Thursday, January 10, 2008

Tours de force

There's one sector of the entertainment industry that may benefit from the Hollywood writer's strike: the concert business.

As script-starved networks offer reality TV shows in which He-Men (and She-Men) hit each other with giant marshmallowy earbuds, it's conceivable that many younger adults will opt for entertainment alternatives such as inexpensive concerts -- the hotel-café tour, for example. That's further good news for an industry bathing in the minted glow of yet another gangbuster year. Indeed, while 2007 CD sales were flatter than Amy Winehouse's new hairstyle, the concert business is the one area of the music biz that's happier than a Boston sports fan.

With the prospect of a Led Zeppelin tour still in the offing, not to mention tours by U2, Coldplay, Radiohead, Carrie Underwood/Keith Urban, the Eagles, Bruce Springsteen, and Madonna, concert promoters stand to rake in more money per day than a Ron Paul fundraiser.

That's particularly true for Live Nation -- who have filed for divorce from Ticketmaster -- as they look to capitalize on their contract with Madonna and enlist artists such as the Jonas Brothers in so-called "360 deals" that cover record sales, merch, and tours. (To some, a deal that even Robert Johnson would have turned down at the Devil's crossroads.)

Still, there's one more potential spoiler on the horizon, one even more troubling than the prospect of Meatloaf's return to touring. Inflation. Though concert tickets barely rose in 2007, retail prices are soaring and there's talk of a recession. Faced with the sticker price of $450 golden circle seats for a Madonna show, the option of staying home to watch "American Gladiators" may not sound that bad after all.

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