Can a new large music venue in Wausau work?
An analysis of The River, a new proposed music venue for the Wausau area.
More details were revealed this week about a large music venue proposed for Wausau called The River.
Some facts, to start: The River if built will be a 58,000-square foot, 3,500-person capacity music venue located somewhere near Athletic Park. The total project would cost $18.3 million to build and the proposers, Joe Ellis and Anna Herman of VY Properties, are looking for $2.6 million in incentives to build the project.
Ellis and Herman are projecting The River would sell 250,000 tickets per year. Not everyone thought that was reaslistic. Grand Theater Executive Director Sean Wright came out swinging against the music venue, saying selling that many tickets per year would put The River in the top ten music venues in the world. Ellis and Herman say it’s a conservative estimate.
The Wausonian decided to dig into some music venue data to find out who was closer to the mark.
The River — ticket comparisons
First, some math. The River would have to host 71-72 shows per year and pretty much sell each of them out to reach 250,000 tickets sold in one year. At 100 shows per year (that’s one every 3.5 days or so) it wouldn’t need to sell out every show, but come somewhat close. But that is roughly two shows per week.
I came across a Pollstar ranking of clubs for the first quarter of 2022. Boston’s House of Blues, a 2,200-seat club, sold 57,630 tickets in the first quarter of 2022. Projected out that would mean 230,520 tickets. (Though the numbers likely changed seasonally.) That was the top venue listed under clubs.
For additional context, American Family Insurance Amphitheater in Milwaukee, a nearly 24,000-seat capacity theater, was ranked 15th in 2021 and sold 133,600 tickets that year. The 9:30 Club in D.C. which seats 1,200 sold 59,381 tickets in 2022.
And most comparable to The River is Echostage (also in D.C.) which has a capacity of 3,000, sold 47,133 tickets in quarter one of 2022. That’s probably closest in size to The River, so probably the best comparable to use. (It’s in a much busier metro with a bigger population to draw from, but also has more competition.)
According to Pollstar’s data, they have about 8-10 shows per month. That puts them roughly in the number of shows per year The River would need to reach its ticket sales projections. But, that’s one of the top clubs in the country for that quarter — third in ticket sales and second in total revenue.
There is no way to say for sure whether or not it would hit those numbers, but it’s safe to say they are not conservative projections.
The Wausonian reached out to Ellis about what kind of bands might play at The River — as in, what level of acts. Ellis promised to get back to me later on that, so The Wausonian will update the post when that occurs.
Ellis told the city’s economic development committee that live music is taking off as bands need the revenue to replace that which was lost when people stopped buying albums.
Some data suggests he’s right. Live Nation Entertainment, formed when Live Nation merged with Ticketmaster, saw its best revenue ever in 2022 after huge pandemic declines. The company brought in $13.49 billion in 2022, up from its revenues of $9.43 billion in 2019. The number of events the ticket seller promoted also grew, from 40,237 to 43,644. That can be seen as a proxy for touring industry growth.
According to Pollstar’s 2022 year-end analysis, stadiums did the best, seeing a 49% growth in ticket sales. Amphitheater ticket sales by contrast were up 2%, and arenas were down 12%. Clubs and theaters saw ticket sales drop 9% and 17% respectively.
Pollstar called 2022 the year of the stadium and based on the growth percentages, it’s easy to see why.