Concert Awareness Is Booming. So Why Is Attendance Declining?

Awareness, or lack thereof.

It’s traditionally been the biggest reason why people miss concerts from their favorite artists. Right in their own backyards.  Which is the driving motivation behind heavily-funded startups like Songkick, and recently-launched concepts like Live Nation’s Facebook app, Concert Calendar.  Because people tend to listen, like, and acquire music from their favorite artists online, which means it’s now easier than ever to identify and alert those fans of an upcoming show.

In fact, it’s now harder than ever – in the history of live events – to miss a show.  But if this is such a revolutionary moment for live events, why are fewer and fewer people actually going to shows?

Here’s a breakdown of concert attendance from Live Nation, which shows a decrease in attendance over the years.  That is, despite the surge in totally-connected apps and alert systems.  In fact, since Songkick hit the stage in 2007 (and since received $16.5 million in funding), Live Nation’s global attendance has dropped 10.4 percent.  And in-between, Live Nation itself has been steadily ratcheting its social networking initiatives, most notably on Facebook.

38 Responses

  1. Why

    Why?

    1. Acts scalping their own tickets.

    2. Bots and scalpers scooping up in-demand shows in seconds.

    3. Convenience fee

    4. Parking fee

    5. $10 beers

    6. $45 t-shirts

    7. Lip-synching, reading lyrics from a teleprompter, Auto-Tune

    8. Lousy economy

    9. Young people saddled with student loans, can’t find a job, no money

    10. Watch it on YouTube after the show.

      • Deke

        Spot on although I think you’re a little low on the beer price.

        • &fleurman;

          You nailed it …….. it’s all about the experience, not just the music

    • ghaines1

      Definitely hit most of the points there. Although touring will have to be the way artists make money in the near future, someone will have to figure out how to make them more appealing and cut some costs, or add more benefits. It is extremely hard for me as an artist to understand why someone who wants to make music for a living would also lip sync. I’ve always thought that it makes it more special if you are in attendance and the performer does screw up a bit, makes the night memorable for something.

  2. Vail, CO

    (ozzfest beer pricing)

    unfortunately I’m also “aware” of this too

    • anonguynumber929504

      “try a cold fist up your bum”

      • Captain Obvious

        $13.00 for a beer.

        Live Nation shouldn’t need a poll to figure this out.

        $13.00 for a BEER!

  3. JacksonL

    And let’s not forget that the number of shows INCREASED in this period.

  4. Visitor

    What sorts of venues are included in this survey? Only large concert venues, or also small indie clubs and such?

    One factor is certainly price. To pay over $100 for a show is far out of my financial reach. However, in NYC, there are always plenty of affordable shows, $15-20 a ticket all the way down to $free, in the smaller venues (LPR, Joe’s Pub, etc) and the outdoor spaces in the summer.

    – Versus

  5. Mike S

    Price. Everything is so expensive now. If I have to travel and park on top of it, forget it, I just can’t afford it anymore.

    Plus I really, really don’t like dealing with Ticketmaster/Live Nation. If they are the handlers, that is yet another deterrent.

    I still attend shows- but mainly indie and up and coming bands who are playing at a local joint for $10 or less a head.

    • toomanytixtobuy

      and to add to the article’s main point — there are just too many!!! not complaining that communication is too good, but… communication is too good.

  6. Visitor

    The whole construct of a concert is that it’s an event. Not in the literal sense, because of course it is, but in the sense that it has to feel uncommon, limited, like a culmination. When U2 is doing their umpteenth stadium tour, who gives a shite. Especially when you saw them when they were better, younger, and more topical AND it was cheaper.

    • jelnet

      I saw U2 when they were younger AND on the last tour, and for my money they are better NOW.

      They still put on a great show and great “event” as you say. Not only that but U2 keep a large reserve of £40 tickets specifically for folks who can’t afford the more expensive ones, and they do this when they could easily sell those tickets for me.

  7. Anybody

    Doesn’t anybody remember the laws of supply and demand?

    Price is determined by the market mechanism, it doesn’t explain low attendance. High price beers are high priced because demand (willingness to pay) meets supply (willingness to sell) at that price. Why would any bar, venue, or artist price merchandise or other goods at a level so high that people wouldn’t buy it?

    By your infographic, the one which you show provide very little detail about, North America isn’t suffering much from lack of demand. In fact, since 2010 it looks like attendance is on the rise. You’re comparing data that has too much variety in scope.

    Youtube is not a substitute for concerts, everybody knows that.

    If you want to look at why attendance is dropping you’ll have to give us a little more detail about how that infographic works. If attendance as a share of total shows is dropping, it could solely be dropping mechanically as the number of shows decreases.

    We need more info to gain any insight.

    • paul

      This is probably more information than you were expecting, but here are detailed financial and attendance stats from Live Nation. They are annual reports for years 2011 (which contain 2009-2011 attendance) and 2008 (which goes back to 2006).

      2011 (pdf)

      2008 (pdf)

  8. Versus

    Supply and demand are not the only determining factors in pricing or sales, especially in luxury goods. In many cases, raising prices increases demand, presumably because there is an (unjustified) impression of higher quality in a more expensive item, or perhaps because it makes the item seem more exclusive and special, or perhaps because a higher price suggests the seller’s greater confidence in the item. Perhaps other forces are at play also.

    At any rate, the savvy self-interested seller attempts to determine the magic sweet spot, where pricing maximizes income. Even if one loses some customers with higher pricing, one might still come out ahead in total income.

    Of course, this approach ignores the ethical concerns, of “fair” pricing, but I am not sure there is really any ethical problem in the case of luxury goods, although that criticism has merit in the case of necessities.

    – Regards,

    V

    • Agreed

      The ironic thing is that if tickets were less expensive by even $5-10 (for mid-to-low end tickets), people would be more willing to buy them, would go to more shows, and ultimately infuse the touring industry with more money. Plenty of people would spend more money on concerts to see more, cheaper shows.

    • Brian

      There’s a problem, when a concert is percieved as a “luxury” there is a big problem with perception control and all surrounding factors and services.
      The rent, all energy costs including gasoline and utilities, are too damn high!

  9. Anyone

    Edit: In my previous post I should have said ‘increasing’ rather than ‘decreasing’ in my final sentence.

    To V: Perhaps you are confusing the market mechanism for prices with income elasticity of demand. Luxury goods do not increase demand by virtue of raising their prices— which is what you described. Rather, luxury goods have a high income elasticity of demand which garners prices that are, usually, above and beyond necessity goods (which have a lower income elasticity). Raising price does not gain one firm or individual a higher quantity sold, which is what an increase in demand describes.

    At any rate, this particular discussion may be saved and continued later, elsewhere.

    The info behind that graphic is telling of a similar story. If you look at attendance as a function of shows the rate is declining but seems a little less significant.

    The graph does, however, show the general trend in North America as sloping upward. Because I live in America and understand things best here I shall stop and conclude that attendance is not down in the states. Across the pond and abroad I know much less about and cannot comment further on, although my above analysis should at least (unhelpfully) say what it isn’t.

  10. Eric Groom

    If you are in the NYC area (or just want to know what concerts are happening in the region), the new My Social List app is what you need…to stay AWARE!

    You can get it here (for iPhone):

  11. Blastjacket

    Not to state the obvious but maybe your first sentence is turning out to be FALSE regardless of the number of people or surveys that claim it to be true

    “Awareness, or lack thereof. It’s traditionally been the biggest reason why people miss concerts from their favorite artists”

  12. PrettySimple

    Concert attendance is down because our at-home entertainment options are the best they’ve ever been. The “fun” delta between staying on the couch and attending a show is narrowing by the minute. To paraphrase Nathan Hubbard from his interview with Bill Simmons, “Playing Angry Birds in your underwear isn’t half-bad.”

  13. @antoinef

    Oh no, did the music industry kill another golden goose?

    • Henry

      In the UK the lack of any real ‘experience’ is definitely a factor in declining live ticket sales. While the mid-tier ‘theatres’ (3-4K seats, decent locations, resonable decor and beer prices) seem to be holding up, there is an increasingly tangible reticence for audiences to engage with venues above and below.

      Entry level venues for new, unsigned and first-tour bands are almost exclusively dark, dingy, unwelcoming and slightly depressing places to be, that people only seem to go to under duress to support their friends bands if they really must.

      At the top of the tree the arena venues and above are hellishly expensive in terms of both ticket prices and refreshments. Most venues charge double pub prices for terrible beer that you wouldn’t drink out of choice and usually have over-zealous security who can really take the edge off a night. Can I add usually terrible sound quality in the larger venues too and terrible visibilty for at least 2/3 of most venues.

      Compare this to other more freindly entertainment options and it’s not hard to see why people want to spend their hard-earned on something with better perceived value minus the feeling of being slightly fleeced.

      Don’t get me wrong, if there’s a band playing that you simply ‘must see’ they you’ll go anywhere to see them, but if it’s a borderline job then it’s becoming increasingly easier to say no, especlally if you’re a liittle older and gigging isn’t the novelty it once was…

  14. @KristianNilsen4

    Færre drar på konsert! Var det ikke der musikkbransjen skulle hente inn de tapte inntektene?!

  15. Jason Miles

    You can be aware of all the shows you want but if you don’t have the $ it diesn’t matter and right now people are still not making the $ for the privilege of going to a $200 show

    It’s all Bullshit and greed

    Yest Adele still sold almost 10 mil in the US

    Peace,Jason

  16. Rock N' Roll Buddha

    Less disposable income = lower concert attendance, along with the myriad other reassons enumerated above.

    The vast majority of us are making less money becuase of this ongoing crappy economy… It’s not just concerts. People can’t afford to buy their own home anymore either.

  17. Evan_Guerin

    Live Nation does not equal the entire concert market. Over the past two years I might have attended 4 shows in Live Nation venues, aside from that I’ve been to an additional 30+ shows. I know I’m not a typical music fan, but that ratio is almost 10:1, maybe people are just sick of the horrible LN experience.

    Plus you can’t take into account Ticketmaster sales with the rise of viable competition like Eventbrite as well as other independent ticketing agents.

    • paul

      Evan,

      Glad you brought this up. The advantage of Live Nation is that they publish this information regularly – they have to, according to SEC regulations (as a publicly-listed company). That doesn’t mean there aren’t other information sources in this area, just that I viewed this as a reasonable proxy for the broader space, and one with regular, recurring updates at reliable, measurable intervals.

      Eager to hear your feedback.

      /paul

  18. @EM_Magazine

    No surprise…

    How have you changed your concertgoing habits?

  19. @tlatzotzontli

    I’d like to see numbers for small venues.

  20. wallow-T

    Gee, what could have happened in 2008 which caused a downturn in the global sales of a luxury service/product? 🙁

    On the internation decline steeper than the North American decline:

    I’ve seen reports go by this week that unemployment for young people in Europe is getting to 25-40% in some countries.