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Joe Berchtold has opened up on a host of hot live music topics from breaking acts to the Bruce Springsteen ticket furore in a new interview
By James Hanley on 15 Sep 2022
Live Nation president and chief financial officer Joe Berchtold has opened up on a myriad of live music topics from breaking acts to the Bruce Springsteen ticket furore in a new interview.
Speaking in a fireside chat at Goldman Sachs Communacopia & Technology Conference on Wednesday (14 September), Berchtold discussed the promoter’s continued success in challenging economic times.
“Every time we have one of these conversations, I’m like, ‘Well, didn’t we declare a recession a month ago?’,” he said.
The company’s most recent financials showed 2022 ticket sales to be outperforming pre-pandemic levels, and Berchtold pointed out: “In August, concert ticket sales for shows this year were up 47% relative to August 2019. We have, at this point, exceeded 100 million tickets sold for shows this year by a fair bit, so no, we’re not seeing any issues in terms of the consumer demand for ticket sales and onsite spending. We continue to feel very good about the priority that our concerts clearly are for fans.”
Here is a selection of Berchtold’s other quotes from the interview…
“Next year’s shaping up to be another very big stadium year. ’23 is looking like another great year for us”
Artists touring for longer…
“Artists are like everybody else – they went without the majority of their income for a couple of years – they’re making 80-90% of their money from touring. So if you’re going to lose that percentage of your income for a few years, you obviously are going to be pretty motivated to get out and start making money again. What we saw was a very strong return on the supply side with artists wanting to get out. Next year’s shaping up to be another very big stadium year. We’re seeing that ’23 is looking like another great year for us.”
“You’re seeing that these artists can rise to a level where they can sell out much faster than ever before”
Acts breaking bigger, faster…
“The digital technology that disrupted the record business sent artists to have to make their money on the road and created a few other things. It created global digital distribution platforms like Spotifys of the world, the Apple Musics, the whoever you want, and that fully democratised the distribution of music. The girl in Des Moines, to Santiago, to Seoul are all hearing that Beyonce album drop at the same minute as everybody else. That is partnered with the rise of the social media platforms – the Instagrams, the TikToks, and so on – where every artist can now become a global star, and they can become a global star much faster. How many people in this room in 2019 had heard of Olivia Rodrigo and Bad Bunny? Or so many of these artists that are now filling arenas and selling out? So you’re seeing that these artists can rise to a level where they can sell out much faster than ever before, while Dave Matthews is still as big as ever. So you’ve got a confluence of massive supply meets latent demand and it’s our job to just sit in the middle and say, how can we help? How can we help pay these artists so that they can be successful out on the road and do so in more markets? It’s really just on how much we can scale and how much we can deliver against that great demand out there.”
“We were getting pilloried for the price of those tickets”
The Springsteen dynamic ticketing furore…
“I think 80% of what’s out there is just is a lack of understanding of how ticketing really works. The recent noise with the Bruce Springsteen ticket pricing was a great example, where we were getting pilloried for the price of those tickets. A lot of people thought that Ticketmaster set the price for those tickets. And for one of the first times ever for us, we had a representative of the artist – his manager – come out and say, ‘No, no, no, we set those prices. We looked around and we looked at what other artists were charging, we looked at secondary. We think he is one of the, if not the most iconic American artists out there. He doesn’t come around very often. And we think those that ticket pricing is fair.’ By the way, those tickets all sold in the first hour. There’s somehow this perception by many that Ticketmaster is this wizard right behind the curtain, who’s pulling a lot of strings, in a way that’s not true. And I think that we need to provide more clarity. There are a lot of things that can change in the ticketing industry that we would be supportive of: moving to all-in pricing, eliminating speculative tickets, making sure there’s declaration on secondary tickets and where they came from, who’s selling them, what the original price was… There are a lot of things that we agree with. And I think that a large chunk of this is just a misperception that somehow there’s this central Ticketmaster that is making decisions that it’s just not making.”
“Yes, our costs are up… But our ticket prices are up, our onsite spending is up and our sponsorship is up. Our per-fan profitability is higher than it ever has been”
“Our festival business is doing great. We’ve already sold 13 million tickets – up over 30% versus ’19 – and we’ll probably end up at 14m tickets. We’ll do over 150 festivals this year and we’ll have by far and away the most profitable year throwing our festivals ever. Yes, our costs are up, we’re like everybody else in the world: labour costs are up, supply chain costs are up, buying fences, stages, steel in Europe, all of those costs are up, absolutely. But our ticket prices are up, our onsite spending is up and our sponsorship is up and as a result of those three, our per-fan profitability across those 14 million fans is higher than it ever has been. Is every festival doing great? Of course not. Festivals are a portfolio like everything else. Usually when you start a festival, you’re going to lose money for a few years. Some of them make it, some of them don’t. It’s like any startup business. I prefer to look at When We Were Young that blew out in Las Vegas. It went from an idea to three sold-out days overnight. The key is having great entrepreneurial, creative people as part of your collection who are coming up with these festivals – and then we use our infrastructure to help make them happen.”
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