The sweet sound of success

Mitchell Hartman Jul 4, 2011
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The sweet sound of success

Mitchell Hartman Jul 4, 2011
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Bob Moon: Over the next several weeks, a few million Americans will grab their lawn chairs — the ones with the built-in beer can holders — and head out to a summer music festival. Here in California this weekend, we had the High Sierra festival. New Orleans had its Essence Festival. In Milwaukee, it was Summerfest.

As Mitchell Hartman reports from this weekend’s Waterfront Blues Festival in Portland, Ore., after a few dismal years, things are looking up for artists and concert promoters.


Mitchell Hartman: Portland hosts one of the biggest blues festivals of the summer — 100,000 people, acts like Robert Cray, Lucinda Williams and Buddy Guy.

Some summer music events died in the recession, like the Mile High Festival in Denver and Live Nation’s Pemberton Festival in British Columbia. The ones that survived are stronger, says Peter Dammann, who books artists for the Portland festival, a nonprofit benefiting the Oregon Food Bank.

Peter Dammann: Most of these touring acts really look at festivals to pay their way. A lot of the connecting dots on these tours have disappeared over the last couple of years. For the mid-level acts that are playing clubs, a lot of those clubs don’t exist anymore.

Last summer, some top pop stars got burned — they didn’t fill giant concert venues, and they left tickets on the table, says Gary Bongiovanni of the concert industry trade publication Pollstar.

Gary Bongiovanni: Business is considerably better than it was a year ago at this time.

Bongiovanni says that’s partly the economy reviving, and fans willing to splurge on a concert or festival instead of a big summer vacation. And it’s also smarter ticket pricing.

Bongiovanni: Many of the artists have put in lower price points. Rather than waiting for the public to say, ‘I’m not going to pay $50 for the lousy seats,’ I’m going to go ahead and price them at $20 or $30.

Seems like even for a memorable summer music experience, Americans will still always look for a discount.

I’m Mitchell Hartman for Marketplace.

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