In an episode of “The Sopranos,” Steve Van Zandt’s character Silvio Dante memorably reassures Tony Soprano that two businesses continue to thrive during a recession: “Entertainment, and our thing.”
The two ventures have something else in common: Everyone watches what everyone else is doing. “This is the music business, so there’s always rampant paranoia,” says Charlie Walker, partner in the Austin-based promoter C3 Presents. “The day you’re not paranoid is the day you start making serious mistakes. But it doesn’t seem like there’s a big panic out there or the sky is falling as far as the live business goes.”
Sil might have been on to something. So far it appears the touring business will do just fine this summer. In the middle of the worst recession since concerts took place in opera houses and dance halls, this isn’t a summer when sellouts are dead but a summer when the Dead is selling out.
History is also on Silvio’s side, at least when it comes to live entertainment. In the last recession, in the summer of 2002, the concert business generated what were then all-time highs in dollars and attendance, according to Billboard Boxscore. In 1991, during the recession before that, the total concert gross did fall by nearly 12% but attendance was virtually flat, seemingly driven by more conservative pricing that brought fans to venues. Grosses leaped nearly 20% by 1992, hardly a booming economic year, and attendance jumped by almost 13%.
The summer of 2009 is shaping up as a…
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