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Bomb Garden 

by LUKE BAUMGARTEN & r & & r & MARKET CORRECTION & r & & r & Various news sources printed some big, dire headlines last Thursday that seemed to kick dirt in the face of all the predictions I've been making about the direction of the music industry -- or rather, the direction of bands within the industry. "U.S. Concert Business Slumps," read the least shrill summary.

Crap, right? I've been all: "Don't worry that you can't make money on your recordings, give them away free! Tour! Sell merchandise!" Touring was the linchpin of that little post-file-sharing business model. If people aren't going to concerts, the whole premise is screwed.

So what does this mean?

Less than it appears. The numbers heralding the slow death of concert-going are -- like the numbers heralding the slow death of the recording industry -- only indicative of the biggest players in the game, like the LiveNations of the world.

The doom-saying number -- $996 million in ticket sales, a 15.6 percent slide from last year -- doesn't even represent revenue from all of America's ticket sales. It's only revenue from the top 20 tours, hardly representative of the full spectrum.

What we're seeing with concerts, then, is almost identical to what happened to the recording industry: the big names who used to make all the cheddar aren't making so much anymore because they use a narrow business model, relying on massive acts to sell massive amounts of product (tickets, in this case). People aren't buying a million tickets for acts like Van Halen anymore, so the largest promoters are losing money. Should we weep?

Nah. It means either people aren't going to concerts any more -- a possibility I doubt -- or more people are foregoing the anti-intimacy of arena events for tighter knit fare. They're spreading the money around. Sure, James Taylor was sparsely attended, but God knows bar and club gigs aren't suffering. Empyrean's always packed. So is the Blvd.

People still want to be entertained -- that'll never change. They just expect a more tailored experience.
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