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The decade in live: 2015

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.

Following on from a strong year in 2014, the live music industry in 2015 continued to go from strength to strength, with fans once again showing willingness to spend money on concert tickets.

After the success of their first all-stadia tour, British boyband One Direction embarked on another mammoth concert tour, which came in at number two on the year-end charts, despite the departure of band member Zayn Malik two months in. The tour was the beginning of the end for the band, which went on indefinite hiatus the following year.

2015 was a busy year in the live business, notably seeing the birth of Tim Leiweke and Irving Azoff’s Oak View Group. It was also the year that the Robert Sillerman’s rebirthed SFX Entertainment began to run into some serious trouble…


2015 in numbers

The top 100 worldwide tours grossed more than US$4.7 billion in 2015, up 14% from the year before but falling short of 2013’s $5bn. Ticket sales were also up, increasing by 16% to 59.7m, again lower than the 2013 total of 63.3m. The average ticket price in 2015 was down $3.30 to $78.80.

Taylor Swift was the top touring artist of the year, grossing $250.4m with her The 1989 world tour. The singer generated nearly $200m in North America alone, smashing the previous record of $162m set by the Rolling Stones in 2005.

One Direction also had a successful year with the On the Road Again tour, coming in behind Swift with year-end gross at $210.2m and selling 2.4m tickets, the most of any artist that year. AC/DC made $180m in ticket sales on their biggest tour to date, with U2’s Innocence + Experience grossing $152.2m and Foo Fighters’ Sonic Highway tour totalling $127m.


2015 in brief

Live Nation takes control of Austin City Limits and Lollapalooza promoter C3 Presents, paying a reported $125m for a 51% stake.

Austrian concert organiser Arcadia agrees a new partnership with four German companies – Four Artists, Chimperator Live, KKT and FKP Scorpio – to found Arcadia Live, a new
concert agency.

Live Nation agrees a joint venture with Thailand-based entertainment firm BEC-Tero. The new company, Live Nation BEC-Tero, will promote concerts by Western, J-Pop and K-Pop artists in the region, a pursuit in which BEC-Tero’s concerts division is already a market leader locally.

The Agency Group acquires UK-based electronic music agency Futureboogie, whose roster includes the likes of Bonobo, Crazy P and Nightmares on Wax.

The state of Washington passes a bill to outlaw ticket bots in an attempt to clamp down on the computer software that often prevents humans from buying seats online for concerts and sporting events. The move brings the number of states that have banned bots to 13.

A group of artists including Chris Martin, Calvin Harris, Madonna, Rihanna, Beyoncé, Jay Z, Kanye West, Daft Punk, Alicia Keys, Jack White and Nicki Minaj launch a new streaming service called Tidal, which is described as the first artist-owned platform for music and video.

The O2 arena in London announces that it has sold its 15 millionth ticket. The building, which opened in June 2007, has consistently been the most popular live music venue in the world, with research conducted by Media Insight Consulting claiming that 30% of the UK population has attended The O2 complex at least once.

The decade in live: 2015

One Direction perform on the On the Road Again tour without Malik (© vagueonthehow/Flickr (CC BY 2.0))

ILMC launches the International Festival Forum, which aims to help strengthen the relationship between event organisers and agents. The London-based event is set to feature partner agencies such as Coda, The Agency Group, Primary Talent and X-ray Touring who will showcase festival-ready acts to promoters from around the world.

Australian media company Nine Entertainment sells its live events companies Nine Live and Ticketek to Asian private equity firm Affinity Equity Partners for AUD$640m ($480m).

Sydney-based Soapbox Artists, which grew out of the Australian wing of Ministry of Sound, announces its merger with the Melbourne-based 360 Agency. The combined EDM agencies will be a significant player in the dance market, representing a large roster of DJ and producer talent.

Live Nation acquires a controlling stake in American festival Bonnaroo. Under the terms of the deal, current promoters Superfly and AC Entertainment will continue to programme and run the event.

AEG agrees an extended deal with America’s International Speedway Corporation (ISC), allowing the company’s AEG Live division to look at organising concerts at racetracks around the country. ISC owns 13 raceways, including such iconic arenas as Daytona and Watkins Glen.

The Foo Fighters cancel a number of shows after frontman Dave Grohl breaks his leg during a concert in Sweden. Despite a nasty fracture, however, Grohl makes headlines around the world by returning to complete the Gothenburg show, receiving medical attention on stage.

The decade in live: 2015

The main stage at Bonnaroo (© Shawn Mariani/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 2.5))

German promoter Deutsche Entertainment AG and its UK offshoots Kilimanjaro Live and Raymond Gubbay Ltd, have set-up a company to sell tickets for their British shows. MyTicket.co.uk will expand the MyTicket concept that has already been running in Germany for six months.

The Windish Agency and Paradigm Talent Agency agree a partnership deal to form one of the world’s biggest independent agency operations, bringing The Windish Agency together with Paradigm partner agencies AM Only and Coda Music Agency, as well as Paradigm itself.

Live Nation Entertainment forms Live Nation Concerts Germany with German concert promoter Marek Lieberberg to promote concerts and festivals in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

William Morris agent Sol Parker jumps ship to Coda Agency, taking Take That, The Prodigy and Rita Ora with him.

United Talent Agency completes its acquisition of The Agency Group.

Live Nation acquires venue and festival operator MAMA & Company, returning a number of former Live Nation assets to its portfolio.

The decade in live: 2015

Marek Lieberberg (© Sven Mandel/Wikimedia Deutschland (CC BY-SA 4.0)) 

Australian promoter Andrew McManus is arrested at Melbourne Airport on charges of money laundering and the importation of 300 kilograms of cocaine. McManus is one of five people arrested in Australia and the United States as part of an FBI investigation.

Disgruntled investors hit SFX with a lawsuit claiming they were deceived with false and misleading statements over the company’s privatisation plans.

Ebay-owned secondary ticketing platform StubHub launches in Germany.

Pandora completes a $450m takeover of specialist ticketing agency Ticketfly.

Several preliminary bids are reportedly submitted for EDM promoter SFX in addition to that from CEO Robert Sillerman, who bid to buy back the company for $3.25 per share.

SFX promotes former IQ new boss Sebastian Solano to CEO of ID&T North America.

Ex-AEG chief Tim Leiweke forms live entertainment investment firm Oak View Group with Irving Azoff.

Ex-Done Events chief Thomas Ovesen is named CEO of new Dubai-based live music company 117 Live.

Live Nation UK vice-president Steve Homer and senior vice-president Toby Leighton-Pope leave the company.

The decade in live: 2015

B.B. King, 1925-2015 (cropped) (© Tom.Beetz/Flickr (CC BY 2.0))


Who we lost

Mike Porcaro, bassist for Toto; blues legend B.B. King; John Gammon, Pollstar’s UK/Europe correspondent; veteran promoter and ILMC member, Paul King; Stage Entertainment’s project manager Sjoerd Unger; Live Nation venue chief David Vickers; U2 tour manager Dennis Sheehan.


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Harry Styles announces first arena dates

Live on Tour, the debut solo tour by ex-One Direction star Harry Styles, has added a raft of arena dates for 2018.

The Live Nation-promoted tour, announced in April, was initially largely limited to medium-sized venues (Greek Theatre, Radio City Music Hall, Eventim Apollo, Paris’s Olympia), with two dates at Spark Arena in Auckland the sole exception.

It was, as expected, an instant sell-out, with Styles (pictured) and Ticketmaster going as far as to pen an open letter apologising to fans unable to get tickets. (Though less than 5% of tickets ended up on the resale market, as Ticketmaster used its Verified Fan presale programme – also deployed recently for Linkin Park – to minimise touting.)

However, due to “overwhelming demand” – and as Styles’s self-titled debut album tops charts around the world – Live Nation today announced a massive arena tour for 2018, kicking off at St Jakobshalle (9,000-cap.) in Basel on 11 March, wrapping up at LA’s The Forum (17,505-cap.) on 13 July.

Interestingly, Styles and Live Nation don’t appear to have been affected by the rumoured booking war between Irving Azoff/MSG and AEG in Los Angeles, with the singer playing The O2 and AEG venues in Europe – but not the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

A full list of 2018 dates – which include arenas across the Americas, Asia, Europe and Australasia – is available at hstyles.co.uk/2018.


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1D turn down £1m to endorse resale site

One Direction turned down an offer of over £1 million to endorse a prominent secondary ticketing website, it has emerged.

“1D got offered a seven-figure sum by a secondary ticketing company to be featured on their site, and a very large share on uplift on those highly-priced tickets,” a “source close to the band” tells the Daily Mirror. “The band flatly turned this down.”

In a statement to the Mirror, band member Niall Horan calls resale sites such as StubHub and Viagogo “terrible for music and for real music fans”, echoing the tone of the language used at the launch earlier this month of anti-touting initiative FanFair Alliance, and says the band “always thought very carefully about how tickets were priced, and so to regularly see fans on Twitter unable to get a ticket or having to pay ridiculous secondary ticketing prices was incredibly frustrating”.

“1D got offered a seven-figure sum by a secondary ticketing company to be featured on their site… The band flatly turned this down”

One Direction previously lent their support to a petition created by Mumford & Sons manager Adam Tudhope which called for the protection of music fans by properly enforcing the 2015 Consumer Rights Act.

Around a month later Professor Michael Waterson, in his review of the British secondary ticketing market, recommended just that – a decision welcomed by Tudhope and others – but disappointed others by failing to call for the criminalisation of ticket touting in the UK.

Even if 1D weren’t so anti-touting, it’s not like they need the money: the band were collectively the second-richest celebrities of 2015, behind only Taylor Swift.


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Giants of touring are world’s richest celebrities

Although we know from PwC that global revenues from live music topped US$25 billion last year, it was the release today of Forbes’s annual celebrity rich list that really put that astronomical figure into context, revealing as it did that Taylor Swift and One Direction – who had the first and second highest-grossing tours of 2015, respectively – are also the world’s best-paid celebrities.

Twenty-six-year-old Swift, whose 1989 world tour grossed $250.4m in 2015, is first-placed in the Forbes list, having earnt $170m last year, with One Direction not far behind, having collectively taken home $110m (their On the Road Again tour made $210.2m).

Swift’s success can be attributed to having “smashed The Rolling Stones’ North American touring record”, notes Forbes, while the On the Road Again tour “kept [One Direction’s] earnings higher than any active band, despite Zayn Malik’s departure in March 2015”. Swift was joint eight with Robert Downey Jnr in last year’s list, while 1D placed fourth.

Swift’s smashed The Rolling Stones’ North American touring record while the On the Road Again tour kept One Direction’s earnings higher than any active band

Adele, whose Adele Live 2016 looks set to be one of the most lucrative of 2016, placed ninth ($80.5), while Madonna, whose archbishop-offending Rebel Heart tour closed in Sydney in late March, is 12th ($76.5m).

Other musical names in the top 25 include Rihanna in joint 13th ($75m), country star Garth Brooks in 15th ($70m), AC/DC in 17th ($67.5m), The Rolling Stones in 18th ($66.5m), Calvin Harris in 21st ($63m), Bruce Springsteen – currently on tour with The River – in 24th and Rock Werchter headliner Paul McCartney in 25th ($56.5m).

AC/DC, the Stones and McCartney all placed, like Swift and One Direction, in the highest-grossing tours of 2015.


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