Renaissance in big concerts pays big cash

September 02, 1994|By Jeffrey Jolson-Colburn | Jeffrey Jolson-Colburn,The Hollywood Reporter

After years of economic doldrums, the concert business appears to be heading for its biggest season in history. Grosses on just the top 10 tours are up 145 percent this year to $378 million, and promoters of all sizes are reporting revenue hikes of up to 50 percent.

Higher ticket prices on shows like Barbra Streisand and the Eagles only partly explain the news. Overall attendance is up 68 percent compared with 1993 on the top 10 tours from Jan. 1 to Aug. 26, according to figures from the industry trade weekly Amusement Business.

Big stadium sweeps, such as Pink Floyd, the Rolling Stones, the Eagles and Billy Joel-Elton John, have sold nearly 10 million tickets this year, compared with last year's total of 6 million for the big 10 North American tours, including Paul McCartney, the Grateful Dead and Guns N' Roses.

Nor can the unprecedented jump be attributed just to the exceptionally good crop of stadium tours. Smaller venues are doing record numbers as well, with mid-size venues like the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles reporting grosses up 24 percent, indicating the summer concert season is sunny for all.

The bright picture shines on the spectrum of music: Country tours are roping 'em in, alternative packages are tying up sales, the big rock tours are rolling like they did a decade ago, and even jazz and blues are drumming up record numbers on a club level.

Concert production giant Pace Entertainment reports attendance up 50 percent over last year for projected season revenues of nearly $136 million. By the end of July, the Houston-based company produced 400 shows and sold 2 million tickets for what the company boasted was a wide range of music styles, including pop, rock, country, blues and jazz. By season's end, they expect to have done 600 shows with attendance of more than 4 million people.

Pace was involved in multiple dates of several of the big tours this year, including the Stones, Joel-John and Pink Floyd. "Anyone who got a piece of those tours did well," said one promoter.

However, getting a piece of the action was the trick, according to Pace Music Group chairman Louis Messina. "We are ahead of the curve in the industry in the success of our music season. We attribute that to the excellent relationships we've cultivated over the years. It's fortunate that so many shows of such excellent caliber were out this summer."

Radio City Music Hall executive Rose Taylor said: "It's always good when everyone is having a good year. We're having a terrific year here. And [promoter] Ron Delsner's company grossed $31 million on two stands: Barbra Streisand and the Billy Joel-Elton John shows."

Toronto-based Concert Production International, which handled national promotion on the Pink Floyd and Stones tours, is naturally having a great season. "It is our best year ever, no question," said company spokesman James Monaco. "And we're only halfway through it." He said the secret to success this season was perceived value. "The promoters are giving people what they want. And the fans are seeing value for their dollar."

Packages are helping as well. Woodstock reportedly did about $25 million in ticket sales (a figure not included in the $378 million top-10 tour total), and Lollapalooza '94 has already made $13.8 million.

Ms. Streisand, for all the hoopla over how much she was making on this tour, only took in enough to rank fifth, and she will drop another slot or two before the season's end. Her total gross, $33 million, seems downright modest next to a big stadium rock act like Pink Floyd, which made $104 million. However, Ms. Streisand only needed to sell 191,000 tickets to earn her paycheck; the Floyd sold 3 million.

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