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The world’s leading promoters & the 55 top markets they operate in.
Click the interactive map below to explore the top 55 global markets.
If 2022 was very much a “transition year” for live music in the UK (clearing the backlog of delayed tours due to Covid), 2023 is very much charging towards a full recalibration of the market. This year looks likely to shape up as one of the best years on record. A huge run of stadium shows this summer (Beyoncé, Bruce Springsteen, Arctic Monkeys, Burna Boy, Harry Styles, Coldplay) made it one of the busiest and most blockbusting seasons in living memory.
“The A-list superstars have come out in force this summer and delivered huge numbers,” says Steve Homer, CEO of AEG Presents UK. “We went on sale very recently [August 2023] with Taylor Swift for next year, and it’s done incredibly well – as was predicted.”
Alan Day, promoter at Kilimanjaro Live, says that 2022 at the company was boosted by Ed Sheeran’s run of stadium shows, but a diverse and active roster has meant 2023 is not lagging behind. “We don’t have one of those this year,” he says of a Sheeran-level tour. “But because of the breadth of stuff we’ve got, we’re really strong.”
“There are less surprises now compared to over a year ago in terms of sales patterns and final achievable sales for shows. I do think we’re in familiar territory across the industry.”
The market seems, economically, to have found its rhythm again. “We’re almost back to where we were pre-Covid,” says Homer. “There are less surprises now compared to over a year ago in terms of sales patterns and final achievable sales for shows. I do think we’re in familiar territory across the industry. We’re seeing the correct responses to marketing, and acts are selling what we anticipate them to sell.”
There is, however, the double challenge of a cost-of-living crisis and the staffing and infrastructure shortages caused by people and companies exiting the business during Covid.
Peter Taylor, promoter at Cuffe & Taylor (part of Live Nation UK since 2017), suggests the spiralling costs mean that acts coming into the UK are finding the economics a lot tougher. “Domestic acts seem to find it easier to tour at the moment than international acts,” he says. “Everyone is feeling it. Air fares and freight seem to be through the roof, so it’s definitely making it a challenge for bands, even arena-level acts, to get over to the UK. A handful of shows don’t really work anymore for an international act. Labour costs have increased by up to 50%, whilst our tickets haven’t increased in line with this. It’s certainly a challenge.”
Homer says he is seeing a number of US acts not confirming tours that were tentatively pencilled in as they feel they cannot make the numbers add up to bring shows into the UK in the way they would like to. “They are not cancelling,” he notes. “But they say, ‘Until we can make this work better, we’re not going to be able to tour Europe.’”
“They are not cancelling, but they say, ‘Until we can make this work better, we’re not going to be able to tour Europe.’”
This loss of staff (post-Covid) means the industry has an urgent replacement issue to navigate. “There were a lot of people that left the industry with experience,” says Homer. “Then you’ve got an experience gap and a training gap that need to be filled, which everyone is working hard towards.”
Matt Woolliscroft, promoter at SJM Concerts, says the only response to rising overheads has been to increase ticket prices, and the market, for the most part, is absorbing this. “Rising costs have obviously been a challenge, though they have been countered by higher ticket prices for the most part which, thus far, the market has accepted as long as done proportionately on a case-by-case basis,” he suggests. “Brexit has been an arse for touring, I know, but thankfully has little direct impact on our work.”
Day, however, cautions that the industry should move carefully here. “We’re slowly increasing ticket prices, and it seems to be slowly working,” he says. “I think people can get greedy in arenas and can go too far. We’ve had to increase ticket prices quite a lot. It’s almost a bigger jump than normal since Covid because the price of everything has gone up.”
Anna-Sophie Mertens, VP of touring at Live Nation UK, believes that the prices at the mid-level have been too low for too long, so feels this is a positive move, albeit one happening in exceptional circumstances. “The UK at club- and theatre- level has, for the most part, been underpriced in my opinion, so we are seeing a rebalance in this area,” she says.
“We’re slowly increasing ticket prices, and it seems to be slowly working.”
While the A-list dominated across packed stadium shows this summer, Homer says it has also been good for mid-level heritage acts, citing the Pet Shop Boys’ arena tour as proof of that, and at the breakthrough level.
“There is a good level of activity out there,” he says. “On the smaller scale, there are a lot of artists coming through that are also getting really good responses, particularly artists that have moved through the gears incredibly quickly– like Fred Again.. who has been a phenomenal success. That is in a market where people weren’t necessarily looking for a dance music act. There’s a lot of acts that are pop or R&B or hip-hop, and then you’ve got an act like Fred Again.. who basically sets their own rules and has sold incredibly well.”
Woolliscroft says that many older acts are still doing brisk business. “There’s a continuing and growing demand for nostalgia/heritage/established acts,” he says. “I don’t see that changing for the time being. People value the money in their pocket, especially at the moment, and when they spend it, they want to know what they’re getting and not risk it on something that might be a good night. They want it guaranteed.”
Day suggests the best approach, citing neo-punk duo Bob Vylan as an illustrative example, is to build slowly and steadily in the UK, being careful not to overreach yourself. “We sold out the Electric Ballroom [in London] pretty quickly,” he says of the duo’s trajectory. “The question was if we moved it up a level. I said, ‘No. Keep it there. Then we’ll do the Forum [also in London] next year and just build the blocks and don’t jump too quickly. The quicker you build it, the quicker it could fall down.”
“People value the money in their pocket, especially at the moment, and when they spend it, they want to know what they’re getting and not risk it on something that might be a good night. They want it guaranteed.”
Taylor agrees that this strategy can really pay off. “It sounds clichéd, but we really do know how to build an act into a world-class artist,” he says. “We have acts in the Live Nation family that five years ago played an opening slot on a summer show and were supported by us at club-level, and then, five years later, they’re headlining a stadium. It’s a real thing every year.”
It is essential, says Day, to not be too London-centric in planning tours and to also go beyond the other major UK cities and into the regions, adding locations like Northampton, York, Hull, Leicester, and Bournemouth to tours.
Taylor concurs. “Don’t forget that a market exists outside of the major cities,” he says. “I’ve proven that this year with acts selling more tickets at Lytham Festival, Scarborough Open Air Theatre, and The Piece Hall, Halifax than they do in a major market.”
Day does worry, however, that grassroots scenes around the country are suffering because certain towns do not have active and established local promoters that national promoters can link into. “I think the bands are suffering a bit because there isn’t someone you know,” he says.
“I think the grassroots scene remains as it always has – a bit up and down,” says Woolliscroft. “I think a handful of venues like the Brudenell in Leeds have done incredible work establishing themselves. What’s quite interesting is that in a lot of cities the go-to early and entry-level venues remain the same now as when I started 20 years ago – Brighton Concorde 2, Manchester Night & Day, Newcastle Cluny, Nottingham Rescue Rooms, Stoke Sugarmill, Sheffield Leadmill, Cambridge Junction, et cetera. Some come, some go. Some go and come back again. But there’s a lot of rooms that have been there for a long time.”
“I think the grassroots scene remains as it always has – a bit up and down.”
The opening of new venues like Outernet in central London are welcomed, and the 23,500-capacity Co-op Live arena in Manchester (due to open in April 2024) in particular is expected to raise the bar in terms of what arenas can offer.
Promoters are also looking far beyond music to open up new revenue streams. Comedy remains a constant, and podcasts are rapidly growing in importance.
“Live podcast shows are doing really well at the moment, and I think this is because they can be super relatable and [it can also be] interesting to see how those conversations play out in person,” says Alexandra Ampofo, promoter at Metropolis Music (which was rolled into Live Nation UK in 2017), on their sharp growth.
“We have a show by a company called Critical Role, which is basically a Dungeons & Dragons live show – and it sold out Wembley [Arena] in under a day,” says Homer. “It’s a brand that lives online. You’re finding new entertainment that can go even straight in at an arena level.”
Sometimes such shows arise fully formed and sometimes they need guidance from the promoters, but Homer says they represent a whole new future for the business. “As promoters, we’re learning how to adapt into that and how to help curate and produce things,” he says.
Neil O’Brien of Neil O’Brien Entertainment has been in the business for over 35 years. His agency represents artists such as Stereo MCs, UB40, Brand New Heavies. “2023 was very much like a return to 2019,” he says. “There was lots of domestic and international touring, and 2024 is shaping up well, too.”
He says strong growth in demand for concerts by West End stars spurred him to launch a new division called Westway Talent in 2019, headed by performer, manager and agent Rhydian Roberts.
“We now have 30 artists under that banner, and we’re doing business all over the world. The sector is booming – people love seeing the songs of the musicals sung by big stars from the theatre.” Acts on its roster include Elaine Paige, John Barrowman, Kerry Ellis, and Rachel John.
“We now have 30 artists under that banner, and we’re doing business all over the world. The sector is booming – people love seeing the songs of the musicals sung by big stars from the theatre.”
Kilimanjaro acquired Fane Productions in 2021 to move into the literary events and author tours space. “It is a big market,” says Day. He adds that the company, during Covid when tours were cancelled, moved into Christmas lights trails events (including Kenwood House in London, Trentham, and Wollaton), following what its parent company DEAG has been doing for years in Germany. It has grown so much that the company now has a dedicated team looking after such events.
Taylor says the family entertainment division within Live Nation has been booming. “Presale tickets for Bluey were akin to a rock and pop presale,” he reveals.
Ampofo singles out a run of shows tied to the 75th anniversary of the HMT Empire Windrush arriving in the UK from the Caribbean as being of huge cultural significance.
“I adore music with a passion, and I’m dedicated to my job as well as the artists I work with, but it’s always been important to me to also give back and do something culturally meaningful, and that’s why the Windrush gigs are significant to me,” she says. “Recognising and celebrating the Windrush generation whilst combining the elements of music was an attempt to make sure their legacies are not forgotten.”
Rock and pop remain solid in the UK, and country and K-pop have seen phenomenal uptake in recent years. “We are seeing a huge drive in US country artists coming over for touring and properly developing their headline ticket worth,” says Mertens. “It has been a pleasure to watch. And we will see the same with other genres, too. 2023 has been the busiest year for country touring thus far, a genre I am very passionate about. 2023 also saw us launch Highways – A Festival of Country & Americana in partnership with London’s Royal Albert Hall to a roaring success, and we are set to return again in 2024.”
“There’s always room for independents – there’s always room for new people.”
Homer feels Latin music “has really yet to land properly in the UK” and this may be down to demographics and potential audience sizes, but it is an area that most promoters are working on expanding.
Live Nation, AEG, Kilimanjaro, DHP, SJM, TEG Europe and DF are among the national and regional heavyweights in UK promotion, but new independents like Communion are more than proving their worth.
Ampofo singles out DLT (Days Like This Brunch), Room 187, Abantu World, Dankie Sounds, and the teams behind the No Signal and Recess events. “All of which are dominating the live scene, orchestrating music events with remarkable finesse, working with local and international acts, putting events on all over the UK and the world,” she says.
“There’s always room for independents – there’s always room for new people,” adds Homer, seeing them as the lifeblood of the next iteration of the industry. “It’s quite a vibrant marketplace. There are a lot of people who work in it, and with the more specialist stuff coming out (with gaming and things like that) there will be either individuals or companies that will become experts in the field. They may end up growing or merging with one of the biggest promoters. It’s quite an interesting marketplace at the moment.”
He concludes, “That’s one of the beauties of the music industry. When you think it’s going to hit that plateau, and everyone understands what’s going on, then certain artists and individuals come along and shake it a bit. And then you think, ‘We can’t just sit and do this, because if we don’t react, we’re going to be history.’ That’s healthy. That’s what growth is all about. And that’s what learning is all about. Long may it continue.”