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17 Oct 2005, 08:37
Monterey County Herald - 16th October, 2005

Long live rock? Aging musicians can't tour forever

Aging rockers face health issues


The Miami Herald

Hip hop may be the top dog in CD sales and radio plays, but it's rock 'n' roll that still fills the arenas -- and we're not just talking legends such as the Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney.

It's bands such as Meat Loaf, Journey, Pink Floyd, Styx, REO Speedwagon and Judas Priest that, if you weren't around in the '60s or '70s, you might not have even heard of.

Trouble is, a lot of these guys are hitting retirement age. Some sexagenarian performers have even had to cancel tours due to age-related ailments such as heart problems and strokes.

"What's going to happen when they're gone? It's a legitimate concern in the industry," says Gary Bongiovanni, editor of Pollstar, the chronicle of the $2.8 billion concert trade. "They're a huge percentage of our business."

When these performers and the second-tier rockers eventually shelve their road acts, the touring business could find itself hard pressed to fill the void.

With a handful of exceptions such as Jay Z, Eminem and Kanye West, the iconic music of today's youth -- hip hop -- doesn't pack venues with fans in the way rock does, those in the industry say.

"It's always been a conundrum why hip hop, the top CD seller, hasn't translated into ticket sales," said Ray Waddell, senior editor touring of Billboard.

According to Pollstar listings of current tours, about a third are so-called "evergreen" rockers. The balance is a melange of genres including alternative rock, country and Latin, with only a sprinkling of rappers.

And classic rock is crucial to the industry's gross revenues, boasting some of the biggest earners in the business -- to wit, U2, Elton John, Bruce Springsteen and the Eagles.

One reason for hip hop's low box office performance: hefty prices, say some in the industry. Concert admissions have doubled in the past decade, from a $25 average in 1995 to more than 50 bucks this year. That's not to mention exorbitant ancillary expenses such as concessions, parking and service fees.

The result is the pricing out of younger crowds who, thanks to MTV and the Internet, have cheaper alternatives to connect with their pop idols.

"Baby boomers have disposable income. The younger audience doesn't have that disposable income. Kids just can't afford it," says Bernie Dillon, senior vice president of entertainment for the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.

With concertgoers skewing older, that creates a demand for the groups of yesteryear, who are also pushed out onto the road to make money in light of sliding CD sales and royalties, he notes.

Others in the industry say that youths will pay up if they think the show is worth it.

But hip hop artists can be performance-challenged. They usually start their careers in recording studios before venturing on stage -- the opposite to the rock route, where bands cut their teeth on live performances, developing fan followings before landing label contracts.

Record labels have become particularly focused on hit singles with the advent of the Internet.

Tech-savvy fans download just the songs they like and make their own compilations of favorites instead of shelling out $20 for a CD that may have only one or two songs they really want.

But promoters say that once the evergreen performers start retiring, others will replace them. They point to rock bands Coldplay and Green Day as examples that are selling out arenas, and promoters still hope that hip hoppers may polish their live performances.

"There will be acts to take their place," said Jon Stoll, president of Fantasma Productions, a West Palm Beach, Fla., promoter. "I don't think the arena business is going anywhere."

Look here: http://www.montereyherald.com/mld/montereyherald/entertainment/12918238.htm