In today's first quarter earnings statement, Live Nation Entertainment, the world's largest concert promoter, management company, and ticketing company in its Ticketmaster division, reported year-over-year revenue up 22% for Q1 to $1.1 billion, and an increase in adjusted operating income (AOI) up a whopping 56% to $83 million, with operating income improving 63%. The report beats most Wall Street analysts' predictions.
In a statement, Live Nation says each of its businesses contributed to this growth, with all four segments—concerts, management, ticketing and sponsorships—delivering revenue and AOI growth for the quarter.
Free cash flow, one of the more important metrics for investors, improved a whopping 138% to $34 million for Q1 over the same period last year.
Concert attendance, in what is traditionally one of the lightest touring periods of the year, was up 11% in the first quarter, delivering revenue of $663 million in the first quarter of 2014, up 29% over the same period in 2013. Given the weather in Q1, that period's concert business was primiarly delivered by events at arenas not owned by Live Nation, driving improvements in AOI of 80% and in operating income of 15%. In total, Live Nation promoted over 4,800 events with more than 9 million attendees in the first quarter.
Boding well for the summer concert season, ticket sales for all 2014 Live Nation events are up 5% through May 2, year-over-year, providing a 14% increase in deferred revenue through March as compared to last year. Live Nation expects to promote over 80% of the top 25 tours globally in 2014. The company says it grew concert attendance by 10 million fans last year to a total of 60 million, up 19%.
Live Nation is also touting its festival division which, with 63 fests in its portfolio drawing five million fans, makes it the largest festival producer in the world. They expect to grow festival attendance by 10% this year, led by a strong presence in EDM and a growing country music festival business.
Artist Nation, Live Nation's management division, churned out revenue of $73 million in Q1, up 44% over last year, which they say was largely driven by "higher management commissions." Artist Nation acts are playing more shows for Live Nation, as the company expects to promote about 30% more shows for "major" Artist Nation artists this year, which it says is "a strong indicator that our strategy is succeeding, and that this division is now contributing real growth to the company."
The company says that 16% of all its tickets are now sold via smart phones, up 33% from Q1 2013. Another area of focus that is seeing positive results is in the secondary ticketing market, where Ticketmaster's resale volume increased by 40% in April. Ticketmaster has maintained it's 100% net renewal rate so far in 2014. In a fiercely competitive environment, Ticketmaster revenue was $355 million for the first quarter, an increase of 9% over last year. The number of primary tickets sold this quarter grew by 3% over last year, with a 17% increase in AOI and a 42% improvement in operating income.
Live Nation's sponsorship division also performed well in Q1, highlighted by the announcement last month of the Live Nation Channel for live streaming in a partnership with Yahoo! Live Nation's sponsorship and advertising business for the first quarter of this year saw revenue of $45 million, up 13% over last year, with increases in both sponsorships and online advertising globally.
Live Nation, the live music industry's only public company, appears to be on a roll, reporting the best numbers in its history last year. For 2013, revenue was up 11% to $6.5 billion, AOI was up 10% to $505 million, and free cash flow was up 9% to $300 million. LNE is currently on a pace to top all of those numbers, as Q1 results show.
"Given our momentum coming out of 2013, our strong early success with the first quarter and solid leading indicators for the year, I am confident that in 2014 we will deliver our fourth consecutive year of revenue, AOI and free cash flow growth; grow the profitability of each of our businesses; stay on track to deliver our 2015 financial plans; and operationally continue to invest in and build all of our businesses to drive continued growth," said Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino in a statement.