Mid-Year In Review: Pandemic A Factor, Yet Live Industry Poised For Rebound

 A rare sight:
Fiona Goodall / Getty Images
– A rare sight:
SIX60 was one of the few artists able and willing to play a stadium show in the first half of 2021 – pictured at Eden Park in the band’s native Auckland, New Zealand, April 24.

With moods hopeful and outlooks bright, anticipation is sky high for the long-awaited return to normalcy in the live entertainment industry, and, finally, it’s expected sooner than later. Based on the tidal wave of new and rescheduled concert dates that have been flooding Pollstar in recent weeks, full-capacity, large-scale concerts are set to rebound substantially for the remainder of the year.

In fact, high-profile arena concerts are already taking place in North America with shows such as Foo Fightersrecent performance at Madison Square Garden making headlines. Other major arenas around the world are also poised for a return to full-capacity action with multiple dates booked in the last half of the year, and even some stadium shows in major markets as soon as early July. 
But here at the midpoint of 2021 while all eyes are on the future, analysis of the state of live entertainment during the past six months shows that concert activity was still largely defined by the pandemic. Social distancing and reduced capacities were the norm for both indoor and outdoor concerts with few exceptions. Boxoffice database totals show that overall global sold-ticket revenue totaled $75.4 million from 1,522 performances reported during the mid-year time-period of chart eligibility (Nov. 19, 2020-May 19, 2021). The number of sold tickets globally was 1,584,867 for the first six months of 2021 with the effects of social distancing quite obvious, as the average attendance per show only totaled 1,041.
Dominance Down Under
Activity at the arena, stadium or amphitheater level has been limited, and certainly not at full capacity except for areas where COVID-19’s impact was less severe than elsewhere in the world. And, thus, New Zealand and Australia figure prominently in the global boxoffice tallies. With active cases of the virus far lower than practically anywhere else early in 2021, event producers Down Under were able to book a handful of headliners at full capacity in large venues with fewer restrictions or worries.
Because of that, the No. 1 ranking among the Top 100 Worldwide Tours belongs to New Zealand’s SIX60 with a total of 167,621 tickets sold at seven venues for a gross of $14.5 million. Performing full-capacity shows at stadium-sized venues in the early months of the year, they averaged 23,946 sold seats per show for a gross average just over $2 million. The last date on their tour, a sellout at Auckland’s Eden Park on the 24th of April, produced the largest boxoffice totals of the year, not only for SIX60, but for any tour worldwide. It registered a gross of $4.7 million from 48,159 tickets.
Four other headliners with tours booked in either New Zealand or Australia also rank among the 10 top-grossing tours. No. 2 is the Australian rock band Midnight Oil who played five concerts in their home country and racked up $3.1 million in sales from 31,272 tickets. Their best-attended show at Mt Duneed Estate in Waurn Pond, Australia on March 20 drew 12,613 fans.
Taking the seventh ranking is the band L.A.B with two sold-out performances: a January event at TSB Bowl of Brooklands in New Plymouth, New Zealand, and a March show at Auckland’s Mt Smart Stadium. Comedians Bill Bailey and Daniel Sloss, Nos. 8 and 9, respectively, also hit the chart – Bailey with 17 shows in 13 New Zealand venues and Sloss with 32 shows in 13 venues in Australia.
Country Thunder:
Jason Kempin / Getty Images
– Country Thunder:
Cody Johnson performs at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville June 18. He took the No. 4 Top Tours spot after doing 15 socially distanced shows, mostly in the South.
The Climb Out Of COVID
North American tours in the top 10 worldwide include promoter Awakening Events’ “Drive-in Theater Tour Series” at No. 3 based on $2.9 million in earnings and a ticket count of 72,610 at 64 performances. The series featured separate headlining treks by Skillet, TobyMac, Zach Williams and a joint effort by Steven Curtis Chapman and Big Daddy Weave.
At No. 4 is Cody Johnson who performed 15 socially distanced shows in southern U.S. states including 10 in his home state of Texas. Three of those came at Billy Bob’s Texas in Fort Worth where he played to sellout crowds at each performance.
The Mike Epps-fronted “In Real Life Comedy Tour” is No. 5 worldwide with the first live concert events since the pandemic shutdown at two American arenas: Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena and State Farm Arena in Atlanta. The comedy package tour moved 20,744 tickets in both markets from seven shows for a gross of $2.1 million. Twenty of the concerts in the Awakening Events drive-in series featured headliner TobyMac, yet he also lands in the top 10 with his “Hits Deep” package tour that included performances by Tauren Wells, Unspoken, We Are Messengers, Cochren & Co. and Terrian. That tour topped $1.8 million in sales from 44,123 tickets to take the No. 6 ranking on the global chart. Finally, Christian band Casting Crowns ranks 10th globally performing primarily at drive-in concert setups. The group scored a $1.4 million gross from 24 shows at 22 venues. 
Is this real life?
AP Photo / Robb Cohen / Invision
– Is This Real Life?
Mike Epps, pictured at State Farm Arena May 7, took No. 5 on the worldwide Top 100 Tours chart, with his Real Life Comedy Tour stopping at two major arenas.
On the chart highlighting the Top 100 North American Tours, the Awakening Events drive-in concert series is the chart topper followed by Johnson, the Mike Epps and TobyMac package tours and Casting Crowns who all appeared in the top 10 on the worldwide chart as well. Joining those tours were headlining runs by Texas-based rock/Americana artist Koe Wetzel who charts twice – at No. 6 as a solo headliner and again at No. 10 based on co-headlining dates with country singer-songwriter Hardy. Aussie Christian music duo For King & Country is seventh with a $1.2 million take from drive-in concerts primarily in Florida and Texas cities. Bluegrass star Billy Strings enters at No. 8 with grosses totaling $928,490 from multiple-show stints at The Amp St. Augustine (Fla.), Historic Columbia Speedway in Cayce, S.C., and Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala. Following with the ninth North American ranking is CMA and ACM Award winner Lee Brice with $627,776 in grosses from eight shows in U.S. venues.
During the past 15 months while touring artists were dealing with the effects of COVID-19, many created their own footprint in the virtual world, taking live streaming to unprecedented levels. A weekly Pollstar chart tracking live streams based on viewership was introduced in May of last year, and ultimately our 2020 Year-End recap included two charts based on virtual performances: The Top 100 Livestreams and Top 100 Livestreamers. 
Those two charts are again added to this year’s mid-year chart package. Heading up the Livestreams chart is French composer and performer Jean-Michel Jarre who logged 75 million views of his 2020 New Year’s Eve performance in Paris, airing live from a studio near Notre Dame. 

Meanwhile, French DJ David Guetta earns the No. 1 ranking on the Livestreamers chart that tracks the cumulative number of views for artists with two or more live streams during the mid-year time frame. Guetta had four events streamed on virtual platforms with a total viewership of 50,511,839. 
On the venue charts, the impact of Australia and New Zealand is even more visible as the top-ranked venue in four of the five categories is in one of those countries. Spark Arena in Auckland leads the pack among Arenas with 50,625 total tickets, while Melbourne’s Sidney Myer Music Bowl is the top Amphitheater with a 91,610-ticket tally. 
No. 1 Theater is Hamer Hall, also in Melbourne, with 18,354 tickets sold, and Auckland’s Eden Park has the highest ticket count (48,159) among Stadiums and outdoor concert sites including drive-ins. Billy Bob’s Texas in Fort Worth is the sole North American venue holding a No. 1 position. It tops the Club chart with 10,814 tickets sold. 
Likewise, the top Promoter also comes from Down Under. New Zealand’s Eccles Entertainment that produced the top-ranked tour by SIX60 as well as treks by six other headliners is No. 1 overall. Based in Auckland, the concert promoter and booking agency has a ticket count of 201,334 with reported grosses topping $16.1 million.