Live Nation reported a net loss of $124 million on revenue of $1.24 billion in the fourth quarter of 2010, the company revealed on Monday afternoon. Its full-year net loss was $228 million on revenue of $5.06 billion.
During the earnings call Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino made a case for an improved year ahead. He said believes concert attendance bottomed out in 2010 and will improve in 2011. "As the economy recovers, we expect the industry to rebound," he said.
The early numbers point to an improvement, or at least a successful early push. Total concert tickets sold to date in 2011 are 11 million, up from 8.8 million at the same point in 2010. Year to date, 6.1 million tickets have been sold in North America, up from 4.3 million last year. North American amphitheater sales stand at 274,000 versus 329,000 last year.
But with the economy still weak and unsold inventory a worry, Live Nation is offering some amphitheater tickets at lower prices. During the call, Rapino disclosed that this year the average price paid for an amphitheater lawn ticket is $22.26, down from $28 at this time last year. These lower prices should drive attendance and let the company avoid discounting at a later date, he said. Average amphitheater prices are down to $37.41 from $42.67 last year.
Not all artists are going to slash prices. Top-tier artists still demand high guarantees and, thus high ticket prices. But below that top tier of artists, Rapino said, "the mid-tier artists are taking into account what happened in 2010 and are working with us to drive ticket sales by packaging with other artists, launching on-sales earlier, playing less overall risky markets and scaling the house to reduce the back end for lower entry costs."
Another factor in a rebound would be the number of acts on the road this year. Touring artists mentioned during the call include U2, Lady Gaga, Kenny Chesney, the Eagles, Neil Diamond, Journey, "Glee," Kid Rock, Kings of Leon, Sugarland and Jimmy Buffett.
Many of those acts are part of the Live Nation family. The company said that it expects over 75% of Front Line-managed acts to be actively touring in 2011, an improvement from the less than 50% of its acts that actively toured last year, said chairman Irving Azoff in a pre-recorded introduction. Front Line finished 2010 with more than 250 artists on its roster and more than 90 executive managers.
Since Live Nation and Ticketmaster merged in the first quarter of 2010, year-over-year comparisons require the combination of the separate companies' results. The merged company's revenue fell 2% in the fourth quarter and 9.3% for the full year. In the two quarters since the merger, Live Nation has posted net income of $51.4 million (for the quarter ended Sept. 30) and a net loss of $32.8 million (for the quarter ended June 30).
On the promotion side of the business, total attendance was down 7.6% in the fourth quarter and down 9.4% for the full year. North American amphitheater attendance was down 6.8% and 6.2% in the fourth quarter and full year, respectively.
On the ticketing side of the business, total tickets sold dropped 1.4% to 33.88 million in the fourth quarter. Concerts, the biggest ticketing category by volume, fell 3.6% to 17.1 million. For the full year, total ticket sales were down 7.6%. Full-year concert tickets dropped 10.2% to 63.4 million.
Live Nation shares were up 0.47% on Monday to $10.63.