Michael Rapino, President and CEO, Live Nation Entertainment

Michael Rapino
– Michael Rapino

Live Nation 3.0
‘The Level of Demand We’re Seeing Right Now Is Off the Charts’

Michael Rapino
President and CEO, Live Nation Entertainment  

Michael Rapino, who sits at the head of the most powerful live entertainment company the world has ever seen, remains bullish on the future of the live industry—even after one of the most disastrous years ever for the global concert industry.

“Around the world, people are showing the need to get out and socialize once again which reinforces our expectation that a return to concerts will be the logical progression as vaccines are readily available to everyone who wants to get one,” Rapino said in Live Nation’s Quarterly Earnings Report released on May 6, 2021. “This is generally already the case in the U.S. where we are confidently planning our reopenings, particularly for outdoor shows, and we expect many of our other major markets will follow this summer.”

Rapino also noted that U.S. states continue to open up, and, for the limited number of tours and festivals that have gone on sale, the pent-up demand has proven to be extremely high. This while some 40% of the U.S. population is at least partially vaccinated.

Perhaps no greater proof backs up this thesis on the renewed value of live than Live Nation’s record-setting stock surge in the last quarter, which reached its highest price ever at $89.81 a share on March 5, 2021 and still continues to soar well-above its pre-pandemic value. Reinforcing this notion of the increased value of live is that some 83% of fans held onto their tickets through this pandemic.

While everyone is eager to get back to shows, Rapino said 2022 will be a particularly significant year, as the company is “already seeing confirmed major tour dates for 2022 up double digits from the same time pre-pandemic in 2019 for 2020. Many of these artists will have multi-year tours, spanning the U.S., Europe and often either Asia or Latin America, setting us up for a strong multi-year growth run.”

Ticketmaster is also accelerating its growth, Rapino said, signing new clients representing more than 5 million net new fee-bearing tickets year-to-date and promises new offerings from upsell and improved advertising to blockchain and NFT capabilities. In the same report, Rapino also said the sponsorship pipeline of committed activity for 2022 is also up double digits. With all this in mind, Rapino spoke with OVG’s Ray Waddell, addressing the past year and what lies ahead for his company, audiences, and the industry

Ray Waddell: Do you feel positive about staffing up across the various divisions to be ready for a full go live business? I’m hearing about challenges in putting together capable touring teams of seasoned professionals as everybody ramps up at once.

Michael Rapino: I do feel positive about it, and our top priority is getting people back to work as shows ramp up. Production crews didn’t have the opportunity to do what they love this past year. They are eager to get back to work, just as much as fans and artists are eager to get back to shows. We have an amazing team and a great infrastructure in place. In reality, this is a ramp up, not a light switch—and we will scale and move teams as tours go out.

Given the remarkable lack of refunds asked for, and the high demand for live shows after over a year of not having any, it would seem we’re poised to be really strong by the end of the year. Is that what you’re seeing?

Absolutely. A year ago, I don’t think anyone would have bet that 83% of fans would be holding onto tickets this long. But it speaks to how important the live experience is to people. And that’s rolling into new events, too, the level of demand we’re seeing right now is off the charts. Just look at Travis Scott’s AstroWorld festival: it sold out in minutes, with no lineup. And we’re seeing similar records being set for other festivals and tours, across all genres. People are ready to get back and be together again, and live music creates once in a lifetime moments for that.

LYV is performing remarkably well throughout and remains very strong. It would seem the market not only believes live entertainment will come back strong but also specifically has faith in the LYV model. Can you talk about some of the ways Live Nation has innovated and made use of this unexpected down time?

Being apart from each other and without live shows gave us even more appreciation for those experiences, and we’re seeing that play out in fan demand. And, as a business, we also tried to find the silver linings, and have obsessed with using this time to improve, which is something that would have been hard to do running full steam, doing 100-plus shows a day. We’re returning as Live Nation 3.0 and are more strategic, hungry and, I think, also more innovative than ever before. Whether it’s concerts, bringing new offerings to the table through things like livestreams, NFTs, and sustainable touring, Ticketmaster evolving the digital ticket and bringing new value for clients and fans, or Sponsorship finding new ways for brands to add value to live events for fans, I’ve been impressed with how all of our lines of business continue to evolve. All of our core divisions are tracking ahead of where we were in 2019. That was a record year, so all signs point to an incredible comeback that continues over the next few years as artists and fans make up for lost time. There’s nothing that can replace that two hour of magic at a live show, or the festival experience, so in our mind we are positioned for the most epic concert season in history.

Over a year in, how impactful has Crew Nation been, and are these programs you plan to continue?

I’m incredibly proud that Crew Nation was able to provide some support for those who needed it during such a critical time. One of the biggest takeaways from this time was how much stronger our industry can be when we work together—and that can apply to so many aspects as we move forward from diversity to sustainability and lots of other things we care about. Crew Nation was a key example and had amazing support from artists and partners like Metallica, Bono, U2, Yeti, Fender, and so many others who have helped get us to about $18 million, which has provided grants to 15,000 crew members. And the best part is that it’s global, so that’s across 40 countries. We’ll continue iterating on Crew Nation into the future – our industry and live workers will continue to need support when the pandemic is over, whether that’s help finding jobs, mental health, or a variety of other ways we can help support through this machine we’ve built.