song and dance.

According to, the average cost of a concert ticket has doubled since 1996, averaging nearly $51 last year. And out of 2004’s big-name artists, Prince and Van Halen, two acts who began touring in the late 1970s, topped the list of ticket sales throughout the entire summer. In fact, Van Halen, a rock ‘n roll juggernaut for nearly three decades, notched a perfect 1.000 on the Pollstar Power Index as of July 29, outselling once popular concerts like Britney Spears, the Vans Warped Tour and even Usher. For acts that have established themselves as able to carry a room strictly based on musical proficiency and less of a disposable pop spectacle, sales remained strong throughout the season. In turn, such sales represent a new wave of music fans coming of age, shedding their fancy for the fading names of teen pop music, and giving in to the drawing power of the classic artists of years past. For rockers like Van Halen lead singer Sammy Hagar, business is back and it’s as good as ever. As he said to the sold-out crowd in Hartford on June 28, “Sure looks like 15,000 to me, how about you?”