Bands, Orchestras, Actors, and Other Entertainers Entertainment Groups

SIC 7929

Companies in this industry

Industry report:

This category covers establishments primarily engaged in providing entertainment other than live theatrical presentations, including bands, orchestras, and entertainers.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 43,650 establishments in this diverse industry employed more than 450,000 people in 2010. Combined, the total industry revenues for entertainers and entertainment groups, not including live theatrical presentations, was around $6 billion.

The pop music concert circuit reached record levels in the late 1990s and continued to grow dramatically in the new century. Internationally, concert receipts totaled $1.3 billion in 1999, up 12 percent from 1998, while North American revenues reached $1.23 billion, representing an increase of 11 percent. However, these numbers were soon outstripped in the early years of the first decade of the 2000s, with grosses growing each year. In 2004 North American revenues reached $2.8 billion. After suffering an economic recession at the end of the first decade of the 2000s, the pop music concert industry was moving toward recovery in 2011, with revenues of $2.3 billion. Part of the reason for the rebound in sales was an increase in ticket prices. According to The New York Times in January 2012, "After lowering prices in 2009 and 2010, promoters began to raise them again last year. For the top tours, the average ticket cost [was] $67.22, an 8.9 percent jump over 2010 and only slightly less than the industry's historic peak of $67.33 in 2008." The top performers in North America in 2011 in terms of gross ticket sales, according to Pollstar, were U2, with $156 million; Taylor Swift, with $97.7 million; Kenny Chesney, with $84.6 million; and Lady Gaga, with $63.7 million. Billboard magazine included Bon Jovi, Take That, Roger Walters, and Taylor Swift in its list of highest grossing concert tours.

Opera also faced troubled times in the first decade of the 2000s. After making an unexpected surge in the late 1990s, with attendance by 18- to 24-year-olds growing 15 percent between 1989 and 1999, ticket sales slowed, subscriptions dropped, fundraising lost momentum, and some programs were cancelled. In 2002 Chicago's Lyric Opera had empty seats after 14 consecutive years of sold-out programs. Corporate, individual, and government funding declined dramatically, with many sources shrinking because of ties to the stock market. However, in fiscal 2008, Congress approved a $20.3 million increase in the budget for the National Endowment for the Arts--the largest single increase in more than 30 years. Nonetheless, small companies in particular continued to struggle to make ends meet at the end of the first decade of the 2000s. For example, in the summer of 2009, the small but critically acclaimed Opera Company of Brooklyn almost had to close its doors, despite having slashed its budget and surviving primarily with volunteer members. By 2012 the company had regained its footing, although it continued to operate solely through the works of volunteers, unpaid staff, and interns. Most opera houses that were doing well were sticking to well-known productions, such as La Boheme, Carmen, and La Traviata.

Symphony orchestras were similarly hurt in the first decade of the 2000s, facing sales and funding challenges, as well as continued concerns about creating new classical music fans. The League of American Orchestras estimated that about two-thirds of its nearly 1,000 member organizations operated at a deficit in 2002. While that status improved in 2003 and 2004, some symphonies succumbed to economic pressures. In 2004 five U.S. symphonies closed within a seven-month period, including the Florida Philharmonic Orchestra, San Jose Symphony, the Tulsa Philharmonic, the Colorado Springs Symphony, and the San Antonio Symphony. In 2008 North America's last remaining radio orchestra, located in Vancouver, folded. Although the economic landscape continued to be difficult at the end of the first decade of the 2000s, not all symphonies were struggling. For example, in June 2009, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra reported record revenues of $11 million for its recently concluded season. By 2012 there were 1,800 symphony, chamber, collegiate, and youth orchestras in the United States, according to the League of American Orchestras. The organization also reported that orchestra revenues had reached almost $1.7 billion in 2009.

Although the talents of musicians and actors differ, the most successful ones were rather similar. They were wealthy and powerful, and had national, if not international, name recognition. Screen actors were generally the most high-profile and glamorous personalities in entertainment. According to Forbes, the top 10 TV actors combined earned $147 million between May 2010 and May 2011. Charlie Sheen was the highest-paid television actor in the country, even though he left his hit show Two and a Half Men, for which he reportedly was earning $860,000 per episode. Second was Ray Romano, from Everybody Loves Raymond, followed by Steve Carrell of The Office, Mark Harmon (NCIS, and Jon Cryer (Two and a Half Men. Others, such as Jerry Seinfeld, continued to earn millions through syndication income, although the shows had reached the end of their run.

Actresses did nearly as well for themselves during the 2010-2011 season, especially those in the TV hit Desperate Housewives. Tina Fey was one of three in the top eight who was not in that cast. She earned about $13 million that season, as did Eva Longoria. Marcia Cross and Mariska Hargitay (from the crime shows Law and Order:SVU), as well as Marg Helgenberger (CSI) earned $10 million each. Sixth-place Toni Hatcher earned $9 million that season, racking up $375,000 for each episode of Desperate Housewives. Felicity Huffman rounded out the Housewives cast in eighth place. She and Hatcher each earned around $9 million.

The "average" actor, however, relied on union representation to glean far more modest increases in pay. The 2009 Screen Actors' Guild contract allowed for a 3 percent and 3.5 percent increase in 2009 and 2010, respectively. The contract set a minimum pay requirement for everyday actors. A television performer or stunt performer minimum was $782 in 2009. On a weekly basis, a performer had to be paid at least $2,713 and a stunt performer, $2,913. Depending on their role, background actors were paid between $134 and $149. A "major role" performer was paid a minimum of $4,301 for a half-hour show and $6,882 for an hour show. In 2012 the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists merged to form SAG-AFTRA. Representing 160,000 members, the AFL-CIO organization continued to represent those working in the performing arts.

While comedians like Jerry Seinfeld and Jim Carrey rose to the top of the entertainment pay scale through their work in film and television, those comedians working standup found the first decade of the 2000s difficult. A 2004 report in Variety found that New York comedy clubs paid only $60 for a 20-minute set. The big names, however, continued to earn big money. In stand-up comedy, Forbes reported that the top-earning comedians in 2010 were Jeff Dunham ($22.5 million), Dane Cook ($21 million), Terry Fator ($20 million), Chelsea Handler ($19 million), and George Lopez ($18 million). Rounding out the top 10 were Larry the Cable Guy, Russell Peters, Jeff Foxworthy, Howie Mandel, and Bill Engval.

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