Diverse acts, lower ticket prices leading '97 rally

Boosted by a diverse contingent of acts capable of consistently drawing large audiences, as well as stable, affordable ticket prices, the concert industry posted a strong midyear tally that runs counter to a disappointing 1996.

With an average nightly gross of $2.4 million, U2’s “PopMart” tour took in more than $49 million since its April kickoff. The tally earned it the distinction of being the top tour for the first half of 1997.

The top 25 roadshows combined to gross more than $307.6 million, according to Pollstar, a leading concert industry trade publication that ranks the outings.

Though the 1997 tally paled to 1994’s midyear record-breaking gross of $352 million, concert industry execs were pleased it surpassed last year’s $239 million tally.

The strong gross for 1997 was also enough to make it the third highest midyear tally in concert industry history.

CAA top tenpercentery

Creative Artists Agency, which often leads the list’s upper reaches, again booked the lion share of big winners. It owned 11 of the top 25 tours, which combined to gross an impressive $101 million.

The agency shepherded six of the top 10 tours, including Tina Turner, Ozzy Osbourne’s “Ozzfest ’97,” Kiss, John Mellencamp and the Kenny G/Toni Braxton double-bill it shared with William Morris.

“In a quickly changing business, it’s nice to know we’re still picking the right acts and working with the most popular entertainers,” CAA’s contemporary music division chief, Tom Ross, told Daily Variety.

William Morris earned $60 million by booking six of the top 25 roadshows, including Garth Brooks, Gloria Estefan, Vince Gill and Bush.

ICM led two tours — Allman Brothers and Rush — and earned north of $12 million on the perfs of the two acts.

Ticket prices stabilizing

The midyear tallies, though skewed slightly higher than usual because of the impressive U2 numbers (and its $50 ticket price), are reflective of a stabilizing ticket price (around $27) and promoters booking fewer shows.

The result is more sold-out perfs and higher-grossing outings.

By contrast, in 1996 the midyear leader was Rod Stewart at $29 million on 65 shows.

Metallica proved its mettle by nabbing $34 million over 77 shows — a strong showing in a marketplace that targets baby boomers or favors alternative music devotees.

’70s acts disappearing

Promoters also avoided booking too many ’70s retro-acts, which seemed to dominate the schedule last year, all but a few playing to half-full houses.

One of the biggest midyear bright spots was “Ozzfest ’97,” the two-stage, multi-artist bill which featured a Black Sabbath reunion of sorts and included Marilyn Manson. The 21-date outing checked in at No. 8 on the list with an average per-show gross of $587,000.

No Doubt also proved it is capable of drawing significant crowds as its current roadshow grossed $10.7 million over 48 stops. The band also kept ticket prices just below the industry average, which added to its appeal.

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