Looking past boxscore downturn, live industry is bullish on state of the business
As a public company (the only one in the concert industry), Live Nation may not regularly submit its numbers to Boxscore but, on the other hand, the company can't distort them, either. If Live Nation says it had a good year, that has to be so, because, as Campana puts it, "All of our numbers are public." Campana, with co-president Bob Roux, led a shift two years ago in the company's business philosophy to decentralize to a degree, and rely more on input from local and regional market divisions on matters ranging from marketing to pricing.
He says that approach is coming to bear. "We stayed true to those very basic fundamentals: "Let's watch over the number of shows we're putting into the various markets, and let's make sure that we price them right,'" Campana says. "We had a good partnership in 2012 with the artist community on those two fronts. It's the fundamentals that are allowing us to enjoy a strong year." Along with a season that mixed the perennials with a strong midsection and wealth of newer acts, Live Nation also promoted all or the majority of dates on global mega-tours by Madonna, Lady Gaga, Roger Waters and Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band. Just as retail relies on the holiday season, the concert business needs a strong summer, and that's particularly true for Live Nation in North America, where it's by far the largest owner/operator of amphitheaters.
As of Sept. 30, show attendance for Live Nation-owned-and-operated sheds was up 15% over 2011, according to the company, and the number of shows was up 15% for the same period. "When you're doing a few more shows, and the shows you're doing are selling well [and] attendance is up, that's when you know you're winning," Campana says.
For its part, AEG reported grosses totaling $576.4 million (down from $797 million in 2011, a year driven by a Bon Jovi blockbuster tour). AEG reported attendance of 8 million (11 million in 2011) to its 2,121 shows (2,134 in 2011), and any decrease is based more on the cyclical nature of who's touring, Phillips says.
"One of the advantages we have in being private," Phillips says, "is in a year that you could almost call an off-cycle year, where there weren't that many triple A tours, we don't have to just buy tours for the sake of buying tours and market share. We stood down on a bunch of things." What AEG didn't stand down on were tours by Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw (with TMG Live), Enrique Iglesias/ Jennifer Lopez, Carrie Underwood and Justin Bieber. And AEG also did well on the festival front as a partner in the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and parent of Goldenvoice, producer of the Coachella and Stagecoach festivals.
"The festival, as a form of entertainment and a place for consumers to spend their disposable entertainment dollars, has become a preferred way to experience music," Phillips says. "The festival concept has really exploded, even more so than touring. A festival like Coachella, Bonnaroo, Glastonbury or Electric Daisy Carnival in the EDM space, these are probably the ultimate social-media communities." Walker of C3 Presents, producer of the Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits (ACL) festivals and now the largest indie promoter in the United States, says that both its promoter business and festivals experienced growth in 2012.
C3 reported nearly $80 million in grosses to Boxscore for 2012, up from $71 million in 2011. That sort of growth will continue as C3 expands its festival footprint in markets like Australia and South America.
"The world gets smaller every day, and there is a lot of opportunity outside of the United States," Walker says. "We want to be in the best locations we can be, not only in terms of the city, but also where the show is actually going to be. For people, including us, trying to put festivals in just any location, there's risk associated with that." In the States, other promoters also showed Boxscore growth, including Nederlander Concerts, Another Planet Entertainment, Jam Productions and Frank Productions.