Resurgent dollar a challenge for concert biz

Fri Nov 14, 2008 8:35am EST
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By Mitchell Peters and Andre Paine

LOS ANGELES (Billboard) - Amid the current financial crisis, at least one thing is going up in value: the U.S. dollar.

For American artists on the road overseas, the dollar's sudden strength against the euro, the British pound and the Canadian and Australian dollars means that local costs like food and lodging are cheaper. But depending on how they structured their deals with promoters, artists could wind up taking home less than they would have months ago.

They can protect themselves from the dollar's surge to some extent by negotiating tour guarantees in dollars rather than in local currency. But they'll still lose money to currency fluctuations if their percentage of tour profits is calculated in local currency, as is common.

For promoters, currency fluctuations inject an additional level of uncertainty to an already risky game. Bill Zysblat, partner at RZO Productions and co-producer of the worldwide Police reunion tour, warns that "anyone who put tickets on sale in Europe and the U.K. a couple of months ago, and then budgeted their tours accordingly, is in for conversion shock."

On June 1, Zysblat notes, 100 euros was worth about $155. As of Friday, it came to about $127. Similarly, 100 pounds was worth $198 on June 1 and $148 on Friday.

Concert promoters can raise ticket prices to balance out potential losses, but "that's a very dangerous game to play," Hallett says. "We're in an economic downturn and if we push ticket prices too far, we're going to find ourselves losing out."

Currency fluctuation had a significant impact on recent Celine Dion concerts in Canada promoted by AEG Live, according to company CEO Randy Phillips.

"There was easily a 20% swing in the settlements for each show," he said. "I had a similar issue with Tom Petty, where I ended up compromising with Tom's business reps and manager. We split the difference."   Continued...

<p>Fans raise their hands during the Metalway Festival in Gernika, northern Spain, August 13, 2005. REUTERS/ Vincent West</p>