According to Billboard Magazine, rock concert attendance in the United States has been dropping for the past five years and the prognosis for the near future is not much better. Bands that used to sell out every venue booked are shortening tours and canceling dates that aren't filling seats. On the other hand, concert attendance in other geographic areas, such as Europe and Australia, have remained strong - but that might be about to change.
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What is the reason for collapsing rock concert ticket sales? Is rock and roll simply over? The answer is more likely rooted in financial considerations. Several events have converged to make going to a rock concert less appealing to most Americans. Because these events will have an eventual impact on the rest of the developed world, rock concert attendance is likely to drop around most of the world. (For more, check out The Best Summer Festivals For Your Buck.)
1. Ticket Prices
Ticket prices for rock concerts in the U.S. have skyrocketed in the past decade; they have increased four times the rate of inflation since 2002. Concert tickets have also increased more than any other form of entertainment. Part of the reason is that rock concerts are simply more expensive. As concert setups get more elaborate and equipment shipping costs rise, the expense is passed on to concert-goers. 2011 saw some slashing of last-minute tickets to fill the seats, but the average ticket price was still on the rise.
Bootleg concert recordings have been around as long as recording devices, but the ability to copy and distribute illegally-taped concert video has become as easy as clicking a few buttons. Now, rather than paying $150 for a concert ticket to see the Rolling Stones, you can watch concert footage for hours on YouTube and other video sharing sites. Coupled with skyrocketing ticket prices, more of the demand for music entertainment is being satisfied with computers rather than arena seats.
In the past decade, electronics have become faster, cheaper and more accessible. You can watch whole movies and carry around entire libraries of music on a device that fits into your shirt pocket. Entertainment has become portable and is much less expensive than paying for concert tickets or going to the theater. It's easier than ever to stay home and cocoon with your favorite songs or concert footage. (For more on the effect technology has had in other areas, read How Consumer Attitudes Affect Tech Products.)
4. Gas Prices
Gas prices in the U.S. have gone through the roof in the past two years, due in part to increasing tensions in the Middle East, increased worldwide demand and a moratorium on domestic drilling. Consumers are choosing the miles they drive more carefully and one of the first trips to be struck off the list is entertainment. Not as many people want to drive to concerts anymore. The rise in gas prices has hit other parts of the world, such as Europe, as well, but the European population is more compressed and concert venues are closer to large numbers of people.
5. The Economy
While much of the developed world has suffered either financial instability or a full-blown recession since 2008, it has hit the U.S. particularly hard. The subprime mortgage fiasco caused many families to tighten their belts and cut out non-discretionary spending. Entertainment is one of the first categories of spending that can be cut in a family budget. As Europe and other parts of the world head towards increased economic woes, this malaise will likely spread.
The Bottom Line
Ticket prices are still on the rise in the U.S. even as fewer music lovers are doling out the money to go to concerts. This has a spiraling effect as artists try to overcome the financial impact of smaller audiences with higher prices. The outlook for 2012 and 2013 is not encouraging, as economic recovery is still a distant possibility. Rock and roll is certainly not dead in America - or anywhere else - but it is being enjoyed in different forms. (To learn more about music events happening in your area, see Top City-Boosting Summer Events.)