U.S. musicians benefit from weakened dollar

Mon Dec 10, 2007 4:54pm EST
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By Ray Waddell

NASHVILLE (Billboard) - American bands are finding that their touring profits often fare better when the currency is something other than a weakening greenback.

Accountant Bill Zysblat and his partner Joe Rascoff at RZO have crunched the numbers for some of the biggest tours in history. Its clients include the Rolling Stones, David Bowie, U2, Luis Miguel and Sting. And together with TNA International, RZO is producing this year's Police reunion tour.

With the dollar plummeting against such currencies as the pound, euro and Canadian dollar, U.S.-based bands now have the incentive to tour internationally, particularly in Europe.

"While U.S. bands pay their local expenses in local currency -- sterling, euros, etc. -- much of their general overhead, (like) salaries and rentals, are dollar-based," Zysblat says. "A ticket two years ago that was EUR100 got the band $100. Today that same ticket gets the band $147."

This unfolds in real time, and tour producers can see a real difference in the time it takes between when a tour is routed, when it goes on sale and when a date is settled. "Even non-U.S. tickets put on sale in March of this year have moved up double digits in terms of dollars," Zysblat says. "It's been a windfall for dollar-based bands touring abroad."

Often, international touring is a loss leader, but if a given act was going to make money before, it made more in 2007 than it thought it would. "If there is any net profit from foreign touring, in some cases the profit is 20%-40% higher than it was budgeted based on nothing more than currency exchange," Zysblat says. "Not selling more tickets. Not increasing ticket prices. Just the shift in the U.S. dollar."

Bottom line, this should mean more international touring next year by American bands. That said, the reverse could also be true. "I see fewer U.S. dates by foreign bands," Zysblat says. "Their time is better spent elsewhere."