Multiple published reports that the upcoming Jay-Z/Beyonce co-headlining stadium tour — set to begin in Miami on June 25 and wrap in San Francisco Aug. 5 — is struggling, or that ticket sales are “dismal,” are inaccurate, Billboard has learned.
Sources close to the Live Nation-produced tour tell Billboard that, as of June 17, the tour has racked up about $86 million in ticket sales and is on a pace to gross close to $100 million from just 19 shows. The source says attendance is on a pace to top 850,000 tickets sold, and a Live Nation rep confirmed to Billboard last night that the tour is indeed nearing that threshold. That’s a whopping nightly take of $5.2 million, and an average attendance of nearly 45,000 per show — well more than two sold-out arena shows would generate in any given market. Numerous shows are sold out, and Live Nation cites “unprecedented” VIP and platinum ticket sales.
Two days later, Live Nation offered this statement to Billboard: “The On The Run Tour opens next Wednesday in Miami’s Sun Life Stadium to over 48,000 fans, then rolls to Cincinnati to a sellout crowd of more than 37,000 fans, and on July 1st more than 50,000 fans will pack Boston’s Gillette Stadium. With sellout nights across North America, these first three shows are indicative of the strong demand. Overall, the tour has sold well over 750,000 tickets, grossing more than $90 million, and has unprecedented VIP and Platinum ticket sales.”
Those types of numbers would make On The Run one of the most successful tours of the year, with quite possibly the highest per-show average in terms of gross and attendance of any tour on the road this year. That is not unexpected; while both Beyonce and Jay-Z toured extensively in 2013, their audiences do not completely overlap, and their profile as music’s “power couple” gives the pairing the type of “event” status coveted in the live music industry.
It is true that a fair amount of tickets are still available for sale in some cities on both the primary and secondary markets. Regarding the latter, to pass judgment on the success of any tour by the number of tickets available on the secondary market is misguided. Those tickets have already been sold, at least once. Ticket resellers are, for the most part, speculators; they buy tickets at on-sale, speculating that they will be able to re-sell them at a higher price. Sometimes they win big, and sometimes they lose. Quite often, resellers purchase more tickets than demand dictates, and in many cases these tickets are priced higher than the market will bear. In such a situation, re-sellers adjust pricing or take a hit, and that’s when fans with patience can find deals as re-sellers slash prices in an attempt to cut their losses. In the end, supply and demand rules the day, as it does in most businesses.
As to primary sales, if these numbers revealed do play out, it would appear that On The Run could still come up short of an across-the-board sellout, as some of the venues on the route have capacities of as much as 60,000, depending on configurations and production kills. While a significant amount of tickets are currently available on the primary market a week before the tour begins, that is not out of line with market tendencies trending toward fans purchasing closer to the show, and walk-up will likely be strong as promoters promote, anticipation builds, and on-the-fence buyers figure out tickets are available. And, if early reviews are positive and the show lives up to its “must see” potential, that also shows up at the box office.
Even if OTR finishes at 90% capacity (which seems reasonable at this point), that would be considered a huge success, given the healthy ticket prices and the large number of tickets on the market. Complete stadium tours are rare these days in North America, not only because of the inherent production expenses involved, but also because of the huge demand necessary to pull them through. More often, superstars opt to route arenas or amphitheaters and then add on shows if the market dictates, or, increasingly for top acts, book stadium shows in only the best markets. Most likely, Jay-Z and Beyonce opted to go for stadiums on their first tour together not only because of perceived demand, but also because tapping into that demand at stadiums required less of a time commitment than would multiple shows in arenas or amphitheaters. Not only have both Bey and Jay already been touring hard for more than a year, but for stars of this stature, with diverse interests, causes and businesses, time is their most valuable asset.
Had both Beyonce and Jay-Z been 100% “clean” in the marketplace — meaning neither had been through these markets separately in the previous 18 months — the tour might indeed have sold out immediately, in every market. But that’s hindsight, and certainly not a given; Jay-Z and Beyonce together is a different animal, with different economics and perception in the marketplace from what these artists are separately. And, despite what would seem an obvious mass appeal, these two together was still an unknown entity. That’s why concert promotion is a risky business by its very nature. Though in this case it appears as though the risk/reward quotient will play out positively. The end results will show up in the Boxscore charts — and whether they opt to do it again.