Sell out? American bands wish they could

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The US music industry is enduring a bruising summer as top acts like Bruce Springsteen, Ashlee Simpson and the Dixie Chicks struggle to sell out concerts.

With traditional big earners like the Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney not touring the US, promoters have been filling in with acts such as South American singer Shakira and country stars Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, but charging the same price.

"You have got saturation of the market, so people have to make choices," said Ray Waddell at Billboard magazine. "It's all about value. It has to be the right event, with the right band, at the right price. Otherwise you may as well stay home and listen to a CD."

Figures are hard to confirm but concert websites for Simpson and Springsteen indicate slow sales. In the case of the Dixie Chicks, concerts have been "postponed".

Poor sales for Simpson reflect a change in fashion. "Five or six years ago, teen pop was the strongest part of the market, with bands like the Backstreet Boys, NSYNC and Britney Spears," said Mr Waddell. "Now there is a trend towards edgier stuff, which has left acts like Ashlee Simpson a bit soft."

Springsteen is finding that his old fan base is indifferent to his current interest in songs by the folk legend Pete Seeger. "This is a project for him," said Mr Waddell. "It is a sensational record, but it is far away from his E Street Band music."

The slump in demand for Dixie Chicks concerts has been blamed on the group's opposition to the Iraq war. But the band is also thought to have disparaged its traditional country music fans and has yet to find a new audience. "I do not think this is [only] a political issue," said Mr Waddell. "It is an issue where they insulted their fans in the heartland. Free speech is a great thing. But sometimes it helps you, sometimes it doesn't."