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Live Nation CFO says ’23 is off to ‘raging start’

In a new interview, Joe Berchtold speaks about the "broad demand" across the board, monopoly allegations and 2023's successful onsales

By James Hanley on 09 Mar 2023

Beyoncé Formation tour

Live Nation’s “raging” start to 2023, the Department of Justice’s reported antitrust investigation and lessons learned from the Taylor Swift onsale were detailed in a new interview with the promoting giant’s president/CFO Joe Berchtold.

Speaking yesterday (8 March) at Morgan Stanley’s Technology, Media and Telecom Conference, Berchtold said the company had defied projections with its performance in the opening months of the year.

“’23 is off to a raging start,” he said. “Investors, even more so, thought we were top-ticking in ’22 and it was going to be impossible to match, and that is simply not the case. Ticket sales are up over 20% for concerts this year. Ticketmaster GTV is up 33%, which just shows that all live events, not just concerts, continue to be strong on a global basis.”

Berchtold indicated that one of the more pleasing aspects was that the success was not limited to a small number of big tours.

“The demand is very broad, very deep,” he said. “Last week, Ticketmaster sold over six million tickets, which we’ve done many times before. But what was interesting  is that no single artist accounted for over 150,000 tickets. It wasn’t a big onsale week, and that just demonstrates the breadth of the demand. It’s not just the Beyoncés that are selling all of these tickets, we’re seeing very broad demand across all marketplaces – and across all artist levels – continue to be very strong.”

“The high end is continuing to move very strongly and artists are continuing to look to adopt platinum tickets to capture more of the value”

Berchtold, who appeared before a US Senate antitrust panel in January, spurred by the fallout from the presale for Taylor Swift’s Eras tour, explained how the lessons learned helped ensure the subsequent onsale for Beyoncé’s Renaissance World Tour was carried out smoothly.

“First of all, there have been a lot of successful onsales,” he said. “Beyoncé, yes. But Morgan Wallen, Garth Brooks, Madonna and a host of others I’m forgetting that have gone very well. These don’t get the publicity around the ones that go well.

“The Taylor Swift thing, it was our fault in that we said we could do more than ultimately we could deliver, full stop. So that’s on us. When she increased the number of shows in response to the number of Verified Fans to help somewhat counterbalance the supply-demand imbalance, we said that we could pull off still doing that in one day. And the problem was is when we were attacked [by bots] that morning, we had no time to respond and fix that.

“Really, the only difference of substance with the Beyoncé onsale is that we spread it out over more time. We still had bot attempts and other things, but because we had it spread out over a much longer period, we were able to fix that and have a minimal number of shows get impacted because of it.”

In addition, Berchtold said that Ticketmaster had sold more than twice as many market-based platinum tickets than at the same point last year.

“The high end is continuing to move very strongly and artists are continuing to look to adopt platinum tickets to capture more of the value,” he said. “At the same time, artists are continuing to make sure to price the back of the house reasonably to make sure that everybody can afford to get a ticket.”

“We’re just on a journey to continue to educate and have people understand that the artists ultimately need to make money as well”

Berchtold noted that high-profile artists such as Bruce Springsteen speaking out in defence of the dynamic pricing model was a helpful shift.

“I think that every time an artist comes out and publicly says, ‘I’m a great performer and I should capture the value of my performance, not the scalper,’ then that’s helpful for other artists to be comfortable doing so,” he said. “We’re just on a journey to continue to educate and have people understand that the artists ultimately need to make money as well.”

Berchtold also alluded to the reported antitrust investigation into Ticketmaster by the DoJ, stating it could have a “chilling impact on their ability to do settlements ever again”, due to its previous settlements with LN in 2010 and 2019.

“We have a binding agreement with the DOJ as it relates to any perceived deeds in the past, much as you have individual settlements,” he said. “There has never been a situation where the DOJ has come and attempted to retrade a settlement. So a) there are legal questions about whether or not they could retrade a settlement. And b) it would have a chilling impact on their ability to ever do settlements again.

“The first barrier that you got to overcome is the fact we’ve actually had settlements. Two, is it seems to be, pick any random data path you want and it’s, ‘Ticketmaster’s a monopoly, therefore Live Nation-Ticketmaster should be broken up.'”

Berchtold said the assertion that Ticketmaster is a monopoly was not borne out by the facts.

“Market share has declined and more of the money has consistently gone to the venues, as opposed to Ticketmaster,” he said. “Neither of those things happens with a monopoly.

“Live Nation has, over this period, gone from 40 million fans to 120 million fans… And we’ve increased the amount of money we’ve paid to artists by billions of dollars, so we’ve dramatically expanded the marketplace. Again, not hallmarks of a monopoly. Certainly the margins aren’t the hallmark of a monopoly either.  Now, we understand that doesn’t mean they’re not going to look and unfortunately, we don’t control the process or the timing of that process.”


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