Business Analysis: An Unprecedented Mid-Year

Dave Simpson / WireImage
– King Elton
Elton John performs at Mt Smart Stadium on Feb. 16, 2020, in Auckland, New Zealand.

As we arrive at the mid-point of each year, Pollstar takes a look at the first six months of global live entertainment and, on the strength of our world-renowned box-office data, provides a snapshot of the current state of the concert industry. One aspect of the annual Mid-Year analysis is to compare box office success to the same time period in previous years. In 2020, there is no illusion of parity with any other year prior to this one. Most of the planet has been impacted at some level by the COVID-19 pandemic and, for our industry, the shutdown of live performing makes this year unique for many parallels.

However, our Mid-Year time period of eligibility ranges from Nov. 21, 2019 to May 20, 2020, so we only have an absence of box office results for the final two months of that six-month span. That’s why we were able to produce a Q1 issue (dated April 6) with complete coverage of the industry during the year’s opening three-month period.

Pollstar 2020 Mid-Year

In those first-quarter box office tallies, 2020 showed great promise when tours hit the road in the early weeks of the year. As reported in Q1, the year began with a fervor as box office activity showed increases in both gross and ticket sales among the Top 100 Tours compared to 2019’s first quarter. Gross earnings showed a 10.92% jump over the previous year, while ticket counts saw a rise of 4.55%.

After the first quarter, there was only about one month of concert activity before the shutdown, so the events that occurred during that month provide the only difference in box office figures between the Mid-Year and Q1. But there were noteworthy events occurring during that month-long period. Artists such as Elton John, Celine Dion, Eagles, Aventura, Maroon 5, Backstreet Boys, Michael Bublé, Post Malone and Billy Joel all reported multi-million-dollar grosses prior to the second weekend in March.

As the highest-grossing touring artist of the year, Elton John heads up the worldwide list of Top 100 Tours that in total produced a gross of $1,147,421,921 from 1,654 performances. It marks the second year in a row with a percentage drop, because the 2019 gross was also less than its previous year. In 2019, the $2,058,964,800 revenue total was 3.8% lower than 2018’s amount. Ultimately, by the end of last year, the Top 100 Tours’ overall gross beat the 2018 count, so the small drop at the mid-point of last year was most probably due in part to Ed Sheeran’s titanic box office results from the first half of 2018. Two years ago, he topped the Mid-Year charts with $213.9 million in sales – the highest cumulative gross ever for an artist in a Mid-Year recap.

With 2020’s revenue from the Top 100 Tours totaling 44.3% less than the worldwide gross in 2019, ticket sales from the same 100  tours also show the same percentage difference. Total ticket count at Mid-Year 2020 is 12,476,566, 44% fewer than 2019’s total.

North American percentages show slightly higher differences with the 2020 gross dropping 48.6% to $795,324,902 compared to last year’s $1.5 million figure. 

Mid-Year Worldwide Ticket Sales

Similarly, tickets on the continent totaled 8,605,188 this year – 48.9% less in comparison to a year ago.

Looking at averages in both gross and tickets still show percentage drops in year-to-year comparison with 2019, but they are not quite as brutal. Among the Top 100 Tours, the average gross worldwide is $693,725 – 24.2% less than 2019’s gross average. 

Ticket sales averages also fall at about the same rate with 2020’s sold tickets averaging 7,543 per show, a drop of 23.8% in one year. In North American markets, 2020’s Mid-Year average gross per show came to $596,643 based on a total of 1,333 reported shows. The sold ticket average per show is 6,456.

On a positive note, the global average ticket prices land in a similar range for each of the past three years without any dramatic drops. 2019’s average price of $92.42 from the Top 100 Tours still is the highest, but 

this year’s price follows at $91.97 – less than a 1% difference. Meanwhile, 2020’s average ticket price is higher than 2018’s which landed at $90.17. The average ticket price in North America so far this year is also $92.42.

Going beyond the Top 100 Tours, the total gross worldwide for every event reported during the Mid-Year span totals $2,274,209,075. That total is 55.5% less than the 2019 overall gross that topped out at $5,104,836,773.

Among North American venues only, the percentage difference is in a similar range, 54.4% less this year. The 2020 gross in North America reached a total of $1,608,308,747 for the Mid-Year, while the same period last year saw a gross total of $3,523,943,565.

Worldwide ticket sales land in the same ballpark regarding percentage differences. This year’s 34,043,486 global ticket count was 55.6% less than 2019’s 76,592,463 total.

Tickets in North America also show a drop for the Mid-Year compared to 2019. This year the total tickets in the U.S., Canada and Mexico is 23,735,959. That is 55.6% less than last year’s ticket total of 52,953,408.