Did The Concert Industry Survive 2010?

Last week we explored our Best of 2010 concert experiences. And during those explorations we discovered how live music continues to be a place of profound self-discovery, escape and an environment were live music fans find emotional comfort and community.

But did the concert industry’s bottom line reflect the same awe and wonder? Did we have better concert experiences while going to less shows in 2010? Let’s find answers to those questions and wonder some more and see if the concert industry did survive an unfortunate down year in 2010.

Last year we reported that state of the live music industry appeared strong going into 2010 and that it was in a fairly good place compared to the rest of the music industry.

In that post, we also shared how the top promoters Live Nation, AEG, C3 Presents and Jam Productions stacked up revenue-wise in 2009.

By all accounts, and according to Billboard’s report, 2010 was a hard year for the concert industry, especially Live Nation who, as you’ll see in the numbers below, took a hit in the revenue department, even though the world’s largest concert promoter continues to grow its brand via its social networks on Facebook and Twitter, a new a mobile app, ticketing partnership with iTunes and by hosting social media events.

Was the Merger A Game-Changer for Live Nation-Ticketmaster?

And what about the Live Nation Ticketmaster merger? Did it help the combined promoter juggernaut weather the storm in 2010?

First, let’s take a look at the overall Boxscore numbers for 2010 as reported by Billboard, who wisely points out that these Boxscore numbers do tell a story, but aren’t necessarily the only determining factor of success.

“…Worldwide, $3.3 billion in grosses was reported from 14,795 shows that drew slightly more than 65 million people. That’s a 26.4% decrease in gross, a 12.3% decrease in attendance and, after years of increased show counts, a 14% decrease in the number of shows reported.

For North American Billboard says that numbers took a downward turned with “…$2.1 billion in grosses from 11,555 shows that drew 38 million people were reported, down 26% in gross, 24.4% in attendance and 15.8% in the number of shows. The red flag in North America is attendance, which is down double what global numbers reflect.”

Live Nation Reports 2010 Ticket Sales Slump

When Live Nation started offering discounts and removing service fees mid-year, it was a sign that 2010 wasn’t going well. A cancellation of U2’s tour didn’t help either.

And according to Live Nation Entertainment CEO Michael Rapino says “Everything got hit in 2010,” and that the ticket sales slump was industry wide, citing a report 11% decrease for the global concert industry, a 13% decrease for performing arts events, 5% for sports events and 5% for family shows.

We wondered before about how the economy impacts concert fans desire to go more or less concerts and Billboard reports that AEG Live CEO Randy Phillips says

“To say that because of unemployment or the economy that people stopped going to shows generalizes what actually happened. If an artist is hot, people are motivated to find a way to go. If they’re not, I don’t care how much money you spend on marketing or how you package things, it’s not going to work.”

Now what’s interesting is that Billboard says that:

In June, Live Nation Entertainment opted to stop reporting box-office data to Billboard Boxscore. While we received a substantial number of reports on Live Nation shows from other sources, including agents, managers and venues, the impact of the world’s largest promoter not reporting the bulk of its shows clearly can be seen.

As concert fans, we should be aware that we’re in the middle of somewhat of a historic time because as Marc Geiger, contemporary music head for William Morris Endeavor says:

“We can’t underestimate that no matter what’s going on with Live Nation or AEG or what people want to gossip about, we’re in a time of unprecedented change, and the change is the responsibility to the consumer. The concert industry has a set of challenges in front of them that is all of our responsibility to figure out.”

If we can meet those challenges and make the business better for the consumer, we’ll have a long-term healthy business. We’ve just got a lot of work to do, and I hope that all the leaders and everybody involved in it thinks about the year-end and how do we do this better so we don’t repeat the mistakes.”

Speaking of Mistakes and Learnings…

Sure as those points from Billboard’s reports paints a pretty bleak and sad picture for the concert industry in 2010.

That said, I enjoyed this NPR article that presented a list of learnings to be had by the concert industry so we can all learn from their mistakes.

But the NPR article didn’t quite cover the whole picture.

They didn’t really point out all the other Live Nation-Ticketmaster’s endeavors this we’ve covered and shared with you this past year.

And as we head into 2011, I wonder how Live Nation Ticketmaster will continue to serve and market to concert fans with their Facebook Community and fan contests, Ticketology Blog, new mobile app we mentioned earlier.

What About The Other Concert Promoters?

When I compared Live Nation’s level of activity in social media, they’ve seemed to out-perform competitors like AEG Live,  Jam Productions in Chicago and others in both the awareness and engagement department.

So will all those strategies and tactics create an even bigger riff between Live Nation and the rest of their competitors?

Will fans continue to see a value in that type of deep social engagement and be willing to pay the high ticket prices in 2011 because you have a strong social community-based relationship with Live Nation on their Facebook Page and Twitter page?

Will you, as fans, continue to flock to your favorite shows regardless of the cost and feel like helpless pawns caught in the middle of a massive concert promoter war?

Will you, as fans, be easily manipulated and thus give up your hard earned cash to pay for high-priced concert tickets because you have no other choice?

Why I Didn’t Go to See Gorillaz

I know I didn’t cave in in 2010.  And it was hard. And I was extremely disappointed in the end.

I know for me I passed up the Gorillaz show in the fall when it came to the UIC Pavilion in Chicago because I was not willing to pay $100 plus for a ticket.

And even though Plastic Beach was one of my favorite albums of 2010 and the Chicago show made Greg Kot’s list of best show of 2010, it just wasn’t worth the money.

And judging by the year-long slump in sales and depressing Boxscore numbers I just shared with you, I’m sure I wasn’t the only fan that took a pass on that Gorillaz show.

And I imagine that trend happened in other cities as well.

And in 2011, I think we’ll continue to see the same lack of spending pattern by more fans.

And I think that fans will continue to be very selective on which concerts they go to and that they’ll most like find a better value in going to more shows at smaller venues instead of arenas as NPR points out.

What Will Happen in 2011? Do We Need A Concert Fans Complaints Choir?

I say this because fans will probably be more likely to spend the money they do have on smaller shows because in an environment like that fan can get a better value for their money by experiencing a concert in a more intimate venue.

Does this mean that the independent promoters will have an upper hand on Live Nation-Ticketmaster? Possibly.  And I bet that we’ll continue to see the summer music festival draw more fans because of the  beneficial cost factor of music festivals for fans and bands and promoters. Will we see the continued impact of the radius clause?

But I’d still like to see the summer music festival improved — for the fans’ sake at least. Or we might see more Concert Fan Complaints Choirs pop up across the world.

Complaint Choirs or not, I know that I’d like to see the independent promoters do a better job of engaging fans on social networks, because the opportunity is certainly there to create strong bonds with loyal fans, and the independent promoters have to start leveraging social media in more creative ways that make sense for their customers and fans.

Live Nation can’t and shouldn’t be the only ones creating vibrant communities on Facebook and Twitter. Yes, there are a handful of local promoters doing creative things but we need to see more. If you have a story about local promoters using social media creatively please let us know.

So as 2011 unfolds and you begin to  plan how you’ll rock out at your favorite shows, we’ll continue to follow Live Nation and report on more of their social media activities.

What Say You?

Did you pass up a favorite 2010 show because of a high ticket cost?  What you do think of Live Nation’s social communities?  How do you think independent promoters can improve their social communities to better connect with fans and improve business?

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