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Live Nation's Stock Drop 16% Due to Concert Cancellations


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Concert touring giant Live Nation, a Wall Street darling for much of the past year as it far outperformed the S&P 500 index, has hit some sour notes of late.

Widespread reports of a poor summer concert season -- including high-profile cancellations, poor ticket sales and the move by the company to drop its $13 per ticket service fee -- have hit the company's shares hard.

Since April 1, Live Nation shares have fallen 16 percent compared to a 5 percent decline in the S&P.

Among the concert cancellations: Simon and Garfunkel, U2, Christina Aguilera, The Eagles, Rihanna, John Mayer, the Go-Gos, Jordin Sparks and Ron Isley.

Live Nation concert cancellations like those by Christina Aguilera -- who performed this month before an “NBC Today" audience -- are raising concerns among investors and sapping share growth at the one-time Wall Street darling.

Some are blaming the low demand for tickets on the weak economy and prices that are simply too high for the public to swallow -- the average concert ticket price hit $69 in the first quarter.

Commenting on prices, Gary Bongiovanni, editor-in-chief of concert tracker Pollstar, said: “Everybody recognizes there is a problem. The biggest problem is that everybody [artists and promoters] makes their prices individually."

If Live Nation were forced to waive its $13 per ticket service fee for an extended period of time, it could cut into its bottom line.

The company sold 910,000 concert tickets in the first quarter, according to Live Nation's report -- which means it would forgo $170 million in revenue, or 18 percent of concert unit revenue.

Bongiovanni said there are simply too many artists out on the road and “in any market from New York to Des Moines there are going to be losers."

One music industry blogger, Bob Lefsetz, wrote that as many as 200 shows have been cancelled, though executives close to Live Nation have thrown cold water on that high figure.

“The percentage of canceled shows is comparable to prior years," a Live Nation spokesman said.

Perhaps as a result of the slowing concert business, Live Nation's major rival, AEG Live, is out talking to music companies about joining forces in return for a cash infusion, The Post recently reported.

Concerts have long been viewed as the most lucrative part of the music business. Trouble in the most reliable corner of the business is hardly welcome news given what's happening elsewhere.

EMI's new CEO, Roger Faxon, told The Post that the slump was likely cyclical. “There are years when there's a lot of major artists touring and a lot of demand and there are years when it's not that much. We're probably in that."

“Is it a tough season?" added a person close to Live Nation. “Yes, it's tough for everybody."

A Wall Street player said: “Investors are frustrated with Live Nation because of the inconsistency in the numbers," referring to the difficulty of predicting its profits over the past few years.

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