As I write this, more than 80,000 fans are packed into 700 acres of hot Tennessee farmland to hear Metallica, Pearl Jam, Kanye West and more than 100 other acts at Bonnaroo. Last week, the 2008 CMA Music Festival (also known as Fan Fair) boasted record numbers — 180 acts over four days, with 52,000 people a day. On the arena/stadium side of the biz, this summer’s Van Halen tour grossed $93 million by the time it wrapped last month. Last year’s The Police shed tour brought in more than $171 million, according to Billboard data. Every industry cycles through highs and lows, but these are good times for concerts, for fans and live sound professionals alike.
We’ve all heard the bad news about recorded-music sales. Digital-music sales are rising, but in 2007, overall music sales sank by almost 12 percent — more than $1 billion, according to the latest RIAA figures.
So the music industry shifts and adapts. Some top artists, like Prince and Radiohead, have experimented with giving music away. Others sign all-in-one deals like Madonna’s contract with Live Nation, which includes stakes in everything from key chains to albums to film rights. But beyond distribution, the industry is increasingly turning to live performance as a revenue stream. And it’s not just about filling arenas and sheds; it’s about diversity, from pay-per-view events to corporate gigs to multinight theater stops and a whole new world of casino shows.
Performing artists at every level know they need to up their game, and one way to do that is to take show production to the next level. Rascal Flatts is currently carrying one of the largest systems in the world, with 20 trucks on the road. Package tours allow big-name artists to play even bigger venues: Our cover artists, Mary J. Blige and Jay-Z, joined forces to sell out arenas nationwide with their dazzling show.
The focus on production is good news for audio pros. With the increased acceptance of digital consoles, live sound technology can incorporate more studio technology. Check out George Petersen’s inside look at FOH engineers’ virtual racks — the ways they’re mixing live with plug-ins. This month, we also showcase networked power amps, which offer engineers complete computer control at any system level.
And because summertime means hot tours, this issue brings you expanded concert coverage. In addition to our cover duo, we feature Colombian superstar Juanes, established rockers Matchbox Twenty, new rockers Paramore and arena-rockers Bon Jovi live! Get those lighters (and cell phones!) ready…