Originally created 12/26/96

Top concert draws of 1996



NEW YORK (AP) - It wasn't a particularly good year for people in the concert industry - unless you happened to breathe fire, spit blood and wear a lot of greasepaint.

Kiss' reunion tour was the top money-earner for 1996, taking in $43.6 million and beating acts like Garth Brooks, Neil Diamond and Rod Stewart, the concert industry trade publication Pollstar reported Wednesday.

Consumers spent an estimated $1.05 billion on concerts during 1996, Pollstar said. That's up slightly from the $950 million in 1995 but not approaching the record $1.4 billion set in 1994.

The increased dollar volume was largely due to higher ticket prices and masked a particularly weak showing for many veteran artists out on the road, said Gary Bongiovanni, Pollstar editor.

Kiss was the spectacular exception. The band reunited its original members, donned the cumbersome costumes and used truckloads of special effects for 92 dates - leaving sellouts in their wake.

"Probably everybody except (Kiss member) Gene Simmons was surprised by how strong that was," Bongiovanni said.

The summer's other high-profile rock reunion - of the Sex Pistols - didn't even register in Pollstar's top 50 concert draws.

The concert circuit was flooded this summer with stars of the 1970s - Styx, Kansas, Steely Dan, Steve Miller, Chicago and Crosby, Stills and Nash. Many played to a lot of open seats.

"The '70s acts didn't work, except for the Eagles and Kiss," said Jim Koplik of Metropolitan Entertainment, one of the Northeast's top promoters. "The '70s, I think ... are over. There were a lot of '70s acts out last year and I think most promoters will stay away next year."

Artists demanded increased guaranteed payments to perform this year, Bongiovanni said. That forced promoters to raise ticket prices, turning off all but the acts' most fanatic followers, Bongiovanni said.

It's been a down year in general for the music industry. Compact disc sales are flat and many in the business wonder if any artists will emerge to lift them out of the doldrums.

On the plus side, a number of new acts established themselves as solid, if not spectacular, concert draws this year: Alanis Morissette, Oasis, Bush, Smashing Pumpkins, Phish and Tori Amos in particular, Bongiovanni said.

Phish's "Clifford Ball," where 70,000 fans overran an abandoned Air Force base in upstate New York, was the summer's biggest event.

The H.O.R.D.E. festival, led by acts like Blues Traveler and Natalie Merchant, supplanted Lollapallooza as the summer's biggest traveling festival. H.O.R.D.E. took in $18.1 million to Lollapallooza's $15.9 million, Pollstar said.