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Live Nation: ‘We expect shows at scale next summer’

In its Q3 earnings call, the leading promoter revealed it is is working on a "roadmap" to get back live safely ahead of the resumption of major shows in 2021

By IQ on 06 Nov 2020

EDC Las Vegas 2021 has been postponed

image © Insomniac

Live Nation execs were bullish on the company’s prospects during its Q3 2020 earnings call, citing further cost cutting, progress on Covid-19 testing and a “consistently low” refund rate as reasons to be cheerful after another difficult quarter for the US concert giant.

With next to no concerts taking place globally, Live Nation reported a 95.1% drop in revenue, from US$3.77 billion (in Q3 2019) to US$184 million, in the third quarter of 2020 (June–September), the second full financial quarter of the Covid-19 pandemic.

This resulted in an operating loss of $504m, compared to an operating profit of $260m the previous year, although the financial picture has improved somewhat compared to Q2 2020, part due to new concert formats such as drive-ins, live streams and socially distanced shows. (Fans attending Live Nation shows grew 180% quarter on quarter.)

Live Nation’s share price increased slightly, to a near-one month-high of just over $56, following the earnings call.

“We are working on a roadmap to get back to live safely”

Speaking to investors and analysts yesterday (5 November), LN CEO Michael Rapino said while there have “been no major changes in our business conditions or outlook since the last time we spoke”, he is encouraged by the small number of fans who have returned tickets for refunds, as well as strong festival onsales for next summer, including for EDC Las Vegas (pictured), which sold out 2021 in 24 hours.

“Meanwhile, we are working on a roadmap to get back to live safely,” he continued. “We are encouraged by progress on testing technology treatments and vaccines which will help us build our plans.”

Rapino added that the promoter “expect[s] shows at scale next summer”, although he concedes that the “exact timeline of this return will vary by region, and so we continue to focus on remaining flexible.”

He also highlighted Ticketmaster’s new SmartEvent technology, which aims to enable event organisers to easily ticket Covid-secure shows, and revealed that Live Nation is developing a set of procedures, in partnership with health experts, that will allow shows to go ahead safely until a vaccine is found. “From venue sanitation procedures to fan-friendly policies and on ticket purchases and the latest testing options, we are setting standards that will give the fans, crews and artists peace of mind before, during and after the show,” he commented.

“We are setting standards that will give the fans, crews and artists peace of mind before, during and after the show”

Live Nation president Joe Berchtold revealed that the company has made savings of a further $100m, taking its 2020 cost cutting to a total of over $900m (at last estimate, in May, the figure was nearer $600m). “We have […] reduce[d] our cash usage by $1.5 billion relative to our pre-Covid plans,” he explained.

“With these reductions, we have lowered the estimate on our operational cash burn rate [negative cash flow] to $110m per month and our gross burn rate to $175m per month on average for the last nine months of the year and prior, to the benefit of contribution margin generated by the business.”

The call also saw Rapino touch on Marc Geiger’s plan to spend $75m on buying up US venues, saying he disagrees that there is a “fire sale” on grassroots venues (“the thesis […] that these independent venues are so distressed that they’re to throw someone they keys at a very cheap price” is, he said, disproved by the amount of “capital out there” at present, including Paycheck Protection Program loans), and the problem of securing insurance for shows next year, explaining that LN remains “optimistic that the government here in the US, like many of them internationally, [will] sort it out and make sure that there’s not spurious liability [claims] for everybody who is doing the appropriate actions [on making shows Covid-safe].”

Looking to the future, Rapino says it is clear that “the path to live will not be a straight line”. That’s why, he says, Live Nation “will maintain flexibility and focus on innovating” until the long-awaited return of live music.


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