The Kids Are Alright: Vans Warped Tour By The Numbers

Vans Warped Tour
Josh Sisk/For The Washington Post via Getty Images
– Vans Warped Tour
Attendees at the final incarnation of Vans Warped Tour get their circle dance on at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Md., July 29.
Vans Warped Tour packed in its skate ramps and stages for the final time this year, but it went out with a bang, reporting one of the biggest annual grosses in the tour’s history.
Kevin Lyman and Co. in 2018 reported a $21.3 million gross, hitting 38 cities for a total of 540,688 tickets. The averages were impressive, with 14,229 tickets per show, and an average gross of $560,857. The average ticket price was $39, tied for its highest ever.
This year was a high note to end on, after hitting a low point in 2017. Last year the festival had its lowest total gross ($8.7 million) since 1999, when the lineup featured Bad Religion, Pennywise, Deftones and Blink-182, grossing nearly $8.5 million (all subsequent figures relating to gross in this article are adjusted for inflation). 
There is a somewhat of a bell curve looking at Warped Tour’s business over the years. 
The tour didn’t report much in its first two years of 1995 and 1996, so the first year with solid figures is 1997, when it grossed roughly $6.6 million and reported a total of 206,752 tickets.
That would be the lowest gross (outside of the first two years) on record and the following year, 1998, saw the lowest ticket total, with 195,041. 
That dip in tickets sales might be due to a price hike, as average ticket price saw a $10 increase to $30 from $20 the previous year.
The Warped ticket price quickly dropped back down to $21 in 1999 though, and the numbers started seriously growing in the following two years as pop-punk started to go mainstream with the success of bands like Green Day, Blink-182 and later Good Charlotte and New Found Glory. The festival grossed nearly $12 million in 2000 and jumped to $17.7 million in 2001. That business is remarkable considering that just four years earlier the entire festival was grossing one-third of that figure. 
Business would plateau for several years before seeing another jump in 2004 and 2005, which would ultimately be Warped’s high watermark. Warped Tour grossed nearly $23 million in 2004 and $25 million in 2005, which, Lyman told Pollstar, would be the only year the festival made money on its ticket sales. 
The North American tour would hit its highest number of cities (50) in 2006, not counting the iterations outside of its home continent. The Warped Tour’s international outings, which began in 1996, didn’t submit many reports, but at its peak the festival was running throughout Europe, as well as Australia and Japan. 
A key metric to pay attention to when reviewing Vans Warped Tour’s full history is average ticket price. Over the years average ticket price remained remarkably consistent, mostly staying within the $20 to $30 range until 2010. 
In 2010 the average price rose to $33, but dropped back to $19 the following year, showing that it was very difficult to hike the price with the event’s target demographic of approximately 16- to 19-year-olds.
Ice Nine Kills
Josh Sisk/For The Washington Post via Getty Images
– Ice Nine Kills
Spencer Charnas and his band Ice Nine Kills get the crowd hyped up during a performance on the final Vans Warped Tour June 23 in Mountain View, Calif.
The final several years saw the average price rise into the $30 to $40 range, which may not actually be that substantial of an increase considering inflation.
“Every time Ticketmaster raised a fee or taxes got raised on a ticket or the facility fees or the parking fees, we didn’t pass that full price. A lot of people would add money to the ticket to pay for it … We’d take on more and more of that expense,” Lyman told Pollstar. “It maybe hurt us in the last couple years.” 
Unfortunately, 2017 was a low point in terms of total attendance, with 252,958 tickets reported, the lowest since 1999 and average tickets sold per show were the lowest on record (6,486) since ’97. 
Lyman indicated in recent interviews that he has observed a trend of teenagers staying in rather than going out to shows, and even with the last year of Warped Tour being a booming success, it wasn’t the 16-year-olds that made it so.
“That super young side of our demo just seemed to want to stay inside and watch Netflix,” he previously told Pollstar about the 2017 tour. “I’ve been telling people ‘Look, if those 14-17-year-olds don’t turn into 18- to 21-year-olds that start going to concerts you lose them because concerts get imprinted in your DNA by the time you are 21. If you’re not going to shows by the time you’re 21, chances are they’re not gonna be that important to you.’”
Despite shifts in demographics and an increasingly inhospitable environment for the traveling festival, Vans Warped Tour is going out on a high note, as it is projected to appear around No. 65 on the 2018 Year End North American Top 200 Tours chart. 
Lyman’s festival has earned a place on that chart (including when it was only the Top 100) every year since 1997, the highest rank being No. 27 in 2005. 
Now for some totals: From 1997-2018 Warped Tour grossed $367.2 million, is estimated at 10.6 million tickets sold, averaged 42 shows per tour, with 11,461 tickets per show and an average ticket price of $28. We may never see the traveling festival do business at this scale again, but the final outing has certainly shown that, even in 2018, with a motivated audience and the right lineup, fans will still turn out and spend good money for a day full of music, skateboarding, and good vibes.