Backstage Pass: Midyear Touring Report - Global Boxscore Tallies Rise

The concert industry has been riding a huge wave of growth for the past four years, and stakeholders are bullish on the health of the business. And according to the Billboard Boxscore charts, business for top acts is solid.

For the midyear chart period, which includes concerts reported to Boxscore from Nov. 13, 2013 through June 10, 2014, global results are rising, even while North American numbers raise some concerns.

The number of shows reported to Boxscore are up from the same period last year, 14.7 percent worldwide and 7 percent in North America. Global touring grosses are up 6.3 percent, but global attendance is down 4.2 percent. That trend of grosses outpacing attendance boils down to higher ticket prices, and it's a telling return to a pattern last seen when business was in a slump more than four years ago.

In North America, the returns are less positive: The $1.2 billion total Boxscore gross is down 16 percent from a year ago, and the attendance of 17.2 million is down 23 percent, while the number of shows reported is up 7 percent. Again, the decline in attendance exceeds the decline in gross by a significant margin - not a healthy trend.

Among tours currently on the road, Justin Timberlake leads the way, with his dominating 20/20 Experience World Tour generating nearly $150 million in box office and 1.3 million in attendance. JT could quite possibly end up as the top tour of the year, though One Direction, which is currently playing North American stadiums, could rival him, having already reported $100 million and 1.2 million in attendance for the year. The Eagles, in the midst of their blockbuster History of the Eagles Tour that began in July 2013, have earned $70 million in box office since November, and the tour to date has grossed $145 million and counting, according to Boxscore. Headliners of tours, ongoing or completed, that round out the midyear top 10 are Beyoncé, Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band, George Strait, Depeche Mode, Paul McCartney, Bon Jovi and The Rolling Stones.

For all of this accounting, midyear Boxscore numbers can be a slippery barometer of the overall health of the touring industry. Many top tours have not tallied their numbers, other big tours are just getting underway, and many of the results come from 2013 shows reported after the cutoff for Billboard's year-end touring report.

Yet the less-than-robust North American numbers follow a record year for the concert industry in 2013. The industry has rebounded to unprecedented levels since 2010, largely driven by the growth of international touring, increased efficiency in digital marketing, prudent booking and, most important, a focus by the industry at large on improving the value proposition of the live experience - especially as ticket prices for some events edge upward.

From festivals to packaging to pricing, the industry has zeroed in on giving fans their money's worth, and that seems to hold true in what's out there in the summer marketplace. Higher ticket prices generally are attached to "event" tours, festivals and double-headliners. Festivals like Bonnaroo, for example, typically carry the highest prices in the business at around $200, but the cost per band is a fraction of seeing these bands on their own.

Rather than a downturn in the business then, midyear Boxscore results most likely reflect a cycle with fewer large-venue shows and higher traffic - the number of acts on tour. And, without exception, executives in the concert industry remain optimistic that live music will continue to be robust.

"I don't focus on [the numbers] as much as [the question], 'Is the live touring business healthy?' Yes," says Rob Light, managing partner of Creative Artists Agency. "I believe that people love going to shows more than ever, and I believe we are on a great path. I don't see it wavering."

Marc Geiger, head of music at William Morris Endeavor Entertainment, categorizes 2014 as a " 'steady Eddie' year, with modest growth. I can't find a bad story."

Bob Roux, co-president of North American concerts for Live Nation, the world's largest promoter, says, "We're in very good shape." Roux says Live Nation's amphitheaters are hosting more shows than a year ago, and average ticket volumes in the sheds are up "a few percentage points" from that time frame. "It feels very solid right now, with nearly zero disappointments and some overperformers."

And, while arena show counts are down slightly, Roux says that's offset by an increase in the number of stadium shows. Live Nation will promote about 70 stadium shows in 2014, "and every one ... is in profit and the vast majority are already sold out."

The focus on giving fans value for their money remains a priority. "I don't see a lot of stupid stuff being done," says Geiger.

Traffic is still an issue. "The numbers don't lie: Traffic is up," says Mark Siegel, co-head of music at ICM Partners. "The main reasons traffic is up are, one, acts want to keep working, because [touring] is their primary source of income. But also the labels are pushing acts to [tour more] to support new music."

When reviewing midyear engagement stats, one figure looms above all: The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival at the Empire Polo Field in Indio, Calif., for the second time, set a new Boxscore record at $78,332,000 with attendance of 579,000. Goldenvoice Presents produced Coachella, as well as the $18.6 million Stagecoach country festival.

The Tokyo Dome was the site of two top Boxscores: The Stones in February and March ($28 million) and McCartney last November ($23.5 million). Interestingly, the Stones' ticket range was $98-$782, while McCartney's was $55-$165.

Bottom line: There are few surprises in the list of the big successes at midyear. "The ones that are happening now are the ones that are supposed to happen," says Geiger. "You could have picked it when they made the deal."


THE BILLBOARD BIZ
SUBSCRIBER EXPERIENCE

The Biz premium subscriber content has moved to Billboard.com/business.


To simplify subscriber access, we have temporarily disabled the password requirement.