Music shows, a large attendance gap

Mylène Farmer on stadium tour, Matthieu Chedid, Soprano or Lomepal in the zenith, Depeche Mode at the Stade de France, Elton John at the Accor Arena in Bercy… In 2023, these well-known artists will give monumental concerts, at high prices, and will fill (if it is not already done) their rooms with large gauges (more than 5,000 spectators).

Behind these musical giants, an entire sector is going through serious difficulties. This is the observation made by the National Music Center (CNM) during MaMA, a Parisian festival which brings together 6,500 professionals from the international music industry from October 12 to 14 for conferences and concerts.

Revenue from small concert halls plunged 38%

The National Music Center is alarmed by a “mistaken recovery” according to its president Jean-Philippe Thiellay. A first estimate for this year seems to announce a return to normal, with 909 million euros in concert ticketing revenue in 2022 (605 million declared at the end of September, 304 million estimated for the end of the year). This amount is “only” 10% lower than the revenue of 998 million in 2019.

Compared to the collapses of the health crisis years (83% fall in revenue in 2020 to €171 million, and 73% in 2021 to €243 million), the figures are good. But if we go into detail, the restarting of shows favors the most established artists and the biggest festivals to the detriment of emerging talents, small festivals and rural or peri-urban areas where the cultural offer is already very poor.

The CNM details the inequalities affecting the live performance of music. In 2022, “Concerts in small venues (fewer than a thousand spectators) saw their receipts plunge by 38% when receipts from large venues (more than 5,000 admissions) increased by 19%”summarizes Séverine Morin, director of studies and foresight of the public body which federates the actors of the musical sector.

As for festivals, “The enormous success of Hellfest should not mask the difficulties of events bringing together less than 4,000 people, which are the most impacted by significant increases in artist fees and energy”, adds Maxime Gaudais, in charge of studies at the CNM. Especially since the loss of revenue in 2022 affects festivals more (– 18%) than the non-festival sector (– 4%).

The profession calls for a “streaming tax”

“The music industry is there, it is restarting, but in a very different situation from before the health crisis”, summarizes Jean-Philippe Thiellay. The boss of the CNM warns of the explosion in energy bills which will force rooms to close more often or longer, as many cultural or industrial companies are already doing. If the average price of contemporary music concerts in France is around €35 ​​(three or four times more for those of international stars), professionals fear a rise in ticket prices in 2023.

Combined with the decline in household purchasing power, an increase in prices would discourage the resumption of small venues and the most modest festivals. However, there are 1,800 to 2,000 music festivals in France and 60% of concerts are held in halls with less than 200 seats. “It is this diversity that is in danger”, emphasizes Jean-Philippe Thiellay.

The CNM benefited from high public grants to support music during the health crisis, with a budget of €100 million in 2020, increased to €200 million in 2021 and 2022. But it will have to return to a lower budget of €50 million in 2023. He also pleads for the passage of a law establishing a “streaming tax”. It would be a question of taking 1.5% of the revenue from paid music streaming (Spotify, Deezer) and free music (YouTube) to donate these sums to live musical entertainment, in order to finance new creations and the emergence of young talents.

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