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The decade in live: 2017

The start of a new year and, perhaps more significantly, a new decade is fast approaching – and while many may be thinking ahead to New Year’s Eve plans and well-meaning 2020 resolutions, IQ is casting its mind back to the most pivotal industry moments of the last ten years.

The memories of a turbulent 2016 were left far behind in 2017, as the concert business enjoyed a record-breaking twelve months, as the year’s gross revenue and number of tickets sold saw 2013 finally knocked off the top spot.

The success of the live business in 2017, however, was somewhat overshadowed by a number of devastating terror attacks, with the Manchester Arena bombing, the shootings at Route 91 Harvest and BPM Festival, the Reina nightclub shooting and other incidents targeting music fans.

In response to the tragedies, the live industry united and made a positive impact, in the form of the One Love Manchester and We are Manchester charity concerts and candlelit vigils and fundraising for victims of the Route 91 Harvest attack.

Elsewhere, the booking agency world continued to consolidate through 2017, with a number of acquisitions, mergers and partnerships while Live Nation welcomed several more promoters, festivals, ticketing agencies and venues to its fast-growing family.


2017 in numbers

The live music business reached new heights in 2017, with the top 100 tours worldwide generating a record US$5.65 billion, up almost 16% from the previous year.

The number of tickets sold throughout the year also saw a notable increase from the year before, climbing 10.4% to 66.8 million, at an average price of almost $4 more per ticket than in 2016, at $84.60.

Eleven tours surpassed the $100m mark in 2017, with U2 topping the year-end charts having generated $316m on their Joshua Tree tour. Guns N’ Roses narrowly missed out on $300m, grossing $292.5m on the Not in this Lifetime tour.

Coldplay came in next, as the band’s A Head Full of Dreams tour made $238m. Bruno Mars’ 24K Magic tour was also successful, grossing just over $200m, whereas Metallica’s WorldWired tour generated $152.8m.

Depeche Mode, Paul McCartney, Ed Sheeran, the Rolling Stones, Garth Brooks and Celine Dion were the other acts whose 2017 tour earnings exceeded $100m.


2017 in brief

A lone gunman attacks New Year’s revellers at the Reina nightclub in Istanbul, resulting in the death of 39 people and injuries to a further 70. Two weeks later, four are killed and 12 injured during a shooting at the BPM Festival in the coastal resort of Playa del Carmen, Mexico.

AM Only and The Windish Agency rebrand as Paradigm Talent Agency, signalling the next phase of their joint ventures, launched in 2012 and 2015, respectively.

Global asset management firm Providence Equity Partners acquires a 70% stake in Sziget Festival and reveals plans to launch eight to ten branded festivals, with James Barton, former president of electronic music for Live Nation, leading the international expansion.

AEG Live finalises negotiations to acquire New York-based promoter/venue operator The Bowery Presents.

Ticketbis, the multinational resale operation acquired by eBay in May 2016, is rebranded as StubHub, bringing to an end the Ticketbis name across Europe, Asia and Latin America.

Live Nation enters the Middle East’s biggest touring market with the acquisition of a majority stake in Bluestone Entertainment, one of Israel’s leading promoters.

Iron Maiden’s decision to use paperless tickets on the UK leg of The Book of Souls arena tour helps reduce the number of tickets appearing on secondary sites by more than 95%, according to promoter Live Nation.

Live Nation acquires a controlling stake in the UK’s Isle of Wight Festival.

The Australian leg of Adele’s Live 2017 tour makes concert history after playing to more than 600,000 people over eight stadium dates.

The decade in live: 2017

Sziget Festival 2017 © László Mudra/Rockstar Photographers

In the biggest primary deal so far for the world’s largest secondary ticketing site, StubHub is named the official ticket seller for Rock in Rio 2017.

Creative Artists Agency increases its investment in the Chinese market via a new alliance with private equity firm CMC Capital Partners.

Luxury Ja Rule-backed boutique event, Fyre Festival, descends into chaos on its first day, with visitors to the Bahamas site comparing conditions to a refugee camp.

22 people, including children, lose their lives after a suicide bombing at Manchester Arena, for which Islamic State terror claims responsibility. The attack targets people leaving the 21,000-cap. venue at the end of an Ariana Grande concert.

Pandora Media announces the sale of Ticketfly to Eventbrite. Despite purchasing the company for $450m less than two years ago, it sells for a package worth $200m.

AEG invests in Immortals, one of the world’s leading esports teams, with professional players in the North American League of Legends, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Super Smash Bros, Overwatch and Vainglory leagues. The team will now play their Los Angeles tournaments and matches at AEG’s LA Live entertainment district.

The organisers of ILMC announce the launch of the Event Safety and Security Summit (E3S), a one-day meeting focusing on security at live events.

The decade in live: 2017

The reality of Fyre Festival © Here_Comes_the_Kingz/Reddit

Helsinki-based Fullsteam Agency acquires Rähinä Live, whose roster includes some of Finland’s biggest hip-hop and pop artists.

Oak View Group, which counts Irving Azoff and Tim Leiweke among its founders, completes its acquisition of Pollstar, adding the US-based concert business magazine to its portfolio of trade titles.

Madison Square Garden Company makes a significant move into the esports sector by acquiring a controlling stake in Counter Logic Gaming.

Paradigm Talent Agency acquires Chicago- and California-based agency Monterey International, including its 14 agents and 200 acts.

Live Nation launches in Brazil with former Time for Fun (T4F) chief entertainment officer Alexandre Faria Fernandes at the helm.

Three quarters of staff at Function(x), the online business founded by former SFX Entertainment CEO Robert Sillerman, are effectively laid off, with the company telling investors it lacks the funds to pay them.

A sovereign wealth fund controlled by the government of Saudi Arabia, says it is forming a new SR10 billion ($2.7bn) investment vehicle in a bid to kick-start the kingdom’s entertainment sector.

Music returns to Manchester Arena as a capacity crowd turn out for We are Manchester, a benefit concert that raises funds for a memorial to the victims of the 22nd of May bombing.

The decade in live: 2017

The We are Manchester charity concert drew a full-capacity crowd at the 21,000-cap. arena © Showsec

A gunman kills 58 people and injures a further 546 at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival in Las Vegas. Local resident Stephen Paddock targeted the concertgoers from the 32nd floor of the nearby Mandalay Bay hotel.

WME-IMG rebrands as Endeavor, with company assets that include martial- arts promoter, UFC; ad agency, Droga5; Professional Bull Riders; the Miss Universe Organization; Frieze Art Fair; management companies, Dixon Talent and The Wall Group; and joint ventures such as Euroleague Basketball and esports championship ELEAGUE.

Ticketmaster confirms its long-rumoured expansion into Italy. The launch of Ticketmaster Italia, headquartered in Milan, follows the end of the exclusive long-term online partnership in Italy between Ticketmaster’s parent company, Live Nation, and CTS Eventim-owned TicketOne.

After 11 years in East London’s Victoria Park – now exclusive to AEG – Eat Your Own Ears’ Field Day Festival will head to Brockwell Park in South London. Live Nation’s Lovebox and Citadel are also rumoured to be moving to Brockwell Park.

Secondary ticketing websites will, from January 2018, be subject to stringent restrictions on their use of Google AdWords, as the search-engine giant cracks down on ticket resellers’ controversial use of its online advertising platform.

Leading self-service ticketer Eventbrite announces a series of new partnerships, rolling out integrations with events guide The List, festival package provider Festicket, word-of-mouth ticket sales platform Verve, and brand ambassador software Ticketrunner.

Michael Rapino, CEO of Live Nation Entertainment since 2010, will remain in his role until at least 2022 after signing a new five-year contract worth up to $9m per annum. Also re-upping are leading execs Kathy Willard, Michael Rowles and Joe Berchtold.

The decade in live: 2017

Primary Talent’s Dave Chumbley (1960-2017) picks up his Platinum Endurance Arthur Award at ILMC 25 © ILMC


Who we lost

Peter Rieger, founder of German promoter Peter Rieger Konzertagentur (PRK); Joseph Rascoff, business manager to the Stones, David Bowie, U2, Sting and more; ILMC’s long-time producer Alia Dann Swift; ShowSec International Ltd founder Mick Upton; Dave Chumbley, Primary Talent International director; Mary Cleary, former booker and tour manager; American singer-songwriter Tom Petty; pioneering concert promoter Shmuel Zemach, founder of Zemach Promotions; Australian country music promoter, agent and artist, Rob Potts; Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington; Reading festival founder Harold Pendelton; Washington, DC, promoter Jack Boyle; Live Nation Belgium booker Marianne Dekimpe; rock and roll pioneer Chuck Berry.


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U2 announce first-ever Indian show

U2’s Live Nation-promoted The Joshua Tree Tour is wrapping up in Mumbai on 15 December, in the band’s first performance in India over their 40-year career.

The Mumbai concert, taking place at the 55,000-capacity DY Patil Stadium, will be produced by Live Nation Global Touring and brought to India by the country’s leading ticketing platform BookMyShow.

The tour will also bring U2 to Singapore, Seoul and Manila for the first time.

The Indian date marks the end of U2’s 2019 The Joshua Tree Tour, a continuation of its record-breaking world tour, which grossed a total of US$316 million in 2017.

The 2019 tour kicks off on 8 November at Auckland, New Zealand’s 30,000-capacity Mt Smart Stadium. The band then head to Australia for dates at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium (52,500-cap.), Melbourne’s Marvel Stadium (53,359-cap.), Adelaide’s Oval (53,500-cap.), Sydney Cricket Ground (46,000-cap.) and Perth’s Optus Stadium (60,000-cap.).

“We have been around the world with The Joshua Tree and we can’t think of a better place to celebrate the end of this tour”

The tour continues to the National Stadium in Singapore (55,000-cap.), Saitama Super Arena (37,000-cap.) in Tokyo, Seoul’s Gocheok Sky Dome (20,000-cap.) and the Phillipine Arena (55,000-cap.) in Manila, before ending in Mumbai.

“We’ve been waiting for this moment for the last 40 years,” U2 frontman Bono told the Times of India, adding that the band “weren’t sure” in the past if there was a “large enough audience” for them in India.

“We have been around the world with The Joshua Tree and we can’t think of a better place to celebrate the end of this tour,” says U2 guitarist the Edge. “Mumbai, India, we’re coming for you, I hope you’re ready!”

Tickets for the Mumbai concert go on sale on Tuesday 1 October at 12 p.m. (IST), via BookMyShow and Live Nation. Presale for U2.com subscribers opens on September 24, with phonePe presale beginning on 26 September. Prices range from INR3,000 ($42) to INR14,000 ($196).

A full list of tour dates can be found here.


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eXPERIENCE + iNNOCENCE: behind the scenes of U2’s latest global smash

Since envisioning the concept for their eXPERIENCE + iNNOCENCE two-part arena tour in 2013, U2 and their team have had a tumultuous few years.

During that time, the band’s long-time tour manager Dennis Sheehan and stage architect Mark Fisher have both sadly passed away, and Bono had a near-death experience himself after a bike accident in New York resulted in a five-hour operation. He was back in hospital last year for another bout of surgery (the details of which the frontman has been reticent to talk about publicly).

During that time, U2 have toured the first iNNOCENCE part of their two-album series, celebrated 30 years of seminal ’87 release The Joshua Tree with a 51-date stadium run, and have just wrapped up the eXPERIENCE sequel. It’s an apt ending – the narrative of the most recent shows is themed around the complexity of life as an adult and the final journey towards the bright light.

eXPERIENCE + iNNOCENCE is in support of U2’s 2017 US and UK No1 album, Songs of Experience, which followed 2014’s Songs of Innocence. It has spanned 26 sold-out arena dates in North America that started in May, while the European leg ends with a rescheduled show in Berlin on 13 November. Described as their most technically complex shows to date, the tour features augmented reality, an innovative sound set-up, a revolutionary light-follow spot system and bespoke, transparent, 100-foot-long LED screens that surround a moving catwalk.

While iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE told the story of the band’s upbringing in Ireland, eXPERIENCE + iNNOCENCE documents their journey out into the world, facing death, and ties in a political element that centres on the death of democracy.

The narrative of the most recent shows is themed around the complexity of life as an adult and the final journey towards the bright light

The show “is more of a story, really; a very personal story,” Bono explained during one of their three Madison Square Garden gigs. “A boy tries to hold on to his innocence, fails, only to discover at the far end of experience some wisdom and some good company.”

And the concept has obviously caught the imagination: by the end of its European run, more than 924,000 people will have seen the show across 60 dates. That’s a little short of the 1,220,000 who bought tickets for 2015’s iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE outing, although that tour included 76 dates.

Creative direction
The plot started taking shape during a weekend in the south of France, where the band and their creative team found inspiration in shared history across a 40-year-plus career that started in high school in Dublin. Creative director Willie Williams explains: “The two stories it came down to wanting to tell were what it’s like for anybody growing up, where you feel like your bedroom is the whole world. It’s the story of how you escape from that bedroom and your house where you’re looking out the window at the world outside, trying to make sense of what’s going on. Journey two is being a grown-up in the outside world, the things that you have to face and what it takes to deal with all of that.”

The 2015 tour told the first part of the story, and the brief for the latest run was to finish it off. Williams adds: “It’s funny because at the beginning we thought it would be something to do with coming home, finding your new family or deciding where you settle ultimately. Because of some of the things that Bono went through, we realised that one way of looking at this journey home is basically death… which sounds pretty bleak!”

The European shows open with footage of cities the tour visits, shot between 1935 and 1945 whilst they were in ruins during WW2. “We wanted to make the point that because we’ve grown up in Europe and we’ve never seen war, we just assume that this is the way it’s always been. The start of the show is a reminder that we can’t take these things for granted,” says Williams. The footage also includes the MRI scans that Bono had after coming off his bike to combine the “personal and political cataclysm.”

“Because of some of the things that Bono went through, we realised that one way of looking at this journey home is basically death…”

From there starts ‘Lights of Home’ – a song that encapsulates the tour’s theme – followed by a reprise from the iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE leg about growing up in Dublin. An intermission includes a graphic novel of the four band members and their journey together, followed by songs from their back catalogue, including the live debut of ‘Acrobat’ from Achtung Baby.

Bono then brings back his devil alter-ego, Mr MacPhisto, for an address to camera that’s politically themed for each city. A personal arc follows, before the refugee crisis is brought to the fore as part of ‘Summer of Love’, ending with an optimistic look at the future of Europe as born-again cities with ‘Pride’ and ‘City of Blinding Lights’.

In the US, the show opens on a personal theme with the idea of facing your own mortality using augmented reality. A series of still images play across the cinema-sized LED screen, which transform into a giant avatar version of Bono when audience members look through a custom-made app on their smartphones. The stage, which was designed by Es Devlin and Ric Lipson, appears as a giant iceberg that melts over the audience, preluding the cataclysm theme, which is enacted as a tsunami in the middle of the set with waves appearing across the screen while U2 sing ‘the End of the World’.

Naturally, the political element of the US shows centres on the reign of Donald Trump. The show ends with Bono walking towards a 3D doll-size model of the house he grew up in. He lifts the lid to find a light bulb, which appeared at the beginning of the iNNOCENCE shows, before quietly walking off stage.


Continue reading this feature in the digital edition of IQ 79, or subscribe to the magazine here

Live music revenues to top $30bn for first time

The decade-long live music boom is set to continue well into the 2020s, with the value of the international concert business projected to reach US$30 billion for the first time within five years, according to new figures from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

The latest edition of PwC’s respected annual review of the planet’s entertainment industries, the Global entertainment and media outlook 2018–2022, reveals live music revenues – ticket sales plus sponsorship – will increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.3% from 2018 to 2022, reaching $30.55bn ($24.36bn of it from ticket sales) in 2022.

In the recorded sector, meanwhile, streaming continues its inexorable march towards dominating consumption, with physical sales and downloads projected to slide by -9.6% and -23%, respectively. Music streaming, by contrast, will grow at a CAGR of 18% over the next four years.

Even with that growth, however, streaming will still fall short of reversing the events of the last decade, when live shows overtook recorded music as the chief generator of music revenues. (In the UK, according to collection society PRS for Music, the switch happened in 2008, with North America following suit a few years later.) According to PwC, the 2022 gap will be to the tune of $7bn+, with streaming revenues worth $23.36bn.

“Worldwide music tours remain dominated by big-hitting, mature artists”

As evidenced by the biggest tours of 2017, when U2, Guns N’ Roses, Metallica, Depeche Mode, Paul McCartney and the Rolling Stones took six of the ten top spots, heritage acts are still doing the biggest business. According to the firm’s analysts, “worldwide music tours remained dominated by big-hitting, mature artists,” with the aforementioned six “out[doing] the majority of younger acts”.

Outside of rock and pop, “electronic dance music (EDM) continues to draw large crowds,” the report continues. “These events are expanding internationally. Miami’s highly successful Ultra Festival markedly increased its overseas presence in 2017 and is now putting on events in Latin America, Europe and Asia, as well as South Africa. Mexico’s BPM Festival also is in expansion mode, and last year took its format to Portugal for the first time. The outfit says it is scouting additional locations.”

The positive news for the live music business comes comes amid still-growing consumer demand for other forms of live entertainment, says PwC, with ticket sales for esports events, for example, projected to rise at a CAGR of 21.1% through 2022.

The report also suggests the barriers between different forms of entertainment are beginning to break down (a phenomenon dubbed ‘Convergence 3.0’), with greater synergies between live events and sectors such as ecommerce, licensing and consumer products.

“The appeal of the live experience endures”

This convergence, it says, is “creating an ever-expanding group of ‘supercompetitors’ and specialised, niche brands that are striving to secure the engagement and spending of increasingly demanding consumers” – who “reject one-size-fits-all content experiences.

“As a result, it’s vital for companies, ranging from supercompetitors to fan-focused niche players, to use data analytics and AI to personalise their offerings. And the appeal of the live experience endures.”

“To succeed in the future that’s taking shape, companies must revisit every aspect of what they do and how they do it,” says Christopher Vollmer, global advisory leader for entertainment and media at PwC US, commenting on the Outlook’s findings. “This means going above and beyond in how they envision their business, generate revenues, create and organise their capabilities, and build and retain trust. And given the pace and scale of change under way, speed is vital.

“For many companies, the models, assets, practices and capabilities that support their businesses today will simply not be enough in the future. Standing still is not an option.”


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Top 100 tours grossed $5.65bn in 2017

The 100 biggest concert tours of 2017 collectively generated a huge US$5.65bn in revenue – a 15.8% year-on-year increase – in a “record-crushing” year for the international live music business.

That’s according to the 2017 edition of Pollstar’s traditional year-end special features, which track the value of the year’s biggest tours, promoters, arenas, festivals, individual concert grosses and more. The top 100 worldwide tours chart, topped by U2’s Live Nation-promoted Joshua Tree 2017 tour, also shows the tickets sold by the top 100 reached a new record high of 66.79 million – a 10.4% increase on 2016.

Average ticket prices rose by nearly 5% to $84.63, with 11 tours generating more than $100m worldwide – U2, Guns N’ Roses, Coldplay, Bruno Mars, Metallica, Depeche Mode, Paul McCartney, Ed Sheeran, the Rolling Stones, Garth Brooks and Celine Dion – compared to 2016’s seven.

Tickets sold by the top 100 tours reached a new record high of 66.79 million – a 10.4% increase on 2016

This, says Pollstar, demonstrates that “the most successful artists are clearly getting better at recapturing some of the revenue that had leaked into the secondary ticket market”, with Taylor Swift’s tout-beating ‘slow ticketing’ model putting her in pole position for the biggest tour of 2018.

Other headline year-end figures include Live Nation once again taking the number-one promoter spot, reporting a record 52.2m tickets sold, followed by AEG Presents (14.4m tickets), Mexico’s Ocesa (4m), Feld Entertainment (3.2m) and SJM in the UK (2.4m); Goldenvoice’s Coachella generating 2017’s biggest festival gross, at $114.6m over two weekends; and the UK punching above its weight in the top 100 arenas chart, with first-placed The O2, third-placed Manchester Arena and fourth-placed SSE Hydro leading a British invasion of the top five.

The top 20 venues, especially, show the “importance of the growing global concert market”, says Pollstar – confirming the findings of PwC, which noted the business is becoming “increasingly international”, earlier this year – with only seven located in the US; five are in the UK, two in Mexico and one each in Germany, Spain, Canada, France, the Netherlands and Belgium.


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U2’s Joshua Tree 2017 tour tops 2.4m ticket sales

U2’s The Joshua Tree 2017 world tour – announced in January to commemorate 30 years of the album of the same name – has become the year’s most successful concert tour, selling more than 2.4 million tickets for dates in North America, Latin America and the UK and Europe, according to promoter Live Nation Global Touring.

The initial North American leg of the tour came to close on Saturday (1 July) at the FirstEnergy Stadium (67,431-cap.) in Cleveland, Ohio, after having played to more than one million people over the course of almost two months.

The European leg, with support from Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, kicks off this weekend with two dates (8–9 July) at Twickenham Stadium (110,000-cap.) and concludes on 1 August at Brussels’ King Baudouin Stadium (50,094-cap.).

The initial North American leg came to close on Saturday, after having played to more than one million people over two months

The tour then heads back to North America with support from Beck, before departing for South America on 7 October, again backed by Gallagher.

In addition to being commercially successful, the tour has drawn a largely positive critical reception. “I have left every U2 concert feeling like some measure of my humanity had been restored after being worn down by the blistering winds of the daily shitstorm we call living,” reads a typical review of the Lincoln Financial Field show by Phawker. “Last night was no exception.”

U2’s last world tour, 2015’s Innocence + Experience, was the fourth highest-grossing of the year.


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