But, sometimes, as Jackson's case has shown, ticket sales take a back seat to other problems. While a death like Jackson's represents the worst-case scenario, everything from minor illnesses to major health problems to security concerns have scuttled big concerts.
Security concerns have loomed especially large at hip hop concerts, in particular. In 2002, for instance, police shut down a rap concert featuring L.L. Cool J, Nelly and Ja Rule, and arrested 30 people after suspected gang members attacked audience members with metal pipes. Last year, in Washington State, riotous fans overturned a police car during a concert by the rap duo Dead Prez.
Rap and hip hop concerts can attract "gang-mentality types of people," said Eric Moody, an entertainment insurance broker at Frankel & Associates Insurance Services in California.
"They're a lot more prone to fights and disputes," he said.
Then there are the concerts that get axed because stars are battling their own demons. Hard-partying British singer Amy Winehouse, for instance, cancelled a May 31 comeback show and may be returning to rehab, according to the Daily Mirror. Winehouse had previously pulled out of concerts in 2007 and 2008. (A U.S. representative for Winehouse said fans are notified of her concert cancellations in advance and "there's never been a situation where people paid for a show and arrived and she cancelled.")
Rapper DMX, Moody said, is also notorious for cancelling shows.
"He's just a temperamental artist and he cancels a lot of shows," Moody said. "It's quite annoying."
A representative for DMX could not be reached for comment.
Illnesses, meanwhile, can force concert cancellations among even the most determined performers. In 1987, for instance, singing during a rain shower in Italy reportedly brought on a case of laryngitis for the legendary crooner Frank Sinatra, who then ended up cancelling a concert two days later. In 2006, the Rolling Stones canceled a concert in St. Petersburg, Russia, after guitarist Keith Richard suffered a head injury.
Jackson's sister, singer Janet Jackson, had her own concert troubles after suffering from a rare form of migraine headache, the singer told the entertainment TV show "The Insider." The headaches led the singer to postpone dates on her "Rock Witchu" tour last year.
When a performer does pull out of a show, he or she often is able to find an amicable resolution with the promoters by re-scheduling the concert, said Jerry Mickelson, the owner of Chicago-based Jam Productions.
"If the performer didn't show up, they'll typically make it up," Mickelson said. "It's a business -- they can't afford to cancel. They need the money just like anybody else."
Jackson, however, had a poor history of reconciling with promoters -- when he cancelled shows, he often wound up in court. In 1993, promoter Marcel Avram, the owner of Munich-based Mama Concert, sued Jackson for $20 million for cancelling his "Dangerous" world tour. The suit alleged that the singer hid an addiction to morphine and Demerol.
The following year, a Chilean promotions company sued Jackson for $5 million for canceling two concerts, one in Chile and another in Peru. The company said Jackson cancelled because of a "back ache" but a lawyer for the company told the media that they didn't believe the excuse.