How big is Live Nation? With 2016 ticket sales projected upward of 70 million, the Beverly Hills-based live-entertainment leader will serve more fans than the NBA, NHL and NFL combined, and the final tally is within striking distance of Major League Baseball's 73.6 million attendees. "They actually had the highest," says Michael Rapino. "But we like to say we're officially a league of our own now."
Live Nation claimed 15 of Billboard's top 25 tours of 2016 in North America -- four more than in 2015 -- with Beyoncé coming in at No. 1 (total gross: $256 million for 49 shows), Bruce Springsteen at No. 2 ($255 million for 73 shows) and Coldplay at No. 3 ($247 million for 59 shows). The company averages 70 shows a day across 41 countries and remains the leading revenue engine for artists. "We will spend annually, on those 26,000 shows -- guarantees, marketing and putting those shows on -- over $4 billion," says Rapino. "I assume we would be number one in terms of checks written directly to artists by a long shot."
That's one reason why the married father of three looks outside the music business for growth models. "The concert industry lags dramatically behind the great hospitality businesses out there, whether they're theme parks or hotels or sporting events," he says. Rapino envies the courtside seats, skyboxes and governor's lounges of sporting events (upsells that are not features of amphitheaters) and talks frequently about "superserving" ticket buyers. "We're seeing fans want to have a better selection of booze. They want better food. So we're continually upgrading the experience."
Through its Ticketmaster operation, Live Nation offers ticket holders upgrades to better seats (like an airline), and high-end experience was a key driver in Live Nation adding a majority stake in Napa Valley's music, food and wine festival BottleRock to its growing portfolio of fests (along with New York's Governors Ball).
"BottleRock has these incredible VIP cabins where a chef is preparing sushi for you in your cabin or lounge decorated by Restoration Hardware," he says. "We think there's absolutely more opportunity to have higher-end festival experiences that are appealing to the 30-plus crowd."