Live Nation, the world's largest promoter, will announce today that it is bringing back the $20 "Kickoff To Summer" ticket promotion that helped the firm hit record numbers at its amphitheaters in 2015, despite tough competition from stadium shows and festivals.
Artists from Alabama Shakes to ZZ Top will take part in the promotion (see full list below), which includes both Live Nation-promoted tours and shows booked on a regional and local basis by the territorial promoter in each market.
Bob Roux, co-president of North American Concerts for Live Nation, tells Billboard that the amphitheater season is off to a "terrific start" after a record year in 2015 that saw more than 14 million tickets sold to LN amphitheater shows. "We have already sold more tickets for our 2016 amphitheater shows than we did at this point in time last year," Roux says.
There are now 52 amphitheaters in the Live Nation system, comprised of eight owned, 27 leased, seven with operating agreements, and 10 with exclusive booking rights. Each of these sheds will participate with as many as 1,000 $20 tickets per show, with the number of tickets offered for each show varying based on capacities. The vast majority of $20 tickets are for GA lawn seating.
Given the negativity surrounding the massive discounting during an industry-wide slump in 2009-2010 (prior to Roux and Concerts co-president Mark Campana taking the helm of the division in November, 2010), Live Nation is careful of how it represents the $20 ticket promo, and the word "discount" is not used in the release announcing the program. With a string of robust amphitheater seasons put together even in the face of stiff competition from festivals and concerts in venues other than amphitheaters, Roux says the $20 program is more about getting fans motivated to purchase tickets early.
"This day and age, shows are going on sale earlier and are on sale longer, and this promotion is a good way to re-introduce our 2016 summer season to our artists' fans," Roux says, also noting the diversity of the lineup, which Roux says, "has something to offer every music fan this summer."
Roux says the same program saw "a ton of success" in 2015 and even spurred sales of higher-priced tickets, with full-priced reserved seat sales. "Our conclusion was the marketing surrounding the promotion significantly increased the overall awareness and excitement for all of our shows," Roux says. "As such, our overall ticket sales picked up dramatically, both during the week of the promotion and also for the weeks following the promotion."
The bulk of today's amphitheaters were built by promoters like PACE Concerts and Cellar Door in the pre-consolidation days of the 1980s and 1990s as these promoters sought to mitigate risk by capturing ancillary revenues from parking, concessions and sponsorships. By the new millennium, much of the bloom was off the amphitheater rose, and sheds battled perception issues from artists, fans, and the industry at large. In a remarkable turnaround, today it seems these venues have managed to carve out and maintain their place in the summer music culture even as fans flock to festivals and stadium shows across the country.
Roux says live music fans simply enjoy the amphitheater environment, and huge investments by Live Nation in these venues seeking to improve amenities have played a role. "We have upgraded our video, offered a wider and more health-conscious culinary selection, added local and craft beers, expanded our menus for our patrons who prefer wine, and continue to upgrade our venues," Roux says. "We intend to install wi-fi in 20 of our amphitheaters this year."
Amphitheater concerts, with their expansive GA lawns and focus on packaging, also represent value when festival tickets and reserved-seat arena shows routinely sit in the $100-$300 range. "In many cases, our customers are able to attend more shows in a given year because the average price point in the amphitheaters is below that in other venues," Roux explains. "The combination of lower operating costs and larger capacities allow for a lower average ticket price, while still maintaining appropriate artist earnings."
Of course, the success of any venue depends on the artists booked, and Live Nation has managed to cut deals with hundreds of popular artist to roll through the amphitheaters. Given their ability to generate revenue from ancillaries, amphitheaters can pay artists more than the traditional 85 percent of gross ticket sales. Overall, Roux says Live Nation will likely spend more on talent in 2016 than last year due to increased show volume, a "significantly" higher number of stadium shows from such acts as Beyonce, Coldplay, and Guns 'N Roses, and higher number of stadium shows this year, and an expansion of its festival portfolio.
Live Nation's concert division increased revenue last year by $238 million, 5 percent, and overall revenue by nearly $500 million, or 11 percent, primarily due to more shows in North American arenas and amphitheaters, growth in Asian and Australia, and incremental revenue of $203.3 million from promoter and festival acquisitions like Bonnaroo in Manchester, Tenn., and C3 Presents (Lollapalooza, ACL Fest). The company says these increases were partially offset by fewer stadium shows in North America after a record year in these largest of venues in 2014.
Also in 2015, LN's sponsorship and advertising business churned $334 million, 4.6 percent of the company's total revenue. The firm says that more than 70 percent of its expected sponsorship and advertising inventory for the year has now been sold, and another year of double-digit growth is expected in that sector.
Artists featured in $20 Kickoff to Summer:
5 Seconds of Summer
Boyz II Men
Cage the Elephant
Counting Crows / Rob Thomas
Dark Star Orchestra
Daryl Hall & John Oates
Dashboard Confessional / Taking Back Sunday
Death Cab for Cutie
Def Leppard / REO Speedwagon / Tesla
Demi Lovato / Nick Jonas
Disturbed / Breaking Benjamin
Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros
Flight of the Conchords
Florence & the Machine
G-EAZY / Logic
George Thorogood & The Destroyers
Goo Goo Dolls / Collective Soul
Gregg Allman Band
Gwen Stefani / EVE
Heart / Joan Jett & The Blackhearts / Cheap Trick
Ice-T Art of Rap
Jerry Garcia Symphonic Celebration
Joe Walsh / Bad Company
Journey / The Doobie Brothers
Kidz Bop Kids
Kool & The Gang
KORN / Rob Zombie
Laid Back Festival
Lost Highway Festival
Monsters of Freestyle
My Morning Jacket
New Kids On The Block
O.A.R. (...of a revolution.)
Of Monsters and Men
San Francisco Symphony
Shinedown / Halestorm
Slipknot / Marilyn Manson
Snoop Dogg / Wiz Khalifa
Steve Miller Band
Sublime with Rome
Tedeschi Trucks Band
The Band Perry
The Beach Boys
The Head and The Heart
The Rockstar Taste Of Chaos Tour
The String Cheese Incident
Weird Al Yankovic
Zac Brown Band