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The decade in live: 2016

A stormy summer, SFX going under, ‘Oldchella’ wowing the desert and seven tours selling over $100m worth of tickets: say hello to the concert business's 2016

By IQ on 17 Dec 2019

Bruce Springsteen's the River tour grossed a career-best $268.3m in 2016

Bruce Springsteen's the River tour grossed a career-best $268.3m

image © Patrick (adwriter)/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

The start of a new year and, perhaps more significantly, a new decade is fast approaching – and while many may be thinking ahead to New Year’s Eve plans and well-meaning 2020 resolutions, IQ is casting its mind back to the most pivotal industry moments of the last ten years.

Future historians will likely remember 2016 as a year of political shockwaves – Britain’s vote to leave the European Union and the election of Donald Trump as US president chief among them – but in live music it was very much business as usual, with the world’s biggest artists shifting millions of tickets and the industry continuing the growth trajectory it started in 2013.

But it wasn’t always plain sailing: festival bosses in Europe weathered one of the most turbulent festival seasons in living memory, and promoters and event producers worldwide were left out of pocket for increased security costs following a string of terrorist attacks.

In the ticketing sector, meanwhile, Amazon went up against Ticketmaster with the launch of its own platform, the ultimately unsuccessful Amazon Tickets, while alternative forms of entertainment, such as esports and shows by YouTubers, first began to stake their claim on a slice of the live entertainment pie.

And while Live Nation continued to roll up concert businesses across Europe, North America, Australia and South Africa, Robert Sillerman (the creator of its indirect predecessor, SFX Entertainment) finally threw in the towel with the EDM-focused SFX mkII, beginning a messy divorce that would continue throughout the year and beyond…


2016 in numbers

In 2016, the top 100 global tours grossed a collective US$4.88 billion – up around 4% on 2015, and just shy of the record $5bn recorded in 2013.

According to Pollstar’s traditional year-end chart, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band had the year’s biggest tour, with the Boss raking in a career-best $268.3m in sales from 2.4m tickets. Beyoncé’s Formation world tour was second, with $256.2m from 2.2m tickets sold, and Coldplay third – though the British band’s A Head Full of Dreams trek, which earnt $241m, sold more tickets (2.7m) than anyone else that year.

In total, seven acts grossed more than $100m: the top three plus Guns N’ Roses ($188.4m), Adele ($167.7m), Justin Bieber ($163.3m) and Paul McCartney ($110.6m), with eighth-placed Garth Brooks narrowly missing out with $97m.

Additionally, more than 60m tickets were sold worldwide for the first time since 2013, with consumers buying 60.5m in 2016, up from 59.8m in the previous 12 months.

On the festival side, AEG’s one-off Desert Trip – aka ‘Oldchella’ – set a new single-event world record, grossing $160.1m over two weekends with a blockbuster line-up (see ‘2016 in brief’ below) and tickets starting at $399.


2016 in brief

Tomorrowland announces it will expand again in 2016, this time with a new edition in Spain.

AEG Live’s British Summer Time festival is granted a two-year extension to stay in London’s Hyde Park until 2019.

Robert Sillerman’s SFX Entertainment files for bankruptcy owing estimated US$500 million, mostly to partner promoters and suppliers.

StubHub moves into primary ticketing with a new platform combining primary and secondary markets. Its first client is basketball team the Philadelphia 76ers.

Telecoms company SoftBank makes $250m investment in WME-IMG, allowing the agency to “advance [its] global growth strategy”.

The Rolling Stones perform a historic free concert in Havana, Cuba, later released as concert film Havana Moon.

The Rolling Stones perform in Havana, Cuba
The Rolling Stones perform in Havana on 25 March (© Smwkeywest/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0))

Following recent terror attacks, six major Belgian festivals collectively adopt a number of new security measures ahead of the festival season.

The government of Buenos Aires announces it will cease issuing permits for dance music festivals in the wake of five drug-related deaths at the Time Warp event.

Goldenvoice’s Desert Trip sells out both weekends, thanks to a superstar bill featuring the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Roger Waters, the Who, Neil Young and Paul McCartney.

StubHub expands its reach with the acquisition of global ticket resale platform Ticketbis, which has operations in 47 countries.

The UK votes to leave the European Union, delivering an unwelcome surprise to festival promoters throughout Europe as they finalise preparations for the busy summer ahead.

The global live industry will grow at a rate of 3% through 2020, as live events increase in popularity among smartphone-saturated consumers, reveals PwC’s Global Entertainment and Media Outlook.

The UK voted to leave the EU on 23 June
The UK voted to leave the EU on 23 June (© Bankenverband)

Australian promoter Paul Dainty sells his Dainty Group business to Sydney-based ticketing, touring and data analytics firm TEG.

Over 23m people visited a music festival in the Netherlands (population 17m) in 2015, as attendance grows to all-time high.

France’s minister for culture, Audrey Azoulay, hails the “exceptional” ticket sales for the country’s music festivals this summer, the vast majority of which have seen attendances rise in spite of challenges posed by fear of terrorist attacks.

A hologram of the late Ronnie James Dio makes a surprise appearance at Wacken Open Air festival, thanks to LA-based developer Eyellusion.

Tim Leiweke and Irvin Azoff’s Oak View Group launches Arena Alliance, bringing together 22 North American arenas.

Former Metropolis Music directors Paul Hutton and Conal Dodds launch new UK promoter Crosstown Concerts.

Eyellusion's Dio hologram made its debut at Wacken 2016
The Ronnie James Dio hologram made its debut at Wacken 2016 (© Eyellusion)

Global expands its UK festival footprint to a total of 11 events with the multimillion-pound acquisition of South West Four, Field Day, Boardmasters, Rewind, Y Not and Truck festivals, as well as taking a further stake in Broadwick Live.

Live Nation festival brands Lollapalooza and Download announce plans increase their European presence in 2017 with events in Paris and Madrid, respectively.

The Bataclan in Paris announces plans to reopen earlier than expected with a 12 November show by Sting.

Former AEG Live CEO Randy Phillips is confirmed as the new chief at SFX, which is to be renamed LiveStyle as it emerges from bankruptcy.

Anti-touting campaigners in Italy celebrate after the country’s parliament ratifies legislation to ban the resale of tickets to concerts and other events.

Live Nation’s aggressive acquisition strategy shows no sign of abating, with the company adding big-name festivals to its portfolio in Australia (Splendour in the Grass/Falls Festival) and Sweden (Sweden Rock).


Bianca Freitas

Who we lost

Matthias Müller, founder and president of Baloise Session, Sziget head of international booking Dan Panaitescu, Brazilian promoter Bianca Freitas (pictured), artist manager David Enthoven, Yardbirds manager Giorgio Gomelsky, Nederland Concerts’ Jimmy Nederlander and Manchester music mogul Alan Wise all passed away in 2016.

The year also saw the deaths of two musical icons, in the forms of David Bowie in January and Prince in April, along with Leonard Cohen, George Michael, Eagles’ Glenn Frey and the young British band Viola Beach, who were killed in a car accident, along with their manager, on the way back from Where’s the Music? festival in Sweden.


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