Making money at the Bowl is not supposed to be the most important thing. After all, as Board President Paul Dore told me last fall, this is a nonprofit and not a publicly held company. There are no shareholders to please.
All the same, nobody’s ashamed of earning a little surplus, especially considering all the risks it takes to bring big acts to town and let them loose in a boujie neighborhood with decibel controls and a curfew. The Bowl likes to make money, and it almost always has.
Not surprisingly, the biggest grossing shows all happened after the big improvements, which made it possible for more extravagant acts to come on board.
“Far as I can tell, the biggest grossing show of all time was the Eagles six years ago,” claimed Rick Boller, now in his second year as Executive Director. The secret, he carefully points out, is not just selling out the venue, but the ticket prices, which at that time (2005) topped out around $200. Again, Boller wants to make an implied issue clear. “I hope people know by now that ticket prices are set by what the artist charges,” he explains. Because of artists’ rates—nearly half a million in one case, according to Boller’s predecessor, Sam Scranton—the second and third top-grossing shows came even more recently: last summer in fact. “It was certainly Van Morrison. Tickets were around $200 for that show, too. And after that came James Taylor and Carole King” (also the biggest-grossing tour of the 2010 concert year).
Even without pressure from shareholders, though, Boller doesn’t think losing money on any show is good, even if it’s made up by a blockbuster later. “We have 25 shows a year; the season only lasts from April to November. We don’t like to lose money on anything,” he said. “We’re all here because we love the place and we have to get 4,500 people in and out of here, not to mention pay attention to the needs of the artists. Every show is a big deal. Like Sam Scranton used to say, each and every show is a miracle, and we do our best to pull it off.”