At the end of 2017, live-industry trade-media platform Pollstar calculated that the 100 biggest concert tours that year collectively grossed $5.65bn in revenue, up 15.8% from the comparable figure in 2016. Those 100 tours alone sold nearly 67 million tickets, led by U2, whose live revival of their 1987 album The Joshua Tree grossed $316m in 2017 while selling just over 2.7 million tickets. Pollstar also said that 11 tours generated more than $100m worldwide that year, compared to seven in 2016.

Live music opportunities are on the rise

This growth is one reason why the live-music market is spurring some bullish predictions for the future. Consultancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers has predicted that live revenue from ticket sales and sponsorships will reach $28.9bn by 2021, while an IFPI and Goldman Sachs study suggests it will grow to $38.3bn by 2030.

Ray Waddell, president, conferences and publications, of Pollstar parent company Oak View Group, is in no doubt that these are heady days for the live-music market.

Never before have the opportunities for an artist to establish a global career with a healthy touring component been more robust,” Waddell said.

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Live Nation outperformed its own forecasts in the first quarter of 2018, with its revenues up by 19% year-on-year, and more than 50 million tickets sold globally for 2018 shows so far.

“We continue to benefit from a global concerts industry that is structurally growing, with strong tailwinds for both supply and demand,” president and CEO Michael Rapino told investors as Live Nation published its quarterly financial results. “The concerts segment continues to be the engine that powers the Live Nation flywheel strategy, growing the profitability of the concerts business while also driving our sponsorship and ticketing businesses.”

New technologies are revolutionizing the live experience

While plenty of column inches have been dedicated to the impact new technologies  have been having on recorded music — from streaming to blockchain — tech is also a prominent factor in the live sector’s evolution in 2018.

“For me the most interesting trend is how technology continues to permeate live music and, instead of diluting the fan experience as some had feared, instead augments live performance and ultimately helps develop more artists’ careers and sell more tickets,” Waddell said.

“This is true across every aspect of the live music industry, including ticketing, branding and sponsorships, security, production, marketing and promotion, concessions, fan engagement and the in-venue experience. Clearly the music world has much to learn from the sports world in terms of tapping into and maximising the passion of fans around live events, and the reverse is also true,” Waddell said. “On the other hand, the music industry leads the way in connecting fans with their favourite artists and engaging those fans on multiple levels before, during, and after the concert.”

One technology that has been discussed a lot is Ticketmaster’s Verified Fan initiative, which aims to ensure tickets get into the hands of genuine fans rather than touts.

“We’ve got a bunch of artists using it again this year. We think it’s part of an ongoing evolution of artists taking control of delivering tickets at their price,” Rapino told analysts in May 2018. “Artists are always the great brand manager trying to find that sweet spot between monetising the show, as well as staying true to what the brand position is on pricing.”

Some of the technologies around these markets — virtual reality, for example — apply across both music and sports, even if it is early days for their application. Waddell said that there are plenty of lessons to share.

“Both music and sports are very concerned about security issues and managing the secondary market,” he added. “And both are caught up in a whirlwind of positive disruption as smart venues and developing technologies completely revolutionise the live experience.”

“We are in an era where live drives the music industry train as both a revenue-producer and a platform for artists’ engagement with fans,” Waddell said. “So those outside the live business who aren’t paying attention to what is happening with touring artists and live careers are pretty much missing the boat.”


Midem and Pollstar continue partnership in 2019, following the success of the first Live Summit launched at Midem 2018. Don’t miss this year’s Live Summit!

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