Did the Concert Industry Survive 2009?

I’m not a big numbers guy but when I read the year-end numbers issued by Live Nation, AEG Live and other promoters, I thought it’d be a good idea for us to take a stroll through them just to make sure that the live music industry didn’t die and everyone made it through 2009 alive.

We’ll also lay to rest a few fan-centric issues and see why consumer protection groups are digging a grave for the Live Nation-Ticketmaster merger.

What do concert promoters year-end numbers reveal?

First, according to Billboard, here are the 2009 Year-End Numbers for the North American Market, two top concert promoters and independent promoters.

North American Market

$2.8 billion in box office

down 2% and the 50 million in paid attendance is down less 1.7%

“numbers were generated from a 9% decrease in the number of shows reported”

The Billboard reports mentions that “a more positive indicator is a show-by-show analysis of the year.”  I’m not exactly sure what “show-by-show” means.

But they seem to be trying to put a positive spin on things by saying that “worldwide, average gross and attendance per show are up 11.3% and 11.8%, respectively. In North America, average per-show gross and attendance are up 7.6% and 8%, respectively.”

And what about the world’s two biggest concert promoters?

Well, it’s jarring how big a gap there is between the two’s 2009 numbers, which makes the merger all the more an important decision pending for 2010 ( All $ numbers are gross).

Live Nation (world’s largest concert promoter)

  • $2.5 billion
  • 41 million in attendance from 9,085 shows
  • 25% increase in gross and a 19% increase in attendance
  • 1.6% decrease in shows from 2008

AEG Live (2nd largest promoter)

  • $888 million
  • 12.8 million attendance from 2,531 shows
  • 12% decrease in gross and a 9% increase in shows
  • $1 billion gross, 14.5 million attendance 2,324 shows in 2008

Independent promoters:

Chicago’s Jam Productions

2009: $78 million

2008: $53 million

Austin’s C3 Presents

2009: $60 million

2008: $50 million

Consumer Protection Groups Chime In

Earlier this month consumer protection groups spoke about the issue of secondary markets (or ticket scalpers) as it related to the pending Live Nation-Ticketmaster merger:

Then again, ticket prices have steadily increased with the competition that currently exists in the marketplace. Primary tickets cost more for many reasons, but the fact is today’s ticket prices better reflect how consumers value the concerts. Companies should not be stopped from extracting existing value. On the other hand, the rise of the secondary market has caused the final prices paid by actual attendees to increase, too. Consumer protection groups were fairly quiet as states relaxed laws prohibiting scalping. Those changes paved the way for today’s secondary market and higher prices for consumers. So, one has to wonder if these groups are truly against higher prices for consumers or if they would oppose any merger regardless of its benefits or drawbacks.

As Billboard reporter Ray Waddle points out, we all want to end on a positive note in 2009, right?

Despite an extremely challenging economy, the global concert business managed to put solid numbers in 2009, a testament to both the resiliency of the business and the enduring popularity of live music.

Yes, considering the year that we had economically, I’d say the concert industry did as good as it could. Live Nation still came out on top even though they offered a year-long discounted  pricing option. And AEG Live seems to be holding a strong but distant second, even though they took a significant hit with Michael Jackson’s canceled concerts. We’ll have to wait and see if AEG Live’s 3D theatrical concerts will give them an edge in 2010.

Like I said before, I’m not a big numbers guy and I know it’s easy for fans to glaze over the numbers and only focus on the escapism of live music.

But, as a fellow fan, I share these numbers so you can at least have a better idea of what’s going on at the top level, so we can all make more informed decisions with our wallets.

What are your year-end numbers and 2010 forecasts?

Did you go to less shows than you did in 2008?

Do we still need to destroy the live music industry or create a FANS program?

Did you think the summer music festival layaway programs helped the concert industry and fans?

Will the U.S. Department of Justice approve the Live Nation-Ticketmaster merger?

Photo by Colleen Catania

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