live nation

There’s a paradox in the fact that Live Nation’s recent run of quarterly financial results have been breaking various records for the company, yet at the same time there’s been an increasingly loud debate about the health of the live market – for non-superstar-level artists, independent venues and (on the ticketing side of things) for fans alike.

On the former count, the records keep on falling, and president and CEO Michael Rapino’s comments on Live Nation’s Q2 reflected his awareness of the latter debate, and a desire to put forward a more positive view.

“Live music is bigger than ever, with global demand driving the industry to record levels. There’s a more diverse pipeline of artists breaking from all corners of the world, and at the same time tours are going to more markets – particularly in Latin America and Asia,” said Rapino.

“This was our strongest second quarter ever, with 2023 on pace to be a record year, and early indicators for 2024 giving us confidence in continued growth.”

The figures? Live Nation’s Q2 revenues were up 27% year-on-year to $5.63bn, including 28% growth in concerts revenue (to $4.63bn) and 23% growth in ticketing revenues (to $709.3m). The company reported a 21% rise in its operating profit to $386m. You can dig in to the details here.

But back to that debate. Looming on the horizon is the potential for increased regulation in Live Nation’s biggest market, the US, and even a possible antitrust lawsuit from the Department of Justice there.

There have been competing reports about the latter prospect in recent days. Politico claimed that the DoJ could file such a lawsuit against Live Nation and Ticketmaster “by the end of the year”.

However, Live Nation disputes that, with its EVP for corporate and regulatory affairs Dan Wall saying in a statement that “we’re in regular contact with the DOJ and they haven’t told us they think we’re doing anything illegal or asked us to address any concerns”.

“It would be highly irregular for the DOJ to file without that notice and a lot of dialogue afterwards. However, if they do file we are prepared to defend ourselves.”

Record-breaking financial results can be a double-edged sword for companies under this kind of scrutiny. Live Nation doing so well at a time when some parts of the live music sector are struggling will undoubtedly be held up by the company’s critics as proof of the need for regulatory action.

But Wall was correct in his suggestion that antitrust lawsuits are very rarely a surprise: they’re seen coming for some distance. Even so, Live Nation is clearly steeling itself to defend its business whether the DoJ makes a move this year or next.

Even if it does neither, with several potential bills regulating the ticket market in motion, Live Nation and Ticketmaster have plenty of challenges ahead, even as their revenues continue to bounce back from Covid-19’s initial wave of lockdowns.

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