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Record ticket prices fuel concert grosses

Stones edge the Boss for top act as prices jump almost 30%

Music concertgoers paid more than $1.5 billion this year for North American shows, beating the five-year record of $1.4 billion thanks to skyrocketing ticket prices, trade magazine Pollstar has reported.

The Rolling Stones led the way as the top-grossing act with $64.7 million overall, edging the reunion tour by Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band at $61.4 million. The Stones charged an average of $109.62 per ticket, second only to Luciano Pavarotti’s $130.77 as the highest price among the 50 leading tours of 1999, and the band’s top-end price often hit $300.

Average ticket price for the top 50 tours — which accounted for $1 billion — jumped nearly 30% to $43.63 from $33.59. Pollstar noted that the record revenue levels tend to shift focus away from the fact that the number of tickets sold for the top 50 acts totaled 26.3 million, down 4% from last year and the smallest number since 1993’s 25.6 million.

“For an industry based on a high volume of repeat business, this (the decline in tickets sold) is not a good sign,” the magazine noted.

Editor Gary Bongiovanni pointed out that nearly every major act has started charging premium prices for its best seats, with several pop acts setting a $150 top price, representing a major shift from five years ago when the Eagles drew criticism for setting a $100 top price.

“When we started our year-end research, we had expected prices to increase but not to this extent,” he added. “The floodgates have broken open.”

Bongiovanni said the continued emergence of teen bands represented the year’s most encouraging trend. Teen pop band ‘NSync sold by far the most tickets this year with nearly 1.8 million and finished third overall with $51.5 million. Its average ticket price of $28.62 was the 11th lowest among the top 50 tours.

The Dave Matthews Band came in fourth with $48.5 million and sold the second-highest number of tickets with 1.48 million. Shania Twain, Springsteen, the Backstreet Boys and Phish each sold around 1 million tickets, while the Stones came in 13th in that category with 590,000.

Among country acts, Twain and the George Strait Country Music Festival finished fifth and ninth, respectively, but only five other country tours made it into the top 100 in a generally down year for the category. Latin music showed an increased following with eight acts in the top 100, led by Ricky Martin in 16th place.

Pollstar also estimated that the worldwide concert business probably generated $3 billion this year but noted that little international information is available, making it difficult to project reasonably accurate figures.

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