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The decade in live: 2018

Ed Sheeran's unstoppable ÷ tour was the runaway success of 2018 – no mean feat in a year when the top 100 tours sold a collective 60 million tickets

By IQ on 18 Dec 2019

Ed Sheeran's 29-month ÷ (Divide) tour was the success story of 2018

Ed Sheeran's 29-month ÷ (Divide) tour was the success story of 2018

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.

The penultimate edition of IQ’s recap of the past ten years in live music finds the business in rude health, with nearly 60m tickets sold and the top-ten tours alone bringing in more than US$2 billion dollars.

As detailed in our end-of-year 2018 wrap-up, it was also the year when Amazon Tickets threw in the towel, Ticketmaster got out of the secondary ticketing game and MSG announced its next-generation Sphere concept – and the business recovered from the horrors of 2017, when terror attacks in the UK, the US and Turkey, among other places, deliberately targeted music fans.

Elsewhere, new private equity-backed holding company Superstruct Entertainment burst on the scene, snapping up festivals across Europe; AEG and the Madison Square Garden Company called a truce in their tit-for-tat transatlantic dispute over block booking; and the business felt the loss of the likes of pioneering Italian promoter David Zard, APA’s Troy Blakely and artists including Aretha Franklin and Mark E. Smith.


2018 in numbers
The ten biggest touring artists of 2018 brought in a collective $2bn+, with all grossing more than US$100 million each, in a year packed with “remarkable box-office feats”, according to Pollstar’s traditional end-of-year ticket sales chart.

As at mid-year and in Q3, and on the back of a raft of near-instant sell-outs for the 12th leg of his unstoppable ÷ tour, Ed Sheeran was by far the biggest tour of the year, jumping from the eighth spot in 2017 to claim No 1 in 2018. With a gross of $432.4m from 94 shows, the Sheeran tour is the highest gross ever recorded for an artist in a single year, according to the top 100 worldwide tours chart.

According to Pollstar, the ÷ tour is the first to top $400m, and one of only two to gross more than $300m, in a single year  – after U2 in 2017.

Taylor Swift, whose Reputation stadium tour was the highest-grossing in US history, was second, taking $345.1m from fewer dates, but with a higher average ticket price and higher gross per show.

Rounding out the top ten, with tour grosses in US$, were Jay-Z and Beyoncé (On the Run II tour, 254.1m), Pink (Beautiful Trauma world tour, 169.2m), Bruno Mars (24K Magic world tour, 167.6m), Eagles (An Evening with the Eagles, 166m), Justin Timberlake (Man of the Woods tour, 151m), Roger Waters (US + Them tour, 131.3m), U2 (Experience + Innocence tour, 126.2m) and the Rolling Stones (No Filter tour, 116.6m).

In total, the top 100 worldwide tours grossed $5.6bn in 2018, with 59.8m tickets sold.


2018 in brief

Live Nation acquires many of the remaining assets of Songkick, settling out of court a costly legal dispute set to go to trial at the end of the month.

AEG Presents announces the opening of an office in Paris, confirming its expansion into what the company calls “one of Europe’s most important and vibrant markets for live music.”

CTS Eventim buys a 60% stake in Italian concert and festival promoter D’Alessandro e Galli (Di and Gi), in its third acquisition in Italy in the past five months.

IQ reveals London is to get a striking new large-scale music and entertainment venue, MSG Sphere, courtesy of New York’s Madison Square Garden Company.

CTS Eventim’s turnover exceeds €1bn for the first time, after the German live entertainment group reports revenue growth of 24.6% in 2017.

An independent inquiry rules that Manchester Arena operator SMG Europe and security provider Showsec went “above and beyond their roles to provide humanitarian assistance” to victims of the terror attack in May 2017.

The Kerslake report praised SMG and Showsec for their Manchester Arena bomb response
The Kerslake report praised SMG and Showsec for their Manchester Arena bombing response

Figures from across the British live music business tell IQ they are committed to ending the disparity in remuneration received by male and female employees, after all large UK companies publish figures showing their respective gender pay gaps.

FKP Scorpio sells its stake in its two Danish festivals, NorthSide and Tinderbox, for an undisclosed sum to Down the Drain Holding, which now owns 100% of both events.

Grassroots venues and festivals welcome the UK’s new PRS for Music popular music concerts (LP) tariff, after more than three years of negotiations.

Ticketfly is hit by a cyberattack which takes its systems and website offline and leaves 27m accounts compromised.

One hundred and fifty-year-old Scottish venue O2 ABC is left severely damaged after a fire at neighbouring Glasgow School of Art.

In Barcelona, US private-equity firm the Yucaipa Companies acquires a minority stake in Primavera Sound, as Providence Equity Partners’ Superstruct Entertainment acquires rival festival Sónar.

Fullsteam's record-breaking summer came to a close with two sold-out 60,000-cap. shows by Cheek
Fullsteam’s record summer closed with two sold-out 60,000-cap. Cheek shows (© Henri Juvonen)

Finland’s Fullsteam Agency reports its biggest summer to date, welcoming a combined 102,000 people to its Provinssi and Sideways festivals.

Promoters across Europe tell IQ they are owed tens of thousands of euros in deposits for a string of cancelled Phil Rudd dates, with some still waiting for refunds from shows called off as far back as June 2017.

Øya Festival, one of the biggest festivals in Norway, enters into an investment agreement with Superstruct Entertainment, adding a fourth festival brand to the James Barton-led outfit’s expanding roster of European events.

A growing number of unofficial Facebook Events pages are driving unsuspecting buyers towards resale sites, an IQ investigation reveals.

The ‘booking war’ between AEG and Madison Square Garden Company reaches its end, after AEG’s Jay Marciano confirms the company is no longer block-booking its LA Staples Center and London O2 venues.

AEG Presents acquires PromoWest Productions, formerly the largest independent concert business in the American mid-west.

NEC Group's holdings include Birmingham's Resorts World ArenaNEC Group’s holdings include Birmingham’s Resorts World Arena (© NEC Group)

The Blackstone Group, a US investment firm that manages around $440bn worth of assets, acquires the UK’s NEC Group in a deal reportedly worth more than £800m.

Insomniac, the US promoter behind dance music festival powerhouse Electric Daisy Carnival closes a deal to acquire a 50% stake in Dutch rival ALDA Events.

More than a million metal fans try to get tickets for Rammstein’s upcoming European stadium tour, says CTS Eventim, which for the first time sold more than 800,000 tickets in a single on-sale.

Japan’s House of Councillors gets to ready to vote on whether to approve a law criminalising nearly all ticket touting, just over two years after the #ResaleNO campaign first brought the issue to public prominence. The bill is later passed unanimously: 237–0.

Live Nation makes it acquisitions #15 and #16 of 2018, with Switzerland’s Mainland Music and Argentina’s DF Entertainment, respectively, in its most acquisition-heavy year to date.

Dutch investment firm Waterland Private Equity secures a deal to acquire leading Scandinavian promoters ICO (Denmark), Friction and Atomic Soul (Norway), and Maloney Concerts and Blixten and Co (Sweden).


David Zard
Promoter David Zard passed away in early 2018 (© Alessandro Dobici/Saludo Italia)

Who we lost

Compass Group chief executive Richard Cousins, Italian promoter David Zard, APA head of music Troy Blakely, EG Management’s John Gaydon, Tramlines festival director Sarah Nulty, veteran agents Richard Cowley, Harry Miller, Bill Monot and David Apps, Irish promoter John Reynolds, Aloompa’s Jaime Sarrantonio and Slayer manager Nick John, as well as artists Ray Thomas (Moody Blues), Danny Kirwan (Fleetwood Mac), Marty Balin (Jefferson Airplane), Pete Shelley (Buzzcocks), Charles Aznavour, XXXTentacion, Aretha Franklin and Mark E. Smith (the Fall).


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