Top con­cert draws long in the tooth, grey in the beard

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT - By Bart­ley Kives

THE top money earner in the North Amer­i­can con­cert in­dus­try is a 60-year-old coun­try singer who re­leased his first al­bum 32 years ago.

Dur­ing the week end­ing Feb. 28, the av­er­age gross at a Ge­orge Strait con­cert was US$1.34 mil­lion, which was good enough for the King of Coun­try to earn Poll­star mag­a­zine’s crown as the top-tour­ing act on the con­ti­nent.

And he isn’t alone among older artists. Neil Young, who be­gan per­form­ing in Win­nipeg 50 years ago, was No. 3 on the list. The Who, which also formed five decades ago, ranked No. 5. Leonard Co­hen, who per­forms at the MTS Cen­tre Mon­day night, started per­form­ing in Mon­treal in 1948 and record­ing in the 1960s. He’s No. 6 on the list.

Only three of the top 10-gross­ing artists — Justin Bieber, Car­rie Un­der­wood and Eric Church — can be clas­si­fied as new, in that they each re­leased their first al­bum some time dur­ing the past 10 years.

By and large, the peo­ple earn­ing the big bucks in the mu­sic in­dus­try con­tinue to be veteran artists, whose fan­base can af­ford to spend more money.

“The in­dus­try still is fu­elled to a very sig­nif­i­cant de­gree by legacy artists,” said Kevin Don­nelly, se­nior vice-pres­i­dent for True North Sports & En­ter­tain­ment and the gen­eral man­ager of the MTS Cen­tre, which has booked all but one of the North Amer­ica’s top-gross­ing tour­ing acts.

To some de­gree, the list of top-gross­ing tours is dis­torted by the fact older acts charge more for a ticket, Don­nelly ex­plained. Some younger artists may be more pop­u­lar, in terms of the num­ber of paid cus­tomers they at­tract.

“If you’re mea­sur­ing things by grosses only, then by de­fault, the es­tab­lished acts push the nee­dle up quicker. The ar­gu­ment is the younger guys like Justin Bieber do twice as many gigs, so he closes that spread,” Don­nelly said.

But even if the list of top con­cert draws was amended to re­flect au­di­ence size, only one or two dif­fer­ent names would ap­pear, Don­nelly sur­mised.

Other acts would sim­ply change po­si­tion. The Biebs, for ex­am­ple, ranked No. 2 with an av­er­age con­cert gross of $1.25 mil­lion. But since he charged less for an av­er­age ticket — $72.51 vs. $84.13 for Strait — he ac­tu­ally drew about 1,000 more fans per show.

The week in ques­tion saw Co­hen charge an av­er­age of $99.50 per ticket and gross an av­er­age of $889,000 a night. The top ticket price for his Win­nipeg date, not in­clud­ing V.I.P. pack­ages, is $250, which ac­tu­ally works out to $269 when you in­clude taxes and agency fees.

Don­nelly does not ex­pect nos­tal­gia acts to lose their lus­tre, even when they can no longer per­form.

“I think the need and de­sire to hear Led Zep­pelin per­formed live will never go away. So what we’ll see are acts who can per­form the mu­sic even though the band no longer (ex­ists),” he said, pre­dict­ing the pro­lif­er­a­tion of “replica acts on an arena scale.”

If Don­nelly is right, new artists will never have a chance at knock­ing nos­tal­gia bands off the list of top tour­ing acts, as generic ver­sions of the Rolling Stones or AC/DC emerge to fill the de­mand to hear their mu­sic live.

An even more fright­en­ing thought: the Justin Bieber Ex­pe­ri­ence could be tour­ing are­nas 100 years from now, ei­ther in the form of a holo­gram or a ge­netic re­con­sti­tu­tion of the orig­i­nal. Top-gross­ing North Amer­i­can tour­ing acts for the week end­ing of Feb. 28, ac­cord­ing to con­cert-in­dus­try trade publi­ca­tion Poll­star 3. Neil Young & Crazy Horse Av­er­age gross: $1,006,485 Av­er­age ticket: $97.89 Genre: Rock. First per­for­mance: 1969 for the band. Young be­gan per­form­ing in 1963. First al­bum: 1975 for Neil Young & Crazy Horse. Young re­leased his first solo al­bum in 1968. 7. Cirque du Soleil: Quidam Av­er­age gross: $757,381 Av­er­age ticket: $57.28 Genre: Cir­cus First per­for­mance (Cirque du Soleil): 1984 First per­for­mance ( Quidam): 1996 1. Ge­orge Strait Av­er­age gross per city: $1,367,779 Av­er­age ticket price: $84.13 Genre: Coun­try First per­for­mance: 1973 First al­bum: 1981 2. Justin Bieber Av­er­age gross: $1,249,114 Av­er­age ticket: $72.51 Genre: Pop First per­for­mance: 2007 First al­bum: 2009 4. Dave Matthews Band Av­er­age gross: $967,758 Av­er­age ticket: $73.76 Genre: Rock First per­for­mance: 1991 First al­bum: 1993 5. The Who Av­er­age gross: $892,620 Av­er­age ticket: $91.98 Genre: Rock First per­for­mance: 1962 First al­bum: 1965 6. Leonard Co­hen Av­er­age gross: $889,177 Av­er­age ticket: $99.50 Genre: Singer/song­writer First per­for­mance: 1948 First al­bum: 1967 9. Car­rie Un­der­wood Av­er­age gross: $534,340 Av­er­age ticket: $58.45 Genre: Coun­try First per­for­mance: First al­bum: 2005.

1986, at age three. 8. Trans-Siberian Orches­tra Av­er­age gross: $559,545 Av­er­age ticket: $51.31 Genre: Rock First per­for­mance: 1995 First al­bum: 1996 10. Eric Church Av­er­age gross: $370,588 Av­er­age ticket: $45.76 Genre: Coun­try First per­for­mance: 1995 First al­bum: 2006 Ad­di­tional sources: Poll­star, As­so­ci­ated Press, All Mu­sic Guide and of­fi­cial artist


Leonard Co­hen



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