Live music revenues are growing again, after the massive hit caused by Covid-19 and its resulting lockdowns. However, as has been well documented in recent months, the sector is far from ‘recovered’ from the pandemic.
Big artists may be selling out stadiums (and crashing ticketing systems) but lower down the pyramid, many are struggling, and that has been sparking a debate about the new spectre of a cost-of-living crisis, and fans spending less on concerts not because they’re locked down, but because they can’t afford to.
Reading between the lines, these concerns are clear in Live Nation’s latest financial results. “Our research consistently tells us that concerts are a top priority for discretionary spending, and one of the last experiences fans will cut back on,” claimed the company. The very fact of saying this shows that it’s a legitimate concern.
Naturally, Live Nation offered plenty of figures to back its case up. Its global attendance grew by 24% in 2022 to 121 million fans at 44k events, with the company stressing that this wasn’t just about the biggest gigs and festivals: “This growth came from all markets and venue types – every venue type from clubs and theaters to stadiums to festivals had double-digit attendance growth vs 2019.”
It’s been a difficult few months for Live Nation and Ticketmaster on the policy side, with US politicians rumbling about what they see as a dominant market position, and even a potential unwinding of the two companies’ merger.
The financials sought to address some of those questions too, including criticism of ticket prices. “We helped shift $700 million to artists with more market value ticket pricing – even as the entry price to a show stayed below $35 in the US,” claimed Live Nation, adding that “typically 90% of ticket sales for Live Nation shows go to artists”.
A section on ‘Regulatory Environment and Reforms’ tackles the political pressure head-on too. No surprises here: Live Nation maintains that “the ticketing industry is more competitive than ever”; believes it has not violated the consent decree relating to its Ticketmaster merger; and wants the legislators to focus on tackling bots and scalpers rather than punishing Live Nation.
The company is throwing its weight behind a piece of legislation called The FAIR Ticketing Act, pitched as “a federal law that backstops artist’s ability to control their tickets”. We can expect to hear more about this in the weeks ahead.
The figures are almost secondary (an appropriate word!) but still worth noting: Q4 revenues up 59% year-on-year to $4.29bn including 66% growth for concerts; 34% for ticketing and 44% for sponsorship revenues.
Live Nation is predicting “another record year and even greater success in 2023”, although for all its positivity, the company – like the wider industry – will continue to monitor those economic clouds carefully.
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