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The Weeknd’s Canceled Arena Tour Is a $300M Bet on Stadiums

With The Weeknd’s planned retooling of this 2022 tour announced earlier this week, the pop star and promoter Live Nation will be on the hook to issue more than $100 million in refunds to ticket holders. But it could lead to a big payoff. As the new yet-to-be-revealed new dates move in an unprecedented unusual expansion from arenas to stadiums, The Weeknd’s promising of a “bigger” show is a gamble that could pay off with a $300 million prize instead.

The Weeknd’s global After Hours til Dawn tour was originally scheduled in 2020 (when it was just the After Hours tour) to hit 105 arena dates beginning June 2020, but was postponed due to the pandemic — first to 2021 then January 2022 and now to summer 2022. By giving fans back millions spent on tickets for a tour that’s been on sale for 18 months and rescheduled four times, The Weeknd and Live Nation are betting that most of the 1 million fans who already bought tickets to the tour will buy them again, and that demand is great enough that hundreds of thousands of more new customers will want to see these shows. If the move works out, The Weeknd could double or triple ticket revenue up to $300 million in sales, by Billboard’s estimation, making it one of the year’s top-grossing tours.

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That’s a solid bet on its own, but on top of it The Weeknd might pull it off while performing 30% fewer shows – since large stadiums often have two to four times the capacity of arenas.

The Weeknd announced his decision to refund the $100 million in sales — representing 2.5% of Live Nation’s total annual balance sheet — on Instagram Tuesday as part of a larger plan to move out of arenas and “do something bigger and special which requires stadiums.” Fans who bought ticket with credit cards will be automatically refunded and given “priority access to buy tickets for the stadium shows when they go on sale.”

Most tours get canceled and refund due to poor ticket sales, but it’s extremely rare to see a tour refunded and rescheduled to make it larger. The Weeknd, however, is coming out of the pandemic much more popular than March 2020 thanks to his fourth studio album, After Hours, which was released the week after the U.S. and other countries went into lockdown. Sources close to The Weeknd say the singer wants to tour around new music he’s planning to release, including an upcoming collaboration with Swedish House Mafia, utilizing a touring production that’s too big for most arenas. Stadiums have significantly more floor space than arenas and allow for far larger stages to accommodate more band members, dancers and actors and actresses. While stadiums give him less protection from bad weather, the open-air venues provide him with the best setting for high-tech pyro and fireworks.

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Bigger productions also mean bigger expenses, and The Weeknd will likely need a stadium-sized budget for his stadium-sized tour. Plus there’s the added stress of filling all those seats. While he hasn’t said if prices will increase or decrease, it’s possible that The Weeknd could lower ticket prices for most fans by raising prices for tickets near the stage and in high-demand sections and still boost his overall profit.

Live Nation has already spent seven figures running the first ticket sales and marketing the tour which it will need to recoup, Billboard estimates, but it seems highly likely The Weeknd will have no problem selling new tickets due to huge pent-up demand. His hit song “Blinding Light” is the longest-charting Billboard Hot 100 song of all time (spending 90 weeks on the top songs chart) and After Hours is the second longest running No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 for 2020. After two years of postponements, fans will now have the chance to see him live — and good thing for The Weeknd and Live Nation, he’s made a lot more fans in that time.