The Ledger is a weekly newsletter about the economics of the music business sent to Billboard Pro subscribers. An abbreviated version of the newsletter is published online.
Strong demand for live music is not a surprise given fans’ time away from concerts in 2020 and 2021. But it’s not straightforward, either. Fans are dealing with inflation and high gas and airfare costs. Companies face staffing shortages and higher costs. Artists are flooding markets’ venues seeking to recapture lost business. Still, judging from some companies’ statements around their latest quarterly results, indications point to an exceptional second half of the year.
Live Nation’s second quarter earnings showed a company is primed for a record year. Live Nation sold more than 100 million tickets to its concerts this year — more than calendar year 2019 — and its 2023 artist pipeline is the biggest ever at the mid-year point. “Fan demand remains strong, with continued growth in ticket buying and on-site spending,” said CEO Michael Rapino during an Aug. 4 earnings call.
Other executives’ comments suggest Live Nation is not alone in anticipating a strong second half to the calendar year and beyond.
“There’s a lot of demand for live events,” said Lanny Baker, CFO for ticketing platform Eventbrite, during the company’s July 28 earnings call. For Eventbrite, live events mean not just concerts and music festivals but museum events, conferences, beer festivals, fairs and any other public events that require tickets. That means it has broad insight into the public’s appetite for out-of-home entertainment. In the second quarter, Eventbrite saw a 58% increase in search volume and 37% increase in paid tickets. Over 10 million unique buyers attended paid events in the second quarter — the highest level of consumer activity on the platform in two years, said CEO Julia Hartz.
Eventbrite believes the trends in the first half of the year mean it will have a strong third quarter. “The consistent recovery in paid tickets since the Omicron-related slowdown at the start of the year has been especially encouraging,” said Hartz. The company’s guidance is third-quarter revenue from $65 million to $68 million — equal to 25% year-over-year revenue growth at the midpoint of the range.
Online ticket marketplace Vivid Seats also has big expectations. After a strong first half of 2022, Vivid Seats raised the range of full-year 2022 guidance for three metrics: marketplace gross order value increased to $2.95 billion to $3.15 billion (from $2.8 billion to $3.05 billion); revenues to $540 million to $570 million (from $520 million to $555 million); and adjusted EBITDA up slightly to $110 million to $117 million (from $110 million to $115 million). “We believe this speaks to the underlying strength in the industry from pent-up consumer demand for live events and our ability to appeal to more consumers with our differentiated platform,” said CEO Stan Chia during an Aug. 9 earnings call. In other words, Vivid Seats believes it has built the right product to benefit from strong market forces.
MSG Entertainment is returning to normalcy after COVID-19 restrictions slashed revenues in 2020 and 2021. David Byrnes, MSG Entertainment’s executive vp and CFO, said on Friday (Aug. 19) that the company is “on track to host a record number of concerts in our first quarter” ending Sept. 30 — including Harry Styles’ 15-night residency at Madison Square Garden that starts Saturday. MSG-owned Tao Group Hospitality has seen its average check size exceed “pre-pandemic levels by double digits in the quarter,” Byrnes said. Looking forward, sponsorship revenue in fiscal 2023 (July 2022 to June 2023) will surpass pre-pandemic levels in fiscal 2019.
Inflation, high gas prices, staffing issues and other rough economic conditions continue to hang over the live events industry, of course. But Vivid Seats CFO Larry Fey is optimistic. “Looking forward, we believe the live event industry with its long-term tailwind, may be somewhat insulated in a recession compared to other consumer discretionary categories,” he said. Fey admitted Vivid Seats is “not immune to the potential effects of a recession” but said he believes it will see “continued strength of the live events category through the quarter” — even in a tough macroeconomic environment.
Through Aug. 19, the % change over the last week, and the year-to-date change.
Universal Music Group (AS: UMG): 20.84 euros, -2.8%, -15.9% YTD
Spotify (NYSE: SPOT): $111.43, -9.9%, -52.4% YTD
SiriusXM (Nasdaq: SIRI): $6.40, -5.6%, +0.8% YTD
Live Nation (NYSE: LYV): $94.28, -3.7%, -21.2% YTD
Warner Music Group (Nasdaq: WMG): $28.33, -6.5%, -34.4% YTD
HYBE (KS 352820): KRW 186,500, +1.9%, -46.6% YTD
Tencent Music Entertainment (NYSE: TME): $4.46, +1.1%, -34.9% YTD
Cloud Music (HKE: 9899): HKD 70.20, +1.2%, -55.3% YTD
Anghami (Nasdaq: ANGH): $3.12, +7.2%, -69.3% YTD
NYSE Composite: 15,588.32, -1.4%, -9.2% YTD
Nasdaq: 12,705.22, -2.6%, -18.8% YTD
S&P 500: 4,228.48, -1.2%, -11.3% YTD