Britney Spears' tour was cancelled because she injured her knee. Christina Aguilera cancelled her tour due to strained vocal chords. Marc Anthony put the brakes on his tour despite the added interest as to whether or not he was Mr. J-Lo. Janet Jackson has postponed her tour. David Bowie's tour was cancelled due to emergency heart surgery. Now, the infamous Lollapalooza tour has been cancelled due to, in all honesty, lack of interest; ticket sales were so poor that the promoters pulled the plug. Among the acts that were scheduled to hit 31 US cities as part of Lollapalooza were Morrissey, the Flaming Lips, and Sonic Youth. Had the tour not been cancelled, the losses would have been in the millions.
And for the tours still taking place, ticket sales are in a slump, even though 2004 numbers are consistent with a sales increase each year — $2.5 billion compared to $1.7 billion in 2000. But the problem may be an embarrassment of riches: too many acts are on the road again. From Madonna to Norah Jones, Alicia Keys to Cher — a veritable almanac of pop music has been on the road this summer. Also, ticket prices have nearly doubled since 1996, according to Pollstar.com, to reach an average price of around $51. The top ticket price for a Madonna concert in Las Vegas is $375 — Material Girl, indeed!
Unfortunately, it is not just the promoters, tour organizers, and the acts that are taking a hit this summer; rental houses supplying lighting, rigging, and sound equipment are feeling the heat. Fourth Phase Entertainment Services was directly affected by the cancellation of both the Spears and Jackson tours, but Nick Jackson, president, is not all that concerned. “I would be more concerned if next year wasn't looking so good in terms of possible tours,” he says, “but luckily for us, and everybody else for that matter, 2005 is shaping up to be a very strong year with possible US tours of Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, U2, and The Who. I'm not panicking.”
Granted, some companies are not hurting as much as others, especially those that are diversified. “Gear that we were relying on being on tour is just sitting in someone's shop,” says Noel Duncan, studio and stage product manager for Martin Professional. “It does affect us negatively, but we've seen worse summers.” He added that, since Martin also does a significant amount of business in audio, DJ, and other entertainment technology independent of big touring productions, the company has not been hit as hard as others. “We don't put all of our eggs in one basket,” he added.
Summer tours of Van Halen, KISS, the Dave Matthews Band, and the Grateful Dead are also doing less than stellar business. However, newer acts, such as Evanescence and 3 Doors Down are doing well. But it's not just the kids selling out; Prince's summer concert tour is doing record numbers.
Jackson added that the reason for cancellations is probably due — in some cases — to the quality of the acts, lack of interest, and increased ticket prices. “It is going to be up to the promoters to try some creative thinking to get people into their venues,” he says.
Maybe Miss Jackson's promoters should promise a “wardrobe malfunction” to boost sagging sales. What have they done for her lately?