Live Nation’s boss forecasts another record year
Live Nation chief Michael Rapino says “all signs” are pointing towards another record year for the promoter, with ticket sales for its 2023 shows already surpassing 50 million – up 20% on the same period last year.
In 2022, the company’s revenue increased 44% on 2019 to $16.7 billion, while operating income rose 125% to $732 million. AOI was up 49% to in excess of $1.4bn. Attendance was also up 24% on the last pre-pandemic year, with 121m fans attending 43,600 events.
Speaking during yesterday’s (23 February) earning call, Rapino said four key leading indicators were pointing towards even greater success in 2023.
“First, our deferred revenue at the end of 2022 was $2.7 billion, up 125% from 2019 and up 18% from 2021, which benefited from a high volume of rescheduled shows,” he said. “Next, as of mid-February, ticket sales for our shows this year exceed 50 million fans, up 20% from this point last year, with international growth at 25%.
“Then, our global ticketing fee-bearing gross transaction value is up 33% to $9.8 billion through the same period. Finally, over 70% of our planned sponsorship activity for the year is confirmed, again up double-digits relative to this time last year.”
“We’re just seeing incredible strength right now across the board”
Q4 revenue was $4.3bn, up $2.7bn year-on-year, but LN posted an operating income loss of $120m for the quarter, compared to a loss of $124.5m 12 months earlier.
However, Rapino stressed that the firm was seeing “nothing but strong growth demand everywhere in the world right now”.
“We’re up right now with stadiums in Asia, South America, Eastern Europe, all of our festivals are outperforming last year around the world,” he said. “Our clubs and theatres are doing well. Our on-site spend in most of those clubs and theatres we see tracking in the right direction… We’re just seeing incredible strength right now across the board.”
Rapino explained that the post-Covid cost increases for the business were subsiding.
“When we sat here a year ago, we didn’t think we were going to be open in the summer,” he said. “We had no staff. We ran 100 miles an hour to get open for May, hire 20,000 staff, every tour, concert couldn’t find trust double cost for generators… Overpaying staff, suppliers, getting the show back together was tough last year.
“We still obviously delivered incredible numbers, but we’re now back to that 2019 level of staff in place, costs have all come down, suppliers are all back in line, generators are normal cost. So we do obviously expect 2023 to be in terms of a cost basis back to a continual normal business.”
“We’re pretty much the only product in the world that’s worth more the second it’s sold”
Ahead of Pollstar Live!’s Ticketing Real Talk panel earlier this week, Oak View president Tim Leiweke alluded to the US Senate’s investigation into the market, sparked by the controversy around the onsale for Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour.
“I think it is amazing to me that the politicians can take an issue like this and jump on it with such a lack of understanding about our business,” he said. “What they truly don’t get is that if you look at what the major issue we’re facing today with these big tours is demand, which is a wonderful thing that this many people want to go to your concerts, want to go to your venues, want to come join our industry to be a part of it.”
Live Nation has now launched the Fair Ticketing Act, which says that artists should decide resale rules; selling speculative tickets should be illegal; the scope of the BOTS Act needs to be expanded and enforced; and there needs to be industry-wide all-in pricing so fans see the full cost they are paying up front.
“We believe that greater transparency on the entire ticketing ecosystem will improve the industry, and we have been engaging with policymakers to advocate for reforms,” said Rapino. “The biggest challenge facing the industry is chaos at the onsale, where fans cannot get the tickets at the price the artist sets, yet they see pages of secondary sites with tickets five times’ face value because of scalpers.”
He added: “The US is probably about the only country in the world that doesn’t have some level of regulation. Most other countries walk up and said, “If the artist wants to charge $300 an underpriced product for the fan to get a cheaper ticket why would a middleman be able to make $1,000. It doesn’t seem logical, right?
“There’s a lot of pent-up artists who are underpricing their product every day. We’re pretty much the only product in the world that’s worth more the second it’s sold. I think they’ve done that for the betterment of their fanbase.
“If they’re going to charge under market, I believe that they should have a say in it… We think that the artist or the content owner will be able to have more control on how and when they want to sell their tickets, and I think that’s a big step forward.”
The company’s share price, which opened this morning at $75.18, had dipped more than 5% at press time.
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