Ticket sales at Chastain Amphitheater in 2012 were the lowest in the past six years.
There are several reasons for that decline, according to an official with the city of Atlanta. Since 2007, fewer acts performed at the outdoor concert venue, while costs for facility operator Chastain Ventures have increased.
Some of those costs imposed by the city were passed on to concertgoers in the form of extra surcharges on ticket prices.
Chastain Ventures renewed its contract with the city in 2011 and it will last through 2015, records show. Peter Conlon, president of concert promoter Live Nation which co-manages the facility, declined to comment through a company spokeswoman.
According to copies of payments made to the city of Atlanta, the amphitheater sold 142,537 tickets in 2012 for 42 concerts.
Chastain Year by Year
Number of tickets sold: 226,478
Number of shows: 56
Number of tickets sold: 228,733
Number of shows: 57
Number of tickets sold: 159,961
Number of shows: 45
Number of tickets sold: 181,949
Number of shows: 47
Number of tickets sold: 158,281
Number of shows: 42
Number of tickets sold: 142,537
Number of shows: 42
In 2011 the amphitheater sold 158,281 for the same number of shows. It’s a marked contrast to 2007 and 2008, when 56 shows was the norm for a season and customers purchased more than 200,000 tickets each year. The maximum occupancy at Chastain per show is 6,900 people.
Camille Love, director of cultural affairs for the city of Atlanta, said as the economy slowly recovered, the competition from neighboring venues cut into the amphitheater’s share of the market.
She said newer and recently-renovated venues like Wolf Creek Amphitheater and the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Fulton, and the Gwinnett Arena are attractive to promoters, in part because they aren’t hamstrung by sound restrictions at Chastain.
“Chastain has requirements that other venues don’t have and that is the sound requirement and the time that the venue has to close,” Love said. “The music has to be done by 11 p.m. You can only have amplified sound for four hours. All of those factors impact the ability to have shows.”
Increased venues also mean decreased availability of acts. Many musical groups sign non-compete agreements with promoters that prohibit performing at other venues in the area for a certain number of days, Love said.
Love said the sound restrictions are part of an agreement with residents who wanted to curb the impact the amphitheater and its traffic has on neighborhoods around Chastain Park.
The noise concerns get passed on to the consumer in the form of a $1-per-ticket fee that goes toward studying and evaluating sound control at the facility. Unlike many other venues, musical acts playing Chastain can’t bring sound systems in to the facility.
“There’s a sound system that we require all of the acts that they have to plug into our sound system and our speaker system and that’s the way that we can monitor how loud the sound gets,” Love said.
As part of the agreement, Chastain Ventures hires an independent vendor to provide the sound system and that cost is deducted from the payment to the city. In 2011, the cost of that vendor was slightly higher than what the city received from the $1 sound fund, records show. The city renegotiated and got a lower price, Love said.
There’s also a surcharge for improvements to the facility and in 2011 the city added a 50-cent surcharge to tickets to generate revenue for Centers of Hope.
Chastain Ventures also pays the city more for rent. Under the terms of the renegotiated contract, annual rent increased in 2011 to $275,000 from $250,000.
Love said Chastain Ventures hasn’t asked the city to renegotiate the terms of the agreement.
“They’re fulfilling the contract, so what they have to do is make the best of the situation,” Love said.