Vegas is #1 Destination for Live Music

Vegas On Pace To Break Last Year’s Ticket Sales Record

In 1991, Las Vegas sold 200,000 tickets to live music events. Then came the Grateful Dead, MGM Grand Garden, a swarm of theaters, festivals and T- Mobile Arena. In 2016,  Las Vegas sold over 3 million tickets to live music events. Pollstar magazine tracks sales of live music. Recently, it released mid-year ticket sales figures, reinforcing Vegas’ claim as the number one live music destination in the world.

Rod Stewart email (31 of 45).jpg
Rod Stewart-The Colosseum at Caesars Palace

2017 will be the first-year T-Mobile Arena reports a full year of concerts. They are off to a good start selling 161,096 tickets. MGM Grand Garden added another 84,899 and Thomas and Mack Center 35,760. That is over 300,000 tickets.

15001-venue-bb18-topline-billboard-1240.jpgLast year five of Las Vegas’s theaters we’re in the top 100 in the world. Then we added the Park Theater.  One of the reasons Las Vegas is so strong as a live music destination is the return of the residency. That trend shows no slowing down. The Axis at Planet Hollywood sold 305,545 tickets. The Colosseum at Caesars Palace sold 246,316 the Park Theater 119,176, the Smith Center hundred 111,072, and the Flamingo 38,970.


Las Vegas had three venues in the top 100 of club venues.  Brooklyn Bowl sold 58,824 tickets, the Joint 33,622 tickets and Chelsea at the Cosmopolitan sold 12, 257. House of Blues did not report ticket sales.

The live music industry continues to grow, up 3.4% to a record 23.4 million and good news, the ticket price dropped 3.5%. According to Pollstar, “The industry took in more money and sold more tickets than ever before with a slightly lower ticket price”. Live Nation and AEG are again the top promoters in the world


There are two categories Las Vegas  appear in. We do not have a major Amphitheater and Sam Boyd Stadium no longer competes for stadium tours. This will be the first U2 tour that has not played Las Vegas. 2020 and the new stadium cannot come soon enough. Met Life Stadium-New York, sold 157,583 tickets the first six months of 2017.

*Post note-the three tables are from Billboard Magazine. They show different perspectives on ticket grosses.


Hall of Fame Bands Use Park Theaters Tools To Provide Vegas One-Of-A Kind Show

Dan Bernbach knows good sound. He studied music at Indiana University and is a lyric baritone. He vasilated between teaching and performing, sometimes on cruise ships before getting an MBA and joining MGM’s Executive Associate program. Two years later. at 34,  he is opening Vegas’ newest theater-The Park.

Dan Bernbach
Dan Bernbach

The June 9th Doobie Brothers-Chicago billing sounded like a lot of fun. I had not seen either in ten years, but what I remembered was both being great live. The first thing my wife Vicki noticed, when the Doobie Brothers opened at the Park Theater was the staggered seating.  We missed it at the opening, but it is subtle. Each seat is facing the space between the seat in front of you. How many times have you gone to a concert, only to have a six foot seven guy sitting in front of you (ugh!). No problem here!


Over the past fifty years, I have seen a dozen iterations of Chicago and Doobie Brothers.   In the seventies and eighties, both appeared regularly at Summerfest or the Wisconsin State Fair.  Most of my early live music experiences were at outdoor events. While, rock was still developing, the quality of the live experience was more about seeing the band than the quality of the production. Things have changed…

I often surf YouTube for old memories and new music.  I came across a 1970 recording of Chicago performing 25 or 6 to 4 . We remember the hits, but this band could (and still can) jam!  Its live performance is more than a trip down memory lane. They are great nine-piece band with new and old influences.


7/11/76: Aladdin Marquee with Chicago

Those left from the original Chicago were Robert Lamm, Lee Loughnane, James Pankow Walt Parazaider. The last time I saw the band, with Cetera, was in April 21st, 1985 when they played Thomas and Mack Center. After that tour, Cetara left the band and so began Chicago’s transition.

Chicago-Thomas and Mack Center-April 21, 1985

Chicago has a great live show. Nine people on stage, seeming to play four instruments each, an incredible horn section and great singers singing great songs. These band members legitimately enjoy what they do. They are engaging and fun, especially James Pankow who’s energy is infectious.  “Hard Habit to Break” and “You’re the Inspiration” demonstrated the power of the Park’s LED video system. There is no bigger or better in theater.  “The wall is 80 feet wide by 40 feet tall. It’s five point two millimeter pixel pitch makes it the largest and highest resolution LED wall in a theatrical venue”, says Bernbach. “It’s like you are watching HD TV. The show left the traveling screens in the truck.  Both bands mixed songs with clips of heartfelt videos of the past.

Chicago Set-list

  1.  Ballet for a Girl From Buchannon
  2. Encore:

The band’s production created a wall of sound The show was a mix of deeper cuts and hits played by a band (setlist clip) that sounds better now than fifty years ago.

The Doobie Brothers opened. After a respite in the early eighties, they played Thomas and Mack Center for the first time September 9th, 1989. Tonight, three original members, Patrick Simmons, Tom Johnston and John McFee were joined by four other great musicians, including Billy Payne-Little Feat. The Doobie Brothers Legacy has been built upon not just kick hit records, but an unrivaled commitment to musical integrity and a steadfast allegiance to their enthusiastic fans. The band evolved in a constantly changing industry and have connected to generations of new fans.

Doobie Brothers Set List

  1. Sweet Maxine

The 5,000 in the sold-out Park Theater ranged in age from thirty to seventy-five. Simmons talks about their fans, “We have a hard-core fan base that has handed our music down through the years to their children and their children’s children. Repeatedly people go to work concerts in come up to us and say, ‘my dad turned me onto you guy’s years ago and I love you guys all this time and my kids are listening to you now”.

 “We are basically an American band-we cover a lot of areas” says Johnston. “We cover blues R&B Country bluegrass and rock’n roll it’s based on rhythms rhythm structures picking and harmonies”. After the audience and band got to know each other, the Doobies rocked “Clear as the Driven Snow,” complete with a drum solo by Ed Toth and Bill Payne. “Takin’ It to the Streets,” “Without You” and “China Grove” vamped up the set. I am more of a fan of the Tom Johnston era. That was who the Doobie Brothers were that night.

A great sound, incredible video display and two of the greatest bands in the world made for one memorable evening.


Launching Rock Vegas Nation


Rock Vegas Nation will be a website and regular blog. In addition, I will stay active on twitter and FB. Collectively, I will continue the Vegas live music stories.  I am sure there are more stories; yours! Follow along.

Seems bold, doesn’t it…  Rock Vegas Nation? Well believe me, there is no master plan to challenge the .com icons. Rock Vegas Nation is a result of Rock Vegas which was the winner of a dozen names considered for the book.

My first choice for the title of the book was “Vegas Comes Alive”.  I was told people wouldn’t get the correlation to Frampton Comes Alive. Guy Hobbs liked “Rockin’ Vegas” (that was close).  Tony Bonnici named it Rocking Sin City and Linda Crane wanted Sin City Music Revolution.  I like Rock Vegas!

But, Rock Vegas’ domain was not available. My daughter, digital media expert, Danielle suggested Rock Vegas Nation.  That was available!  Other daughter, Nicole (marketing expert), designed and built the web site.  Together they created the Vegas Rock Nation platform. This is a fans site.

If you have not read Rock Vegas, here is a bit more about the book. If you have, you will appreciate the sequel “Rock Vegas Nation”.

As recently as the early ’90s, Las Vegas was considered a place where headlining Rock and Roll bands went to die. Despite its reputation as the “Entertainment Capital of the World,” the city was all but devoid of major touring acts, as the paradoxically conservative instincts of the casino bosses and city fathers made it difficult for cutting-edge bands, especially rock ’n’ rollers, to gain a foothold.

Then the floodgates opened.

In less than three decades, Las Vegas has evolved into the top live music destination in the world. How did it happen? How did Vegas make the transition from Frank and Dean, Wayne and Engelbert, and the Folies Bergère to a city with more than 500,000 seats for live-music events that draw more than three million fans annually, 75% of them from outside Nevada?
In Rock Vegas, the spotlight is on the live music industry and circumstances that made this revolution possible, emphasis on the behind-the-scenes innovation that started Vegas rockin’ and opened the door for the greatest live-music explosion in American-entertainment history. It was my goal to not just write a book about how the Las Vegas’ live music scene evolved, but to provide a vehicle to educate event management professionals on how all these apply to every market.

I spent three and a half years writing Rock Vegas, conducting over one hundred interviews, reading over hundred books and viewing fifty videos. My focus is telling the fan from Vegas or interested live music visitors, the stories behind how all this happened. In addition to over four dozen stories about the characters who built the Las Vegas live music business, the book covers live music history including ticketing, crowd management, production, music distribution and the business of live music.

Stay tuned for regular Rock Vegas stories!

Rock Vegas: Live Music Explodes in the Neon Desert is available for purchase at  Amazon or Barnes & Noble.