Endeavor-run biz acquires dynamic ticketing firm
WME parent company Endeavor has acquired Qcue, a software developer for dynamic ticket pricing in the live events industry.
Terms of the deal, which was made through Endeavor’s experiential events firm On Location Experiences (acquired in early 2020), have not been disclosed.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Qcue’s technology, which helps rights holders optimise ticket pricing and maximise sales based on market demand, will be integrated into On Location’s suite of hospitality offerings.
On Location offers corporate clients and others fans access to marquee events like the Olympic and Paralympic Games, Super Bowl, NCAA Final Four and New York Fashion Week. Its overall list of 150 entities also includes artists and festivals, such as Coachella and Bonnaroo, as well as unique experiences owned by On Location.
Qcue, founded in 2007, provides sports teams and entertainment outfits with ticket pricing, analytics, data visualisation, inventory management and efficiency tools.
“[The deal will bring] top-of-the-line dynamic pricing technology and a stellar team of ticketing experts in-house”
Its clients include Major League Baseball teams, college athletic departments and Australian Football League teams. The company will continue to operate out of its headquarters in Austin after the deal has closed.
In announcing the deal, On Location estimated that Qcue has made more than 35 million price changes, generating more than $300 million in incremental revenue for its partners.
“We are thrilled to join forces with Qcue, bringing top-of-the-line dynamic pricing technology and a stellar team of ticketing experts in-house,” On Location CFO Jon Lavallee said in a press release. “Together, we will optimise On Location’s approach to ticketing and pass that benefit on to our valued partners.”
Along with On Location, Endeavor also owns the IMG sports agency and the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).
The company posted a small profit of US$2.4 million in the first quarter of 2021 – the firm’s first since becoming a public company in April.
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‘Fans are resilient’: Across-the-board growth for LN in 2019
Live Nation exceeded expectations for both revenue and adjusted operating income (AOI) in 2019, according to its just-released full-year financial results, painting a rosy outlook for the year ahead, despite growing concerns of the impact of the Covid-19 coronavirus.
The final year of the 2010s saw the concert giant deliver its ninth consecutive year of growth, with turnover up 7%, operating income up 19% and AOI up 14%, to US$11.55 billion, $324.8 million and $942.5m, respectively.
Revenue from sponsorship and advertising grew 17%, to $590.3m, with festival sponsorship having a particularly strong year, bolstered by the addition of Rock in Rio to the LN portfolio. Some 98 million people attended a Live Nation concert in 2019 – a 5% increase on the previous year – while Ticketmaster grew its AOI 11% and delivered 115m tickets in 31 countries worldwide.
Live Nation shares increased around 1.3% following yesterday’s (27 February) earnings call, though the price – in common with other live entertainment stocks – is still down on the all-time high achieved in February 2020, as the coronavirus continues to spook markets worldwide.
Responding to a query from analyst Brandon Ross, who asked how Covid-19 could affect Live Nation’s business in 2020, CEO Michael Rapino said while he expects to see further cancellations and postponements, there will be no decline in the appetite for live entertainment.
The business is real strong. The consumer still seems to be buying the tickets on a global basis”
“[W]e always talk about the resilience of the concert fan,” he said, “and, as of last night, we had a sellout in Australia on a festival [Splendour in the Grass]. The business is real strong. The consumer still seems to be buying the tickets on a global basis.
“So supply [and] demand will be there. We’re going to take this cautiously as we watch the markets and we assume a hotspot will flare up and a show will be cancelled here and there. But we’re confident that, long-term, the show will happen. The revenue will flow and the fan will show up.”
Rapino also revealed that average ticket prices for the promoter’s arena and amphitheatre shows have increased by double digits since 2017, with sales of dynamically priced Platinum tickets increasing 66% in 2019. Despite this, “concerts remain a great deal for fans relative to other live experiences: our average ticket for a concert at one of our amphitheatres was $46 in 2019, relative to about $75 for an NBA [basketball] game and over $100 for an NFL [American football] game,” said Rapino.
“In summary, 2019 was another strong year for Live Nation, building our global concerts business and driving growth in our high-margin venue, sponsorship and ticketing businesses,” Rapino says in a statement.
“Looking at 2020, we believe that our double-digit fan and show count growth so far this year, against a backdrop of very high artist activity across all venue types and markets, sets up our flywheel to deliver another year of strong global growth.”
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Lyte raises $15m for ‘post-primary ticketing’
Ticket exchange Lyte has raised US$15 million in a series-A funding round to further its mission of creating a “new category in live events: post-primary ticketing”, the company has announced.
US-based Lyte is a fan-to-fan ticket market that connects those no longer able to attend a sold-out event with those who wish to. Buyers can purchase tickets at a much lower price than those offered the secondary market, because Lyte uses dynamic pricing to keep prices below those offered by “third-party scalpers and shady marketplaces”.
Lyte’s ticketing partners include Eventbrite/Ticketfly, AEG’s Elevate Tickets, Live Nation’s Front Gate Tickets and Universe, and Patron Technology’s ShowClix, which it claims to empower to “own the secondary market” by capturing around 60% of the value that would otherwise be lost to third-party resellers.
The company additionally estimates it has saved fans $5.5m since launching in 2013.
Commenting on the new investment, which comes courtesy of Industry Ventures, Accomplice Ventures and Correlation Ventures, among others, Lyte CEO Ant Taylor says: “We made a foundational bet we could build a platform and marketplace that included and benefited all of the folks with financial and emotional investment in this industry: rightsholders, talent, enterprise ticketing companies, as well as fans.
“This raise is a validation of that bet. It’s a win for our partners and the future of the live events ecosystem.”
Other investors include Bernie Cahill and Greg Suess of Activist Artist Management, Chris Martin, the former CTO of Pandora, and internet entrepreneur Matt Mickiewicz, the co-founder of start-ups including 99designs, Hired and Flippa.
“Lyte puts control, revenue and insights into the hands of event producers”
Its ‘post-primary ticketing’ offer, according to Lyte, comprises “private label ticketing services offered to fans by the most iconic sports and entertainment brands, including Coachella, Mumford & Sons, Comic Cons in New York City and Seattle and scores more”.
Lyte’s clients include 50 festivals, 300 venues and several touring artists. The company is now focusing on non-US growth, as well as expansion into other areas of entertainment and sports.
“When our clients choose Lyte, they are choosing a platform that addresses the customer needs ignored by the traditional secondary market, and it does so in a way that is fair to fans, controlled by rights holders and which harnesses the best in yield management and marketplace science,” says Lawrence Peryer, Lyte’s head of business and corporate development. “Lyte puts control, revenue and insights into the hands of event producers, while providing a simple, safe and affordable fan experience.
“Combined with this funding round, the consortium of entities involved, our name-brand clients and legions of happy fans, Lyte’s platform is changing the face of ticketing while closing the door on the incumbent secondary players.”
“This important company milestone is just the beginning, and our clients and partners know it,” concludes Taylor. “We are creating a category that will challenge and overtake the incumbent secondary ticketing model. That is super-exciting.”
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DEAG acquires MyTicket, partners with SecuTix
In line with its recent strategy of eliminating all minority shareholdings, Deutsche Entertainment AG (DEAG) has acquired the remaining 24.9% of shares in MyTicket from publishing company Axel Springer SE.
DEAG increased its shareholding in mytic myticket AG, the company behind its MyTicket.de and MyTicket.at ticketing platforms, last July, bringing its total holding up to 75.1%. The buy-out of Alex Springer, the publisher of Bild, Die Welt and Fakt, and the largest digital publishing house in Europe, means MyTicket is now 100% owned by DEAG.
“Many thanks to our partners from Axel Springer SE for working together to establish MyTicket AG in the start-up phase, and I look forward to continuing our close cooperation in the other areas as before,” comments DEAG CEO Peter Schwenkow. “The market shares of MyTicket AG are growing strongly, and with MyTicket.de and MyTicket.at it has developed into one of the leading electronic ticket platforms.
“The transaction will enable us to further implement our strategic goals; the acquisition of the shares in MyTicket will enable us to increase earnings per share over the next few years. In addition, we will continue to expand DEAG’s ticketing business and intend to expand further internationally. After the introduction phase, with millions of tickets sold and hundreds of thousands of satisfied customers, the team can now implement the next phase of the growth course.”
“Both the repurchase of all shares and the upcoming ticketing software exchange are decisive steps for MyTicket in 2019”
DEAG has also announced a new partnership with Swiss white-label ticketing platform SecuTix, beginning this summer. SecuTix, which offers software as a service (SaaS) solutions for concerts, festivals, sporting events and more, will enable MyTicket to implement “the latest technologies, such as blockchain and dynamic pricing” in order to “be able to act in a customer-oriented manner and prevent a secondary market from forming”.
“Both the repurchase of all shares and the upcoming ticketing software exchange are decisive steps for MyTicket in 2019, in strengthening the company for future tasks and challenges,” says MyTicket CEO Moritz Schwenkow. “Furthermore, this will enable us to market the events of the DEAG family and new, innovative formats in direct communication with our customers in an even more targeted manner.”
Frédéric Longatte, CEO of SecuTix, adds: “We are very proud to be able to contribute to the continued success of MyTicket with [ticketing solution] SecuTix 360°. SecuTix has extensive experience in all genres that MyTicket offers on its portal. With our ticketing engagement platform, we are the ideal partner for MyTicket to offer promoters and events, be it sports, festivals or culture, a powerful solution for marketing and distribution.”
According to the International Ticketing Yearbook 2018, CTS Eventim – Europe’s largest ticket seller – is by far the market leader in Germany, with Ticketmaster Germany and MyTicket among its competitors.
GUTS Tickets: Use dynamic pricing to raise funds for charity
Dutch blockchain ticketer GUTS Tickets has come up with a novel use case for its dynamic pricing solution: curing cancer.
In a blog post entitled Sell tickets — cure cancer (Or save the world in a different way), GUTS community manager Olivier Biggs posits that dynamically pricing tickets – the practice, common in the hospitality and travel sectors, of allowing prices to fluctuate based on market demand – could generate additional revenue for humanitarian projects, such as cancer research or “clean[ing] up the ocean”.
“Say that your tickets are normally priced at $50,” Biggs writes. “Using this dynamic system on (a selection of) your tickets, this will now become the minimum price and some tickets will now be bought for $60, others maybe even for $5,000. All of the intake above the $50 threshold will go to a charity of your choice, instead of going into the pockets of scalpers and frauds.
“This approach of dynamic pricing can be applied to all of the tickets up for sale, or to a certain section of the venue, or, if you prefer, to just a single seat in the front row.
“Your fans are fully aware about where their money is going if they choose to buy a dynamic ticket, along with what good their money is going to be doing.”
Several major ticket agencies are already experimenting with dynamic pricing for certain tickets – most prominently Ticketmaster with its Platinum passes, and more recently Ticket Pia in Japan.
“Dynamic pricing will ensure that the sweet spot where supply and demand meet is found”
Ticketmaster’s Platinum system was notably used for Taylor Swift’s Reputation stadium run – which recently became the highest-grossing concert tour in American history – as part of a broader ‘slow ticketing’ trend that places less of an emphasis on instant sell-outs and more on pricing tickets correctly.
While dynamic pricing is not without controversy – critics claim it amounts to gouging fans in the same way as touts, while some artists say they’re happy to leave ‘money on the table’ in order to keep ticket prices low – GUTS says donating the extra revenue to charity is the best of both worlds.
“Dynamic pricing will ensure that the sweet spot where supply and demand meet is found, and every seat in the house is filled,” continues Biggs.
“Instead of simply neutralising the inhumane threat of scalping, we turn it into a positive chain of events that helps others.”
Amsterdam-based GUTS held its first major onsale last September, selling 50,000 tickets on the blockchain for 36 shows by comedian Jochem Myjer.
Pia bets on dynamic pricing with Yahoo partnership
Pia Corporation, the dominant player in the Japanese ticketing market, has revealed plans for a new company dedicated to rolling out dynamic pricing for concerts, sports and other live events.
Dynamic Plus – a joint venture between Pia, web giant Yahoo! Japan and leading sogo shosha (general trading company) Mitsui & Co. – will dynamically price “various tickets for concerts, sports, theme parks, events, etc.”, as well as for more traditionally surge pricing-friendly industries such as hospitality, delivery services and car parking.
An IQ investigation into dynamic pricing – in which prices are allowed to fluctuate based on market demand – in December 2016 discovered uncertainty around its potential applications in live music.
Barry Kahn, the CEO of Qcue, a leading developer of dynamic pricing software, said the practice is difficult in the US – where venues usually have exclusive agreements with ticketing providers – and expensive, so for that reason is more popular for long runs at a single venue. However, Andrew Parsons of Ticketmaster UK said he believes dynamic pricing is suitable for multi-venue tours, as opposed to just residency-style shows, explaining that the company can easily “manage it across multiple promoters and venues”.
Currently, Ticketmaster only dynamically prices tickets sold on its premium Platinum platform, although Parsons said he’d “love to think” there will be a time when the company’s GA tickets are sold in the same way.
“We will respond quickly to customer needs by automatically increasing and lowering prices”
At press time, it is unclear which tickets Pia – whose Ticket Pia platform is, according to the International Ticketing Yearbook 2017, Japan’s leading entertainment ticket agency, and which is soon to be a venue owner in its own right – is intending to dynamically price, but the company says it and its partners are upbeat on the potential of the new pricing strategy.
According to a news release sent to investors, Mitsui & Co. has been collaborating on a dynamic pricing pilot with a prominent Japanese baseball team since last year, and Pia has already conducted several “proof tests” and is “preparing for commercialisation”.
“We will respond quickly to customer needs by automatically increasing and lowering prices on the basis of our forecasting, and also contribute to the improvement of profits,” reads the letter.
“We aim to contribute to the healthy development of this industry.”
According to industry publication Live Entertainment White Paper 2017, the value of the Japanese live market as a whole decreased slightly in 2016 (the most recently available data), declining 2% on 2015 to ¥501.5bn (US$4.6bn), largely owing to a shortage of available large venues. However, even at 2016 levels, the market has doubled in value since 2001.
ASA finds against TM over Platinum ‘best tickets’ claim
Ticketmaster UK has been ordered by an advertising watchdog to withdraw an advert claiming its dynamically priced Platinum service offers the “best available tickets” for an event, after finding the claim is misleading and cannot be substantiated.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) launched an investigation into the ad – pictured on Ticketmaster.co.uk in March 2017 and still live in other markets, such as Denmark – after three people took issue with the company’s claim that “Ticketmaster Platinum offers fans the best available tickets for an event direct from the artist”.
While Ticketmaster “believed consumers were likely to interpret the claim ‘best available tickets’ to mean the best available at the time they were making their booking”, rather than “the best tickets that had ever been sold for that event”, the ASA disagreed, ruling the wording is “unqualified”, and that “for the seating tickets, there could be Platinum tickets on sale at the same time as general tickets, with no discernible difference between the two in terms of customer experience”.
“We therefore considered that while the Platinum tickets were among some of the best seats at the venue, they did not offer a tangible benefit compared to some of the general seating tickets, and the experience offered by the Platinum tickets was no better than the experience offered by some of the general tickets,” reads the ASA ruling.
“There could be Platinum tickets on sale at the same time as GA, with no discernible difference in terms of customer experience”
“We also considered that in the case of some Platinum tickets, the experience offered, when viewed objectively, was worse than the experience offered by some of the general tickets, because they were further from the stage or did not offer as good a view of the stage.
“Because of that, we concluded that the claim that the Platinum tickets were ‘the best available tickets’ had not been substantiated and was misleading.”
The watchdog adds that the advert must not appear again in its current form, and “welcome[s] Ticketmaster’s changes to their advertising”.
Ticketmaster UK managing director Andrew Parsons told IQ in December 2016 that Platinum’s dynamic pricing – where prices fluctuate based on market demand, as is common with airline tickets or hotel rooms – works because it’s about “selling the best seat. That’s understood by both consumers and artists.” With general admission, he added, “it’s harder to do”, but he’d “love to think” there will be a time when Ticketmaster’s GA tickets are also dynamically priced.
A Ticketmaster spokesperson tells IQ: “We thank the ASA for their time and attention to this matter and the opportunity to explain our Platinum product. Platinum is one of the solutions Ticketmaster developed for artists and event organisers to get tickets, which are priced dynamically in some of the most in-demand areas, directly into the hands of fans. We constantly strive to be transparent and clear with the consumer. The wording in question on our website was changed over a year ago.”
Dynamic pricing start-up Broker Genius raises $15m
Broker Genius, a New York-based developer of dynamic pricing technologies for ticket resellers, has raised US$15m in series-A funding from Boston venture-capital firm Volition Capital.
The company, which to date has priced more than $2bn worth of secondary ticket inventory, will use the investment to grow the reach of its platform, which “automates a reseller’s pricing strategy, leading to increased profitability and rapid growth”.
IQ asked in December why (Ticketmaster Platinum aside) dynamic pricing – in which prices fluctuate based on market demand, as in sports and hospitality – hasn’t yet taken off in primary ticket selling. While many believe the growth of secondary ticketing indicates most primary-market tickets are underpriced, Greg Loewen of Digonex said there is a view of “dynamic pricing as code for ‘price gouging’”, with artists concerned about “alienating their loyal fans with primary ticket prices that are perceived as too high”.
“Volition Capital’s investment will allow us, among other things, to continue investing in data science so we can more accurately forecast market trends”
There is, of course, no such concern in the secondary market, where artists and their representatives have no control over pricing; Broker Genius was formed after its founders realised “how much money was being left on the table when trying to price sports, concerts and theatre tickets”.
CFO John Lucier says the new investment will allow the company to “continue enhancing and scaling our world-class pricing services” on behalf of its customers, who include the “world’s largest ticket resellers”.
“It has been an exciting period in our history,” adds Broker Genius’s CEO and founder, Sam Sherman. “The future of Broker Genius relies on constant innovation, which is centred increasingly around big data and machine learning. Volition Capital’s investment will allow us, among other things, to continue investing in data science so we can more accurately forecast market trends and behaviours.”
Party like a Russian: Trends in ticketing
The ticketing market in Russia has largely developed according to its own rules. While the era of electronic tickets didn’t begin until the late 2000s, the sector is now in the process of rapid formation.
According to news agency Intermedia, the turnover of the market for cultural events (excluding cinema and sports) in Russia topped US$1.2 billion in 2014, and experts estimate the size of ticketing industry to be around $2bn.
At the end of March, the first conference in Russia on ticketing solutions and technologies, Moscow Ticketing Forum, was held in the Russian capital. The conference brought together around 600 key market players from Russia and beyond to discuss the state and future development of the Russian ticketing market. While delegates showed a high level of expertise, our European colleagues can learn much from the Russian approach and experience.
I believe that Russia can undoubtedly become a trendsetter in technological development in the global ticketing market and in the entertainment industry.
Our European colleagues can learn much from the Russian approach and experience
Online vs offline
By the end of 2016, 65–70% of all tickets sold in Moscow and St Petersburg were paperless. While this percentage is obviously smaller in the regions of Russia, where it averages 30%, it is expected that sales of electronic tickets will continue to increase, reaching 80% in larger cities this year.
Electronic tickets in Russia are bought mostly by millennials, with paperless sales of up to 60–70% at youth-focused concerts and events. However, a majority of ticket sales in Russia are still offline.
Monopoly vs diversification
In comparison to international ticketing markets, there is no monopoly in Russia. While CTS Eventim dominates in Europe and Ticketmaster in North America, the Russian market is more diversified. Tickets for most events are sold through several major ticket agencies, including parter.ru (Eventim’s local operation), kassir.ru, ponominalu.ru, concert.ru and many others.
In Russia, as elsewhere, each ticketing partner is allocated a quota by the event promoter, with each selling only their own quota and taking a fee on any tickets sold. This means customers visiting a ticket agency’s website can only view that seller’s inventory.
Most experts in Russia consider the ‘quota’ system of ticket distribution to be obsolete
Imagine what would happen if airline tickets were sold on a quota model. Each aggregator would show only its own limited pool of tickets – with business-class tickets available on one service, tickets in the middle of the plane on another and seats closer to the tail on a third.
This distribution model is still used in both the Russian and international markets. Most market experts in Russia, however, now consider this approach obsolete.
Trend #1: Towards a global distribution system
The answer is a ‘global distribution system’, wherein all tickets are available for purchase through all possible channels, as it is in the aviation industry.
Through global-distribution technology, it is possible for promoters to open access for all tickets to be sold by all ticket distributors. Under a global distribution system, all distributors receive equal access to the ticket database in real time.
A transition to this model is beneficial for event promoters, who can connect to as many tickets distributors as they want. It increases sales – as every customer can have access to all tickets in their budget in one convenient place – and allows promoters to accumulate data, previously held by ticket agencies, about their audience.
One such global-distribution service in Russia is Tickets Cloud, a cloud-based platform that allows promoters to connect to an unlimited number of distributors – such as ticket agencies, social media sites and artists’ fan clubs – to sell tickets around the world.
More than 30% of Russian theatres are now utilising global distribution systems, as well as several concert venues in Moscow, including YotaSpace (1,500-cap.) and Crocus City Hall (7,500-cap.)
Trend #2: Social selling
As Steve Machin, CEO of Accent Media (.tickets), said at Moscow Ticketing Forum: “The amount of tickets sold via social networks is constantly growing, and we can not deny it.”
According to local experts, promoters who consciously rely on sales through Vkontakte – a Facebook-like social network, the most popular in Russia – sell an average of 30% of their tickets through the service, and this trend is set to continue.
Trend #3: Secondary opportunities
The Russian secondary market in its current state is still unregulated and largely outside the law, with ticket brokers paying no taxes. This niche, therefore, is ripe for technological innovation, and a number of Russian start-ups are working in this direction.
Enter Eticket4 – Russia’s first online ticket marketplace. This start-up was presented in a competition for ticketing technology at Moscow Ticketing Forum and was well received by delegates.
Moscow Ticketing Forum demonstrated that ticketing industry players, both inside and outside Russia, realise the importance of new technology in not only increasing sales but developing the entire live music industry.
16 in 2016: The year in review
With 2016 drawing to a close, in many aspects, it’s been a banner year for the live music business. So in case you miss our regular Index email updates, or recently emerged from a time capsule, here’s 16 key 2016 takeaways (in no particular order) from the year that nearly was…
1. Seconds out, round…?
As IQ wrote last week in our investigation into take-up of dynamic ticket pricing, “if 2016 will be remembered in the live music business for any one thing, it will be as the 12 months in which the pitchforks well and truly came out against secondary ticketing”.
While the UK, as it often tends to, hogged the lion’s share of the headlines, the backlash against what the FanFair Alliance calls “industrial-scale” ticket touting was a truly global phenomenon, with American congressmen, Belgian ministers and promoters in Switzerland, Japan and, most successfully, Italy also all getting in on the action.
Look for continued action in this area in 2017 as the boundaries between primary and secondary continue to blur, calls for greater transparency continue, and more income is driven back to the industry, out of the hands of those who contribute nothing to it.
2. The Ticketing Gold Rush
One of the key topics tackled in this year’s International Ticketing Yearbook was the increasing appetite for ticketing by the world’s biggest online players. After Alibaba Group, the $14bn Chinese ecommerce giant, launched event ticketing operation Tao Piao Piao in May, Amazon caught the industry’s attention with several hires in the UK for the new Amazon Tickets, the start of a bid to become “Earth’s most customer-centric ticketing company”.
“From an artist or sports franchise point of view, any channel that will allow [major ecommerce companies] direct access to the end consumer is powerful and attractive,”
Slightly closer to home, Spotify unveiled a tie-up with Ticketmaster in November, Songkick is settled into its dual role as concert recommendation and ticketing app and Apple Music is dabbling the live space on the current Drake tour. Initial hiccups in some areas aside, 2016 could well be remembered as the moment the ticket started to go where the fans are.
“From an artist or sports franchise point of view, any channel that will allow [major ecommerce companies] direct access to the end consumer is powerful and attractive,” comments ticketing consultant Tim Chambers.
3. Live domi-Nation
The world’s leading live entertainment group showed no signs of bringing its ten-year buying spree to an end in 2016, making no less than eight major acquisitions.
Bonnaroo/AC Entertainment, French promoter Nous Productions, Greek ticketing company TicketHour, Australia’s Secret Sounds (Splendour in the Grass/Falls Festival), Canadian festival promoter Union Events, Sweden Rock festival, Big Concerts in South Africa and YouTube multi-channel network InDMusic were amongst those becoming part of the Live Nation family this year, to the tune of more than US$113 million.
“As we look forward, we see tremendous opportunities to continue global consolidation of our concerts and ticketing businesses, with further growth in advertising and ticketing from the concerts flywheel,” said CEO Michael Rapino in a Q3 statement.
4. Splendid isolation?
On 23 June, in the first major political upset of the year (bet you can’t guess no.2!), the UK voted to leave the European Union (EU), ending more than 40 years of political and economic union with continental Europe.
Thanks to a two-year exit process – which won’t even begin until next March – we’re still no closer to discovering the effect Brexit has on the international live music industry, although a common sentiment in the UK has been to stress the importance of prioritising the creative industries in any future divorce settlement.
“There is a very real risk that skills shortages in the UK will be made worse – at least in the short to medium term”
Industry body Creative Industries Federation called last month for the UK to retain freedom of movement with the rest of bloc – something especially important for touring artists and crew, many of whom have spoken of their opposition to the return of border visas. “There is a very real risk that skills shortages in the UK will be made worse – at least in the short to medium term – by any restriction on freedom of movement that comes with tightening immigration laws and the UK leaving the European Union,” said the federation.
5. Pollsters Trumped
Despite a majority of analysts predicting a victory for Hillary Clinton in last month’s US presidential election, it was not to be: the Republican nominee, Donald Trump, was victorious in 30 of 50 states, and will be inaugurated as president in January.
Like Brexit, the implications for the touring business of a Trump presidency are still unclear, but Nederlander Concerts CEO Alex Hodges seemed to sum up the mood in the Americas when he told IQ the day after the elections: “The show must go on”.
6. Good times
While Q4 and end of year figures are yet to be published, there are few who’d believe that 2016 was a slow year for live music. Billboard puts the value of the US live music business at a staggering $25billion in 2016, with performance show averages up 25% worldwide (43% in the US) and average per-show attendance up 30% globally (29% in the US).
“The top two global tours grossed more than a half-billion dollars in what has been a great year for the concert business.”
Pollstar, which traditionally offers a more accurate barometer of US market health, has yet to reveal annual numbers, but reports: “the top two global tours [Bruce Springsteen and Beyoncé] grossed more than a half-billion dollars in what has been a great year for the concert business.” Pollstar’s Q3 results pegged the top 100 tours up a more modest 3% year-on-year on combined grosses, with average tickets up 7.6%.
7. Rebates under debate
In terms of page views, IQ’s biggest story of 2016 was the revelation that an increasing number of artists are choosing to bypass their local PROs (for example, PRS) in favour of collecting performance royalties directly.
Direct licensing, as it’s known, presents a headache for festival promoters – the vast majority of which have one-stop, blanket licences – with many facing the prospect of paying multiple licensees: the PRO (performance rights organisation) and the artist directly.
Adam Elfin, who runs direct-licensing agency PACE Rights Management, said leaving promoters out of pocket “is not something we want or that should happen”, but added that it’s “beneficial that we’re having this conversation now, because if they weren’t aware of this [direct licensing] and they proceeded with their deals for next year with local PROs, the impact will be massively different.”
No PRO has yet declared they are willing to offer promoters a discount on fees if they have acts directly licensing bands on their line-up, but it’s not a stretch to imagine that might be a possibility for 2017.
8. Beyond music: eSports/YouTube
More than ever before, 2016 saw a raft of new content being introduced to venues, with the likes of eSports events and YouTube stars regularly selling out shows.
The scale of the eSports business was highlighted in October when Reed Midem, the organiser of the Midem music industry conference, announced plans for a similar event for the eSports market, on the back of new data revealing that global revenues in the sector for 2016 are estimated at US$493 million. That news came on the back of the Electronic Sports League (ESL), the world’s largest eSports promoter, agreeing a strategic partnership with AEG, giving it access to 120 AEG-operated venues for qualifying events, tournaments and world championships.
“2016 saw a raft of new content being introduced to venues, with the likes of eSports events and YouTube stars regularly selling out shows.”
Meanwhile, the power of social media continued to grow, posing opportunities for enterprising promoters to take YouTube stars on tour with agencies including WME, CAA and UTA making a big play for online talent. This rapidly growing sector is engaging young fans the world over – underlined by events like Summer in the City, in London’s ExCel centre, where more than 10,000 people bought tickets to meet their favourite YouTubers, watch them live, and listen to panel discussions.
The threat of terrorist acts around the world did not diminish during 2016, forcing promoters and venues to increase the amount of investment they are spending to guard their premises, artists, crews and fans from those intent to inflict death and injury.
Atrocities at the likes of the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, as well as attacks on festival sites and, of course the mass murder at Le Bataclan in Paris in late 2015, have brought about stricter security measures, with clubs throughout France now using airport style checks for patrons.
As a so-called soft target, concerts and festivals have found themselves under the microscope, especially in certain countries where terrorist cells are known to operate. At the IFF in September, Rock Werchter promoter Herman Schueremans stated his belief that “We’re more safe now” thanks to some of the efforts that he and fellow promoters around the world have implemented.
Elsewhere, Live Aid promoter Harvey Goldsmith lent his support to a new anti-terror training course, but such measures haven’t appeased everyone, with British peer, Baroness Henig, making moves to force staff at UK music venues to undergo such intensive training.
10. Social media integration
Having a Facebook, Twitter or Snapchat account for your event or venue is hardly rocket science these days, but the past 12 months have seen a number of deals forged to better exploit the audience who uses these and other social media platforms.
In April, Ticketmaster and Eventbrite both agreed deals to sell tickets through Facebook, while later in the year, Live Nation tied up with with Snapchat, initially to create ‘Live Stories’ at V Festival, Way Out West, Creamfields and Reading and Leeds, before taking it to the next level by using links for adverts on Snapchat to sell tickets to their shows.
The past 12 months have seen a number of deals forged to better exploit the audience who uses these and other social media platforms.
Not to be outdone, AEG entered into a multi-year agreement with Snapchat to promote its festivals via the video-sharing app.
Hinting at more deals to come, a survey by Nielsen found that Instagram is used by more US concertgoers than any of its rivals, with an astonishing 83% of those active on social media at shows making use of the photo-sharing app.
11. The SFX/LiveStyle saga
The year ended on a brighter note for those working for beleaguered dance music conglomerate SFX – although a number of creditors might take issue with that statement.
In November, Former Global Group and AEG Live chief, Randy Phillips, was appointed as the company’s new CEO and then, just days later, the SFX reorganisation plan was finally given a green light, following nine months of official administration, but at a cost of nearly US$400million of debt being written off.
The company managed to exit its bankruptcy situation earlier than planned and, moving swiftly to distance the group from its former self, Randy Phillips rebranded the entity as LiveStyle.
Quite whether the saga is truly at an end remains to be seen, with at least one shareholder still asking the courts to look at an alleged undervaluation of the company that accelerated its emergence from debt.
12. Goggle Boxes
The influence of new technology on the live experience continued to break new ground in 2016, with Virtual Reality (VR) a popular talking point. In May, music streaming service Rhapsody launched the Rhapsody VR app which promises, “free, immersive 360-degree videos of great artists from the best seat in the house”. May also saw Live Nation announce a partnership with NextVR to film and stream concerts in the format.
Festival including Wacken Open Air in Germany have begun filming their events for VR headsets, and other players in the space include Warner Music (partnered with MelodyVR and Digital Domain) and Universal Music and iHeartMedia, both recording concerts in VR.
The influence of new technology on the live experience continued to break new ground in 2016, with Virtual Reality a popular talking point.
But is it a genuine source of new revenue streams or a short term fad? Time will tell, but research company Nielsen found that early VR adopters are outspending the average American by 2:1 on live events.
13. Weathering the storm
In Europe, the 2016 festival season was one of the most turbulent in living memory, with FKP Scorpio’s Hurricane and Southside, Marek Lieberberg/CTS Eventim’s Rock am Ring, Ultra Europe, Live Nation’s Rock Werchter and Broadwick Live’s Festival №6 all badly affected by severe weather.
Responses ranged from a government-backed €500k bad-weather fund in the Netherlands to FOLD Festival cheekily giving away tickets to Glastonbury-goers who couldn’t face the mud, while panellists at Reeperbahn Festival’s Epic Production session called for collaboration between festivals and a unified code of conduct for dealing with inclement weather.
Wacken Open Air – which avoided the worst of 2016 – has, meanwhile, embarked on a major overhaul of its festival site for 2017, with a new drainage system and gravel-based ground covering.
14. Bot-tomming Out
The controversial use of bots to harvest primary tickets during an onsale saw inbound legislation in 2016, both in the US and UK. The state of New York made using ticket-buying software on offence in June, while plans for a new anti-both bill were introduced in Ontario, Canada, in October.
By November, the UK’s digital minister, Matt Hancock, had launched his Computer Misuse Act, but the strongest move yet came last week when outbound US President Barrack Obama signed the Better Online Ticket Sales (Bots) Act, which proscribes their use.
15. Desert Trip
Hailed as one of the greatest rock events of all time, Desert Trip, didn’t just smash records – it took dynamite to the entire jukebox.
The concept of putting together three headline acts across three days might not have been rocket science, but when the dream ticket was the Stones, the Beatles and Pink Floyd, the complexities kicked in. But promoters Goldenvoice pulled off the improbable, lining up the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney and Roger Waters across successive nights and adding in support acts Bob Dylan, Neil Young and The Who for good measure, while using the site of California’s uber cool festival, Coachella, to stage the show – and lending to its popular nickname, Oldchella.
Hailed as one of the greatest rock events of all time, Desert Trip, didn’t just smash records – it took dynamite to the entire jukebox.
Not so fortunate were some of the ticket touts who gambled on scooping up as many of the weekend and day passes as they could get their hands on. Despite issuing a ‘sold out’ notice, Desert Trip organisers held back a number of tickets, which were released a month before the shows, prompting a collapse in the value of the secondary market to the extent that, in the days running up to the concerts, many tickets were listed at lower than original face value.
16. In Memoriam
Already considered an annus horribilis due to the number of fallen musical heroes (with Prince, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen among them), the business lost more than its fair share of heroes in 2016. Dan Panaitescu, head of international booking at Sziget festival was killed in a car crash in July, the same month that veteran concert promoter James Nederlander passed at the age of 94.
July also claimed the life of Baloise Session founder Matthias Müller, when the longtime Swiss festival promoter lost his battle with cancer. Meanwhile, other tragic losses to the business included Brazilian promoter and youth project champion Bianca Freitas, who died in October after contracting the rare Guillain-Barré syndrome.
Trying to squeeze 12 months of news, views and innovation into this short feature is always going to be tricky, so what did we miss? Please feel free to comment below. We may even publish the best bits…