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Five blockbuster tours top $100m gross in 2023

A record five tours have grossed more than $100 million (€913m) in the first six months of 2023, as the era of stadium touring takes hold of the concert business.

In an industry-first, blockbuster tours by Taylor Swift ($300.8m), Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band ($142.6m), Harry Styles ($124m), Elton John ($110.3m) and Ed Sheeran ($105.3m) all hit the nine-figure mark in H1 2023, leading Pollstar to declare “the age of the blockbuster tour is upon us”.

Pollstar‘s Top 100 worldwide tours show double-digit increases on 2022, including a 64.7% upturn in average show gross, a 49.3% rise in average tickets sold and a 10.3% hike in average ticket price.

“You’re seeing the strength and the conviction of the consumers,” Live Nation president of US Concerts Bob Roux tells the publication. “The shift in discretionary spending to live events and experiences over things has given our industry a big boost over the last couple of years and that trend continues and is growing.”

The list of the top 10 live music tours is rounded off by Red Hot Chili Peppers ($91.5m), Coldplay ($65.4m), Daddy Yankee ($60.5m), Bad Bunny ($49.1m) and Luke Combs ($47.2m).

The report notes that tours by artists such as Beyoncé, The Weeknd, U2 and Metallica are expected to impact the rankings – and the bottom line – in the second half of 2023, as the gulf between the A-listers and the rest accelerates markedly.

“It’s a very select group of artists who are in the stratosphere with demand to see them on a whole other level”

Dennis Arfa, chair of the music division at the newly formed Independent Artist Group, says the results highlight how the top dozen or so acts (adding the likes of U2, Billy Joel, Beyoncé, Metallica and the Rolling Stones to the current top 10) are in a league of their own, dubbing them the “billionaire’s club”.

“It’s a very select group of artists who are in the stratosphere with demand to see them on a whole other level,” he says. “No matter what’s going on in the economy, they are as close to bulletproof as you can get.”

The top grossing promoters, meanwhile, were Live Nation ($1.66 billion), AEG Presents ($423.2m), Mexico’s Ocesa ($327.8m), and Australia’s Frontier Touring ($189m) and TEG ($143.8m).

Other European promoters to make the top 30 include the UK’s SJM Concerts at No.13 (1.6m tickets sold), Italy’s Vivo Concerti at No.14 (1.5m sales), Germany’s Semmel Concerts at No.15 (1.3m sales), FKP Scorpio at No.28 (763,935 sales) and Italy’s Friends & Partners at No.29 (560,826 sales). See Pollstar‘s full mid-year results coverage here.

Elsewhere, ASM Global recently reported the biggest year ever for stadium concerts at its venues, selling 1.8 million tickets for 41 shows at six NFL stadiums in the US so far to generate $360m, according to data provided to Venues Now by ASM EVP Doug Thornton.

Chicago’s Soldier Field and Las Vegas’ Allegiant Stadium have each hosted nine gigs in 2023, closely followed by Houston’s NRG Stadium on eight; State Farm Stadium in Glendale, where Swift kicked off her Eras Tour, on seven; and US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on six.


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Bad Bunny tops 2022 mid-year tour rankings

Bad Bunny’s El Último Tour del Mundo is the biggest tour of 2022 so far according to Pollstar‘s mid-year rankings.

The Puerto Rican rapper sold 663,868 tickets in North America alone for a gross of $120.1 million (€118.1m), leaving Genesis’ The Last Domino trek, which generated $72m (€70.8m), a distant second ahead of Elton John’s Farewell Yellow Brick Road on $70m (€68.8m).

K-pop juggernauts BTS are fourth on the list, bringing in $69.3m, followed by Morgan Wallen in fifth with $58.3m. The top ten is completed by Eric Church, Eagles, John Mayer, Coldplay and Garth Brooks.

The figures cover the period from 18 November 2021 to 18 May 2022.

Revenue and ticket sales among the top 100 tours both dipped compared to 2019 levels

The report notes that revenue and ticket sales among the top 100 worldwide tours dipped 2.2% and 14.4%, respectively, compared to 2019 levels, although it is not a like-for-like comparison as not all venues were open to full capacity.

Worldwide gross was $3.5 billion (€3.4bn) from 46.8m ticket sales for 20,684 shows, down from 2019’s $5.1bn (€5bn) from 76.6m tickets for 35,903 shows.

Harry Styles led the way last year as 2021’s top worldwide ticket seller, while the Rolling Stones claimed the highest-grossing tour.


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Harry Styles crowned 2021’s top ticket seller

Harry Styles has been named as 2021’s top worldwide ticket seller, while the Rolling Stones had the highest-grossing tour, according to Pollstar‘s year-end rankings.

Styles sold 669,051 tickets for his Love on Tour arena dates, generating $86,723,984 (€76,916,720), to lead the way ahead of The Hella Mega Tour starring Green Day, Fall Out Boy and Weezer, which moved 659,062 tickets. The Top 5 was rounded off by Dead & Company at No.3 with 588,658 ticket sales, Dave Matthews Band at No.4 (583,399 sales) and Phish at No.5 (572,626).

Completing the Top 10 were Jonas Brothers (No.6, 528,630), Luke Bryan (No.7, 522,966), the Rolling Stones (No.8, 516,624), Chris Stapleton (No.9, 516,395) and Alanis Morissette (No.10, 499,296).

By every measure, 2021 was both quantitively and qualitatively better than 2020

However, the Stones were head and shoulders above the rest when it came to revenue. The band, whose legendary drummer Charlie Watts died in August, generated $115,498,182 (€102,474,854) from their shows – almost $30m clear of their nearest contender, Styles.

“What a difference a year makes,” wrote Ray Waddell of Pollstar owner Oak View Group. “By every measure, 2021 was both quantitatively and qualitatively better than 2020, which was catastrophic.

“Every chart in last year’s Year End issue marked a precipitous drop in shows, revenues, ticket sales and all other touring metrics. This year, however, is a markedly different story, especially Q4, which augers exceedingly well for 2022.”


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Elton John records biggest tour in Covid-hit H1 2020

With gross earnings of nearly US$90 million, Elton John’s Farewell Yellow Brick Road was the biggest tour globally in the first half of 2020 according to the latest Pollstar box-office numbers.

The site’s mid-year Top 100 Worldwide Tours shows Sir Elton had grossed $87.1m from 38 shows, with a total of 664,749 tickets sold, when concert touring ground to a pandemic-induced halt in March. (The ‘mid-year’ reporting period runs from 21 November 2019 to 20 May 2020, though the final show of John’s only 2020 touring period, at Western Sydney Stadium in Australia, took place months before, on 7 March.)

Sir Elton’s AEG-promoted success down under outshone his nearest competition to the tune of $16m, Celine Dion placing second with Courage world tour, which played arenas in North America from September to March. Another AEG tour, Courage grossed $71.2m from 33 shows, with 408,407 tickets sold.

Third and fourth, and the only other artists grossing more than $50m, were Trans-Siberian Orchestra and U2, respectively, while fifth-placed Post Malone recorded $38.8m from 22 dates.

Live Nation, unsurprisingly, retains its crown as the number-one promoter; Madrid’s WizInk Center is a new entry for top arena, having sold 30,000 more tickets than second-placed Madison Square Garden.


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Pollstar co-founder Gary Smith retires

After 38 years at Pollstar, co-founder Gary Smith has announced his retirement, effective Sunday (30 June).

Smith, who established the US concert business magazine in 1981 alongside Gary Bongiovanni, has led Pollstar – initially a service providing printed pages for subscribers to assemble in their own binders – throughout its history, overseeing the launch of weekly print magazine, the Concert Industry Consortium (now the Pollstar Live! conference and awards) and the magazine’s online presence.

Bongiovanni, Pollstar’s former editor in chief, retired last July, almost a year after the company was acquired by Tim Leiweke and Irving Azoff’s Oak View Group (OVG).

In addition to his work with Pollstar, Smith is a long-time supporter of the International Live Music Conference (ILMC), and an ILMC platinum delegate.

Smith’s career will be celebrated with a special tribute in the 5 August issue of the print magazine, according to Pollstar.


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The O2 retains crown as world’s busiest venue in 2018

The O2 in London cemented its status as the world’s most successful concert venue in 2018, according to operator AEG Europe, reporting in excess of 800,000 more ticket sales than its closest rival.

More than two million tickets were sold for 209 music, comedy, live entertainment and sports events at the venue last year, with highlights including sell-out shows by Kendrick Lamar and Pearl Jam, the sixth edition of the Country to Country festival, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Fight Night 127, the ATP tennis finals and the Fifa eWorld Cup Final.

Elsewhere, Michael McIntyre marked 2018 by selling the most tickets in O2 history, reaching 409,238 with his 28th headline show at the arena, while K-pop stars BTS, who played in October, smashed a merchandise sales record previously held by the Rolling Stones.

The 2m figure compares to nearly 1.2m tickets sold for events at the O2’s nearest rival, New York’s Madison Square Garden Arena, and 1.1m apiece for the Forum in California and WiZink Center in Madrid – the latter falling short of the third spot by fewer than a thousand tickets – according to Pollstar’s recently released top 200 arena venues chart.

“We’ve seen a huge amount of activity at the O2 this year”

The O2 is ranked 13th in Pollstar’s chart, with 765,860 tickets sold – far fewer than the two-plus million claimed by AEG. However, AEG no longer provides Pollstar with box-office figures following the magazine’s acquisition by rival outfit Oak View Group in July 2017, and its own numbers tally more closely with 2017, when the O2’s ticket sales were over 1.4m, according to that year’s Pollstar chart.

Speaking just before Christmas, John Langford, newly appointed COO of AEG Europe, said: “We’ve seen a huge amount of activity at the O2 this year, with the opening of ICON Outlet, Oxygen Freejumping and not to mention the record-breaking content that’s kept over two million entertained.

“I’d like to thank each and every person at the O2 and I’m confident that Steve Sayer will oversee another incredible year when he takes over as VP and general manager in 2019.”

The O2, which opened in 2007, has been the world’s top arena for ticket sales since 2008.


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Top 10 tours of 2018 all gross over $100m in record year

The ten biggest touring artists of 2018 brought in a collective US$2bn+, with all grossing more US$100 million each, in a year packed with “remarkable box-office feats”, according to Pollstar’s traditional end-of-year ticket sales chart.

As at mid-year and in Q3, and on the back of a raft of near-instant sell-outs for the 12th leg of his unstoppable ÷ tour, Ed Sheeran was by far the biggest tour of the year, jumping from the eighth spot in 2017 to claim No 1 in 2018. With a gross of $432.4m from 94 shows, the Sheeran tour is the highest gross ever recorded for an artist in a single year, according to the top 100 worldwide tours chart.

According to Pollstar, the ÷ tour is the first to top $400m, and one of only two to gross more than $300m, in a single year  – after U2 in 2017.

Taylor Swift, whose Reputation stadium tour recently became the highest-grossing in US history, is second, taking $345.1m from fewer dates, but with a higher average ticket price and higher gross per show.

Rounding out the top ten, with tour grosses in US$, are:

Live Nation was the top-selling promoter to the tune of nearly 40 million tickets – 49.6m compared to AEG Presents’ 11.6m – with AEG-owned Messina Touring Group third with 5.3m.

In total, the top 100 worldwide tours grossed $5.6bn, with 59.8m tickets sold.

According to PwC figures, the value of of the global live music business is set to continue growing through the rest of the decade and the start of the next, reaching $30bn by 2022.


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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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Bridging the Divide: Sheeran on top again in Q3

As expected, the touring juggernaut that is Ed Sheeran’s ÷ (Divide) continues to be the preeminent tour of 2018, having shifted more than 4.3 million tickets since the start of the year.

That’s according to Pollstar’s third-quarter top 100 tours chart, which sees Sheeran having sold nearly 2m more tickets than his nearest rival, Taylor Swift (Reputation), and close to 2.5m more than third-placed Beyoncé and Jay-Z (OTR II).

Sheeran, who was similarly on top in Q2, smashed several records across Europe last week after going on sale 12th leg of the ÷ tour, which will see him play a run of European festivals, parks, stadia and other open-air venues from May to August 2019.

“We are selling out everywhere and it’s only the beginning”

“We are humbled by the continuing success of the tour,” Sheeran’s manager, Stuart Camp, tells Pollstar. “We always set out to get to play to as many people – in as many parts of the world – that wanted to see us. The run has been a testament to Ed’s broad appeal and the hard work of all our partners worldwide – be it the promoters, labels and, of course, our touring crew who are second to none.”

Louis Messina, CEO of Sheeran’s North American promoter, Messina Touring Group, adds: “Ed just amazes me night after night. For me seeing him grow into one of the biggest stars in the world is heartwarming.

“We are selling out everywhere and it’s only the beginning. I’m honoured to work for Ed.”


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Ed Sheeran tops worldwide ticket sales list

In case there had been any doubt, the latest Pollstar mid-year Top 100 Tours chart has proven once again that the world just can’t seem to get enough of British-born singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran. With well over twice the ticket sales of runner-up Disney on Ice, Sheeran has topped the list with his ÷ tour (pronounced ‘divide’).

This year’s performance is an improvement on an already impressive 2017 effort from Sheeran. Last year saw him place seventh on the same list with some 1,408,681 tickets sold worldwide. With only half of 2018 completed, he has already nearly doubled this figure, selling a total of 2,624,148 tickets and counting, bolstered by record-breaking runs in Australasia and the UK.

Those 2,624,148 tickets translate into profits of $213.9 million gross for Sheeran, nearly twice as much as the next highest grossing Bruno Mars tour. According to Pollstar Boxoffice reports, this is the largest ever profit recorded on the mid-year chart. It represents a 40% increase over last year, leaving top spot winners Guns N’ Roses way behind.

With only half of 2018 completed, he has already nearly doubled this figure, selling a total of 2,624,148 tickets and counting

The ÷ tour officially kicked off in Turin in March 2017 with a 32-date European leg around the continent. Following Europe, Sheeran took the show to Latin America, North America, Asia, Australasia and then back to Europe again. Before the final show in Cape Town in March 2019, 210 shows in and some two years after the tour began, he will be visiting North America again.

Since its beginning, the tour has broken numerous records around the world. In Ireland, more than 300,000 tickets were sold in a single day, making Sheeran the first artist to sell that many tickets so quickly in the country. Across the world in Australasia, the ÷ tour broke the official record for the most tickets ever sold, with over one million.

Sheeran and runner-up Disney on Ice were the clear winners of the mid-year round up, as the only tours that have so far managed to break into the millions. Filling out the rest of the top five are Bruno Mars with 739,575 tickets sold, Pink with 691,953 and Kenny Chesney with 669,646.

Photo: © Drew de Fawkes / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)


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