Blockbuster Ticket Sales Are Expected to Continue Through 2023 — and Beyond

As 2023 heads into summer, multiple signs point to a healthy and growing live music business for the rest of the year. In recent weeks, executives from the publicly traded concert promotion and ticketing companies have signaled that surging consumer demand won’t slow down, and there will be enough tours to satiate music fans’ appetite for live events.

Demand has been strong “and is showing no signs of letting up,” said Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino during the company’s May 4 earnings call. Live Nation expects to sell more than 600 million tickets in 2023, up from 550 million in 2022. To date, the concert promoter has sold more than 100 million tickets to Live Nation events, a 20% increase from the prior-year period, and expects to host a record number of fans in 2023.

Vivid Seats, the publicly traded secondary ticketing marketplace, shares Live Nation’s sentiment. “Consumers continued to crave live experiences in the first quarter,” said CEO Stan Chia during a May 9 earnings call, “and we believe this trend will continue for many years.” Vivid Seats does business primarily in the U.S. while German promoter and ticketing provider CTS Eventim focuses on Europe. “Both in Germany and internationally, we are pursuing organic growth and anticipate that our business performance will continue on its successful course,” said CTS Eventim CEO Klaus-Peter Schulenberg in the quarterly results released May 24 that reiterated the positive outlook in its 2022 annual report of “moderately higher earnings” for the live entertainment segment 2023.

The concert business is meeting — and perhaps surpassing — some lofty expectations. In 2022, as the concert business exited the pandemic, the widespread belief was that pent-up demand for in-person experiences would drive the concert business beyond pre-pandemic levels. That turned out to be true. Concert promoter Live Nation posted record revenue of $6.2 billion in the third quarter that was 67% above the same period in 2019. What’s more, the volume of fans returning to concert venues was augmented by an unmatched willingness to absorb higher prices. Frenzied demand — and sky-high prices on the secondary market — for tours by Taylor Swift, Beyonce and Bruce Springsteen have showed A-list artists have yet to find their ceiling on prices.

Concert promoters have posted strong quarterly earnings that fit their narratives. Live Nation’s first-quarter revenue was up 71% to $3.1 billion. CTS Eventim’s online ticket sales increased 58% to 18 million as consolidated revenue improved 163% to 366.2 million euros ($393 million). At Vivid Seats, which also does business in major sports such as baseball and basketball, first quarter revenue grew 23.2% to $161 million and adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization doubled to $42.4 million.

Investors absorb past earnings history while figuring out what to expect in the future, and according to JP Morgan analyst David Karnovky they often ask two questions about Live Nation: First, is there enough supply to meet growing, healthy demand? Yes, Live Nation president and CFO Joe Berchtold said at JP Morgan’s Global Technology, Media and Communications conference on Tuesday. That’s because global streaming platforms such as Spotify and social media apps like Instagram and TikTok allow artists to build global followings in ways that weren’t previously possible, he explained. K-pop and other up-and-coming genres of music “that maybe once were regional are now going global,” he said, and artists that used to sell out mid-sized venues are now selling out stadiums. “So, you’re seeing that supply continue to build.”

The second thing investors want to know is how demand will respond during a softer economy. Live Nation closely follows the indicators — such as on-sales show closings — Berchtold said, “but we’re not seeing anything that gives us pause.” Separately, Berchtold noted that Live Nation’s research indicates getting back to concerts are one of fans’ top priorities after the pandemic and will be “one of the last things they’re going to cut back on.”

Vivid Seats CFO Lawrence Fey also addressed the possibility of an economic downturn — a scenario becoming increasingly likely in the U.S. should Congress fail to find a compromise to raise the debt ceiling by early June. “[T]here’s a lot of chatter and concern out there” that demand will weaken “in the not-too-distant future,” said Fey, “but it continues to be the case that we’re seeing very robust demand across our event categories [and] across price points.” Beyond the consistently strong demand, Vivid Seats has “been pleasantly surprised by the supply calendar,” particularly a concert schedule that includes recently announced tours by Drake and Aerosmith, he added, “and [that] gives us optimism.”

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