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ILMC 35: The View from the Top

A heavyweight panel took a deep dive into the business of big shows to debate whether the stadium concert boom is here to stay

By James Hanley on 03 Mar 2023


image © Alexis Dubus Photography

The stadium concert boom is showing no signs of subsiding according to the live music heavyweights who convened for ILMC’s The View from the Top panel.

Chaired by UK-based economist Will Page, yesterday’s (2 March) session at the Royal Lancaster Hotel brought together ASM Global’s John Boyle, Sophia Burn of Live Nation and Marty Diamond of Wasserman Music, alongside Jenny Hutchinson of Bristol Ashton Gate and Rocio Vallejo-Nagera of Real Madrid’s Bernabeu Stadium.

US-based Diamond, agent for acts such as Coldplay and Ed Sheeran in North America, described 2022’s touring business as “amazing” and said this year was shaping up to be even better, but warned against oversaturation of the market.

“Coldplay put up stadium dates recently. We put up a very brief run in ’23 that blew out, we are looking further down the road: Ed Sheeran is on fire. Our SZA tour blew out. Our Kendrick ‘[Lamar] tour blew out,” he said. “Business is gangbusters, but there is a bit in the middle where there are going to be winners and losers. The fans can’t consume it all. It’s like we’re at the table now and everybody just keeps bringing out plates. And at some point, you’re full.”

Diamond went on to discuss his concerns around pricing the events.

“The desire for people to come together and have a shared experience is the big thing, post pandemic… And I don’t think that’s going away”

“My real fear with it is – and it’s so interesting, because I’ve worked with two massive clients that are so ticket price sensitive in Coldplay and Ed, largely because they understand… that a consumer isn’t necessarily buying two tickets, they might be buying four tickets,” he said. “That’s a commitment to a pocket. It’s a big ask for people. So we have to approach the future in a cautionary way.”

Nevertheless, Burn described demand for tickets for Live Nation’s summer stadium tours by artists including Beyonce, The Weeknd, Coldplay and Depeche Mode, as “just crazy”.

“I understand the pricing question but I think people are really keen to be together,” she countered. “Harry Styles’ crowd is just the most wonderful group of people partying together and making friends and I can understand the appeal of that after Covid where you could see maybe your three best friends if you tried.”

Boyle, ASM’s global chief content officer, suggested there was a strong correlation between the pandemic and the rising number of stadium shows.

“I think the desire for people to come together and have a shared experience is the big thing, post pandemic… And I don’t think that’s going away,” he said.

“Live Nation has 180 stadium shows in Europe this year versus 120 last year. That’s 50% growth. Is that sustainable? We’ll see… I want to be optimistic that it is”

He added that co-headline tours and curated bills such as Def Leppard & Motley Crue’s run with Poison and Joan Jett were most likely a sign of things to come.

“If you like metal, you’re going to this,” he said. “Packaging, so that you can get to a stadium level, is important. There are only so many acts that can do stadiums on their own: the Beyonces, the Coldplays, the Stones. So I think the packaging component is going to be important moving forward. And when you talk about the pieces of the pie, the middle is the hard part it really is. I’m told Live Nation has 180 stadium shows in Europe this year versus 120 last year. That’s 50% growth. Is that sustainable? We’ll see. I don’t know. I want to be optimistic that it is.

“In America, what I can tell you is we manage about a quarter of the NFL stadiums in major markets. There is not a weekend available this summer for a show. Everything is booked every single weekend.”

Bristol’s Ashton Gate Stadium hosted The Killers and two nights with Elton John in 2022 after welcoming the Spice Girls, Muse, Rod Stewart and Take That in 2019, and head of venue and events Hutchinson said the indications were that the post-Covid upswing was sustainable for the industry.

“We’re back to a new and better normal, I would say, and it will be much more exciting when we have a new stadium in Madrid”

“We thought it was just a knee jerk reaction from everything being shut down, but actually we’re seeing even more growth,” she said. “We’re seeing bigger events, big audiences and bigger spend, so the new normal for us actually looks pretty good.”

Former Live Nation Spain partnerships director Rocio Vallejo-Nágera was recently hired as head of large events and concerts at Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabéu Stadium. The stadium will have both a retractable roof and pitch – enabling it to stage live music shows all-year-round – when it reopens at the end of 2023 following the completion of its extensive renovation.

Vallejo-Nágera shared her pride at the rise of Spanish language music globally, and said the country’s domestic market was also on an upward trajectory.

“Spain, especially Madrid, was quite open during the pandemic,” she said. “Everything was absolutely closed for three months, but then we did have shows – you had to be sitting down, you had to wear a mask, etc – but there was a time where Madrid was Vegas around 2021. It was the most fun city in Europe. So I think we’re 100% back to normal. We’re back to a new and better normal, I would say, and it will be much more exciting when we have a new stadium in Madrid.”

“A year ago today, Harry Styles had not played a stadium in the UK. And when I think of Harry Styles today, I think of him as a very well established stadium artist”

And Burn indicated she had few concerns about the next wave of stadium headliners coming through.

“A year ago today, Harry Styles had not played a stadium in the UK. And when I think of Harry Styles today, I think of him as a very well established stadium artist,” she said. “There are so many: Wizkid has done the first stadium he’s ever done here, The Weeknd is playing stadiums for the first time this year. There’s so much to come that I’m not really worried.

“Plus, these are still great artists. The Eagles played last year and it was amazing Bruce Springsteen’s coming this year, the shows are sold out and half of my inbox is requests from the 20-year-olds in the office that are dying to see Springsteen, so I think it’s fine.”

 


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