US Live and recorded music sectors both suffer sharp decline

February 2011

Live sector, artists, record labels reports that US concert ticket sales dropped by double digits in 2010, as economic concerns, fan apathy, over exposure of acts and resistance to high ticket prices caused artists and promoters to cancel shows or entire tours. According to figures from Pollstar, combined ticket sales for the Top 50 North American tours generated $1.69 billion in 2010, down 15 percent from $1.99 billion in 2009. The Top 50 worldwide tours generated $2.93 billion in 2010, a drop of 12 percent from $3.34 billion the previous year. The total number of tickets sold to North American concerts dipped to 26.2 million, a 12 percent drop from 29.9 million in 2009. In addition, the show count was also less at 2,114, a 3 percent decrease, and the average cost of a show fell by $1.55, or 2 percent, primarily due to heavy discounting by Live Nation and others in an 11th-hour attempt to move slow-selling tickets. At the worldwide level, the total number of tickets sold decreased 15 percent to 38.3 million in 2010, down from 45.3 million in 2009. The show count dropped 8 percent to 2,650, but unlike in North America, worldwide average ticket prices rose by $2.86 or 4 percent. Live Nation saw its stock price fall from nearly $17 per share in the spring to less than $9 per share by mid-summer although it was up to $11.82 at the end of December. also reported that In the secondary ticket market, brokers experienced some of the same problems that the primary ticket market did. But on Broadway 2011 got off to a strong start with record ticket sales for the 36 productions of $34,997,571 for the week ending January 2. The same week last season reported box office sales of $28,089,912. Comparing ticket sales of the previous reporting period ending December 26 of $24,993,789, a $10 million plus jump in one week.

US recorded music sales fell 2.4% in 2010 to $1.5 billion, as CD sales plummeted nearly 20% while digital track sales were up just 1%, according to a report from Nielsen and Billboard. Digital track sales were marginally up at 1.17 billion in 2010, up from 1.16 in 2009. While CD sales fell dramatically last year, digital album sales rose 13% to 863 million. The report notes that digital music accounted for 46% of all U.S. music purchases in 2010, up from 40% in 2009 and 32% in 2008, and digital track sales broke the 1 billion sales mark for the third straight year. The top-selling digital songs of 2010 were “California Gurls” by Katy Perry (4.4 million) and “Hey, Soul Sister” by Train (4.31 million), while the top digital albums were “Recovery” by Eminem (852,000) and “Speak Now” by Taylor Swift (488,000). The top selling artists of 2010, based on digital track sales, were Eminem (15.7 million), Ke$ha (13.5 million), Lady Gaga (11.9 million), Katy Perry (11.8 million) and Black Eyed Peas (11.3 million) and the cast of Fox’s “Glee” also sold an impressive 10.7 million tracks. The report also notes that vinyl album sales were up 14% in 2010, to 2.8 million.

Retail e-commerce spending in the U.S. during November and December 2010 reached an all-time record of $32.6 billion, up 12% from a year ago, according to a report from measurement firm comScore. “The 2010 online holiday shopping season was a memorable one in which we saw spending rebound strongly from the recession of 2008 and 2009, and slightly exceed even our early expectations,” said comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni.

Sales of digital singles and albums in the UK continued to boom in 2010 but overall recorded music  sales continued to fall according to stats from the Official Charts Company and the BPI.  Digital album sales in 2010 were up 30.6% on 2009, and singles sales – mainly digital – were at an all time high. But overall album sales were down 7%, with CD sales declining 12.4%. The BPI’s Geoff Taylor said: “2010 showed that the digital singles highs seen in the previous two years were no fluke – music fans continue to embrace the convenience, value and choice offered by legal download stores. The market for digital albums also went mainstream in 2010 with nearly a fifth of sales now coming from online services”.

In related news it was announced that the UK’s HMV Group will shut 60 of its retail outlets in the next twelve months – probably 40 HMV stores and 20 Waterstones shops – after admitting its Christmas trading figures were poor. With the company’s year end profits now expected to be at the lower end of expectations, HMV top man Simon Fox pledged to make £10 million in cost savings in the next year. The firm’s share price nevertheless tumbled. It’s the HMV chain that is causing the problems, with sales in its all-important Christmas period down 13.6% on last year. The retail group says the poor weather in the run up to Christmas was at least partly to blame.

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