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Live Music Falls on Deaf Ears

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So many concerts, so few groupies.

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This summer, the live-music industry will collide with an ever-more budget-conscious nation.

The first cracks started showing around February. The Langerado Music Festival -- a 3-day Miami event featuring contemporary artists like Snoop Dogg and Death Cab for Cutie -- was cancelled due to poor ticket sales. And Madonna, the ticket-selling champion of 2008, saw a marked drop in sales.

Even Britney Spears -- is nothing sacred? -- has been similarly plagued on her current tour: Her opening act, the Pussycat Dolls, were told they wouldn't be able to bring along their backup dancers due to cost concerns. Meanwhile, poor ticket sales forced American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson to cancel her entire US tour.

"Even on a moderate ticket, 2 people and food, you're talking a $500 night. That is a large expense for people being told about doom and gloom," says Gunnar Nelson, half of Nelson, the popular 1980s-90s pop-rock act. "The shows are connecting to the audience and taking them back to a time when they felt 10-feet-tall and bulletproof. Right now, people want an escape."

Yes - when it comes to buying concert tickets, people are looking to the classic (and retro-priced) rock of the 1970s and 1980s. Nelson, for example, continues to tour moderate-sized venues and has seen a considerable response from fans, particularly for Scrap Metal - his 1980s rock supergroup (of sorts), featuring members from acts including Slaughter, Mr. Big, and Night Ranger.

This summer's touring schedule demonstrates that the interest in 1980s rock isn't relegated to Scrap Metal. Summer tours featuring established '80s commodities include Motley Crue, Def Leppard, and a twin bill of Poison and Cheap Trick.

To be fair, there are plenty of established touring acts who transcend their '80s credentials. U2 recently sold 140,000 tickets in 40 minutes for a Dublin stop on their 360 tour, which is a considerably scaled-down version of their previous extravaganzas, some of which were among the most expensive in history.

"It's sonic comfort food. People need that now. They don't want to be reminded that Madonna drives a Bugatti. They've had enough, I think," says Nelson.

Bruce Springsteen has been such a draw that 2,200 people complained to the state of New Jersey about Ticketmaster's (TKTM) ticketing service. In response to an investigation by the state's attorney general, Ticketmaster offered $350,000 in compensation and a random drawing to win 1,000 Springsteen tickets for 2 concerts in May.

This, coupled with the revelation that artists like Neil Diamond were selling marked-up tickets for their own shows through Ticketmaster, has inspired a major backlash. A proposed merger between the company (the world's largest ticket-seller) and Live Nation (LYV), the world's largest concert promoter, has inspired US Justice Department anti-trust inquiries and subsequent drops in company stock value. Recently, Ticketmaster announced a fourth-quarter loss of over $1 billion, due primarily to declining stock valuations.

The resulting shift toward the comforts of old-time rock and roll is hardly surprising.



In memory of our fallen friend and trusted colleague, Bennet Sedacca, 100% of the donations made to the RP Foundation through April will be channeled to philanthropic endeavors consistent with the RP mission, working closely with the Sedacca clan in the distribution of those funds. We thank you kindly for your support as we strive to effect positve change in the lives of children.

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