Live Nation had tough time drawing business

Prevailing theories behind the cancellation of the 34-city Kanye West-Lady Gaga arena tour are less-than-stellar ticket sales, rancor between the stars or some toxic combination thereof.

Live Nation announced the tour September 24; a week later, the promoter issued a terse statement describing the”Fame Kills” tour as “cancelled” and “refunds are available at the point of purchase.” Pressed for details, a Live Nation spokesperson said, “We have no additional information at this time.”

The website for West’s label, Island Def Jam, listed the tour active as of Oct 2. The same day, a post on Rollingstone.com suggested that the West and Gaga camps “were at each other’s throats,” while Lady Gaga arrived at the Billboard Women in Music event and told Billboard.com that the cancellation “was a mutual decision.”

However, when asked about potential tour sales, Gary Bongiovanni, editor of concert industry trade Pollstar, said “Business was spotty in some places.”

Bongiovanni said that West’s 2008 tour performed well in urban centers like New York, Chicago and Detroit. Two shows at New York’s Madison Square Garden were at 91% capacity, grossing $2.5 million and selling more than 23,000 tickets.

But in places like in Phoenix, Minneapolis, San Jose and Reno, sales were sluggish, averaging 8,500 per date. In Portland, only about 6,000 tickets sold, “and that was with Rihanna in support,” said Bongiovanni.

“Urban music, for whatever reason, doesn’t have the same drawing power as rock,” he said. “Even as big a record seller as Kanye is, it doesn’t always translate into live ticket sales.”

Lady Gaga, on the other hand, doesn’t have much of a headlining track record. Earlier this year, she supported the Pussycat Dolls; in May, she headlined mostly large clubs.

“Her career has largely blown up this year,” Bongiovanni said. “She was playing the House of Blues in Chicago in March, sold out two shows there; still, that’s only 2,600 tickets. I would think that Lady Gaga would have been responsible for an awful lot of the tickets sold because her career has gotten huge this year.”

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