Australia's effervescent live entertainment business isn't losing its bubbles just yet, according to a new study into the entertainment industry. But there's new evidence of a long-suspected kink in the festivals arena, and rock concerts were off the money last year.
In its "Ticket Attendance & Revenue Survey 2011," Live Performance Australia reports that live entertainment "remains strong," with attendance up by 0.6%. However, downward pressure on ticket prices contributed to an overall dip in revenue to Australian $1.3 billion (US $1.36 billion) from Australian $1.32 billion in 2010 ($1.38 billion). The average stub cost Australian $85.86 ($90), versus Australian $86.43 ($90) in 2010.
Across the entire live entertainment sector, more than 17,345,000 tickets were issued last year -- a figure which is creeping towards a ratio of one outing for every adult and child in the country. That figure, however, is well below the pre-Global Financial Crisis highs of 20.88 million, but it does represent a growth from the years 2008-2010.
LPA chief executive Evelyn Richardson comments, "This year's Survey confirms that demand for Live Entertainment remained strong in 2011, despite generally difficult economic conditions."
The eighth annual survey tracks the performance of the live market across 2011, from a range of ticketing firms, self-ticketing venues and the Australian Council for the Arts. Accountancy giant Ernst and Young collated the report on behalf of the LPA.
In it, the field for rock and pop concerts -- classified in the report as "Contemporary Music" -- lost significant ground. Contemporary Music remains the largest sector, with a 41.3% share of revenue ($539.2 million) and 34.2% share of ticket sales (5.9 million). But the value of the business slipped by 18.2% and attendance fell by 15.5% when compared with 2010.
The LPA partially blames this on the bumper touring-season that was 2010. During that period, "major, high-grossing acts" such as U2, AC/DC, Bon Jovi, Lady Gaga and Metallica all visited these shores, creating what was a "particularly exceptional year." The highest-grossing tours in 2011 were from Michael Bublé, Cold Chisel, Usher, Elton John, Eminem, Rihanna, Justin Bieber and the Kings of Leon.
Last year "wasn't a good year for acts (touring), that's for sure," explains legendary promoter Michael Chugg. "A lot of acts weren't touring, a lot of acts were off-cycle. The way it's shaping up for next year it could be a very strong year as far as having the right line-ups go."
In recent years, Australia's concert biz has been rumbling along in a rude state of health. Ticket sales have been healthy, there's no shortage of touring acts and prices at the gate are high compared with the U.S. or Britain; according to the LPA, average concert ticket prices rose by 0.6% to Australian $103.45 ($108).
Also in the report, music festivals suffered a 4.4% decline in takings to Australian $96.45 million ($101 million), while attendance dropped by 4.2%. The average festival ticket price was higher than it's ever been -- Australian $138.97 ($146) -- while the year's biggest festivals were Future Music, Splendour In The Grass and Big Day Out.
With the British festivals space facing pressures of its own, many observers are looking for the same tell-tale signs in the live sector to appear Down Under.
Those cracks have already appeared. The Big Day Out, for many years the titan among Australia's festivals, endured a dreadful early 2012 tour and has now been overtaken by Future and Stereosonic as the country's most popular fests. The BDO will be back next year, reshaped and with a new partner in C3 Presents. Few festivals will find the busy upcoming summer calendar a breeze.
Chugg admits the festivals space is a tough one, but he's unfazed by talk of a wider downturn. "I reckon we're the strongest market in the world right now," notes Chugg, whose company Michael Chugg Entertainment shifted almost 400,000 in the first half of the year. "Certainly sales figures have shown that and the amount of traffic we're getting through the country doesn't seem to be causing death and destruction in terms of losing any money." Chugg is in the thick of the action. In the coming months, he'll bring the likes of Coldplay, Radiohead, Weezer, Gotye and Kelly Clarkson to these shores. "You'd have to think of Australia as very strong at the moment."