Live and on fire in 2013, the touring business is hottest it has been in years.
With a $3 billion annual talent budget, the touring business depends on a healthy Live Nation, the industry's only public company, which posted record earnings in 2013.
Among the tours and concerts that Live Nation promoted in 2013 were Justin Timberlake/Jay Z, P!nk, Beyoncé, Rihanna, One Direction, Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean, Tim McGraw, Swedish House Mafia, Bruno Mars, Maroon 5, Roger Waters, Kid Rock, Mumford & Sons, Fleetwood Mac, the Eagles and Imagine Dragons.
Live Nation also increased its presence in the EDM festival space, with record attendance at Electric Daisy Carnival, HARD, Paridiso and Digital Dreams, "and we also had record attendance in our festival, amphitheater, arena, and clubs and theater divisions," Live Nation Entertainment CEO Michael Rapino says.
"On a global basis, live music is exploding," Rapino said at the sold-out Billboard Touring Conference (yet another positive indicator). "Artists are pricing better, there is great fan demand, [and] it's the best place to spend two hours for the price. We're seeing a great supply of artists filling the venues, [and] when you add globalization to that, we think that the live business is booming and has a long growth period ahead of it."
AEG Live, the second-largest promoter, put up record numbers in 2013, as predicted by former CEO Randy Phillips a year ago. With tours by such acts as Bon Jovi, the Rolling Stones, Taylor Swift, Kenny Chesney and George Strait (the latter three with the Messina Group), along with a busy global network of regional offices, AEG Live reported grosses of more than $1 billion for the first time in its history, up a staggering 97% from 2012. AEG Live’s Goldenvoice division also produced the Coachella and Stagecoach festivals in Indio, Calif., with the former producing the highest boxscore in history at $67.2 million.
The boom times extend to independent pro- moters like Phoenix-based Danny Zelisko, who says his Danny Zelisko Presents promoted more than 150 shows this year primarily in Phoenix, Las Vegas and Albuquerque, N.M.
"The top acts that toured in 2013 did better than ever before. The public's thirst for their favorite stars seems to be unquenchable," Zelisko says. “Very few empty seats is music to my ears."
Austin-based C3 Presents' reported boxscores increased by more than 57% in 2013, with involvement in more than 800 shows that generated $124.3 million in box office. C3 remains a force in the booming festival business, with Lollapalooza in Chicago selling out in advance and the Austin City Limits Music Festival success- fully expanding to two weekends. "The festival business was stronger than ever this year," C3 partner Charlie Walker says, "and in talking to our peers, it seemed like that was true for most of the promoters."
|2013: The Year in Music|
THE YEAR IN MUSIC 2013: Main
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YEAR-END 2013 CHARTS:
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That seems to be true in San Francisco, where Another Planet Entertainment enjoyed "our best year ever," according to Gregg Perloff, president of APE, co-producer of the Outside Lands festival with Superfly Presents. "We took on a new festival, Life Is Beautiful in Las Vegas. The Fox Theatre in Oakland [Calif.] continues to be the hottest venue I've ever been involved in. We were up in Tahoe, we were up at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley—sales were very strong. It was a spectacular year. I've got no complaints."
APE, which Perloff says presented about 700 shows in 2013, thrives on diversity, presenting acts ranging from Placido Domingo to a five-night run by Swedish House Mafia that sold 42,000 tickets at the 8,500-capacity Bill Graham Civic Center in San Francisco. "I'm in the middle of a market that's on fire with the tech industries. We have a very young and active audience that has disposable income," he says. "I wish I could tell you it's all of us, but we're very fortunate we do business here."
BOOM TIMES CONTINUE
One would be hard-pressed to find a year where so much optimism prevails for the coming year. "Next year will continue the same run," Light says. "The packages will continue to be really smart, the whole marketing of tours is smart — although it's happening much further in advance. When I look at everything we've got on the road, international is going to be bigger than ever. The major tours are going to be enormous. I feel really good about next year. I don't think this was a blip. I believe we —the business— really got it right this year on so many levels, and we're going to continue. I'm very, very bullish."
If there's a potential speed bump, it's a familiar one. "The only pitfall I see is when, as an industry, we get greedy, start to push the ticket pricing, stop pack- aging, oversaturate markets, push artists too fast in their growth process," Light says. "But as an industry, we're just much more aware of how we put tickets out there. Generationally, where we are now, I don't see people making the mistakes of the past."
Perloff does see one area where the business is potentially breaking bad. "Some producers are putting shows on sale way too early," he ays. "It's good to get up and on sale, but when you're 180 days away from a date, they're hurting acts and the business. There's an appropriate length of time when you should go on sale. When the greed factor takes over and you just want to bank money, that's a mistake. This is people's hard-earned money—why should you be holding their money for 180 days on just a regular show?"
Not only do some shows that go up months in advance lose their sense of urgency, Perloff believes that when fans buy way out, they might not be able to afford a ticket to a show that's happen- ing sooner. "As an industry, if you really want to do the right thing for an artist, you've got to be careful about when you put a show on sale," he says.
But, in general, Light feels the industry will continue to "grow upon what we're learning," he says. "If there's one thing that will be interesting over the next year or two years, it is how labels approach the whole process of putting out records, because I'm just not sure that a 12-song CD is critical anymore to the process. That will be the most interesting thing for me to watch: how artists release music as it relates to their touring, and how we both use it to promote tours and how we use tours to promote album releases."
Today, touring is "the gold mine of the music business. That is what this is," Arfa says. "It's a great time to be a successful live act."