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Originally published May 24, 2009 at 12:00 AM | Page modified May 26, 2009 at 3:46 PM

Matson on Music

Read reviews of Sasquatch! performances and watch video from the three-day festival on Andrew Matson's new music blog. Ready for more live music? Check out our concert calendar.

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Sasquatch 2012: Girl Talk, Macklemore, Pretty Lights NEW - 5/26, 08:41 AM

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Despite recession concert business appears thriving

Seattle-area concerts and theater are selling steadily despite the economic downturn, with recent or upcoming sold-out shows including Phish, Coldplay, Billy Joel, Elton John, Death Cab for Cutie, "Wicked," John Legend, the Steve Miller Band, Jackson Browne, Celine Dion, AC/DC, Britney Spears, Brad Paisley, Buckcherry and Avenged Sevenfold and Lyle Lovett.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Recession? What recession? When it comes to live music, Seattle-area concerts are selling steadily despite the economic downturn.

"All ticket sales in this area are up," said Jeff Trisler, president of Live Nation Northwest. "We're very happy doing so well, particularly in this rough economy."

Phish sold out two shows at the Gorge Amphitheatre in record time — less than half an hour. Coldplay's Gorge date sold out in a day. And both the Billy Joel-Elton John show at KeyArena in November and July's Death Cab for Cutie show at Marymoor Park sold out their first shows and had to add a second.

"We're on par or ahead of last year," said Trisler.

In the theater world, tickets for the national Broadway tour of "Wicked" recently went on sale at the Paramount Theatre, and so far is the strongest presale in the history of the Broadway musical, which began touring in 2005.

At Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery's summer-concert series, John Legend, the Steve Miller Band and Jackson Browne have already sold out. The Tacoma Dome is doing well too, as upcoming concerts with Celine Dion, AC/DC, Brad Paisley, and Buckcherry and Avenged Sevenfold — plus the recent Britney Spears show — all sold out.

"We're finding that people are staying closer to home these days but still want to be entertained," said Steve Brown, marketing manager of the Tacoma Dome.

Besides wanting to take "stay-cations," as Trisler calls it, venues are also being more conservative about what shows they pursue, booking artists with whom they already have a successful track record rather than experimenting with new acts. Returning artists in the Seattle area this summer include the Indigo Girls for ZooTunes at Woodland Park Zoo, and Lyle Lovett for Chateau Ste. Michelle in Woodinville.

Venues are also being careful about ticket costs.

"We haven't increased prices as dramatically as many sectors of the business world has," said Josh LaBelle, executive director of Seattle Theatre Group, the nonprofit that manages the Paramount and Moore theaters and puts on shows at some other venues. "There are so many performances that go for the cost of parking."

One example: The upcoming No Depression Music Festival — a whole day of roots music at Marymoor Park on July 11 — will cost just $45 a person.

"At another time, we would have scaled it higher than that," said Dave Littrell, owner of the Lakeside Group, which produces shows at Chateau Ste. Michelle and Marymoor Park.

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But low prices and good lineups aren't the only things keeping people buying; promoters say live entertainment has a value that keeps the customers coming.

"It's a nice thing to get you through whatever ails you," said Trisler.

This trend has been reflected in past downturns as well.

"I won't say we're recession proof," said Littrell, who has produced shows for the last 35 years. "But, generally when economic times are tough, then our business seems to do OK."

Marian Liu: 206-464-3825 or mliu@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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