Pollstar 2021 Year End Special Issue: The Great Return

Year End Cover revise

2021’s top artists and tentpole moments: Dead & Co: photo by Jay Blakesberg; Eagles: Rob Koch/Courtesy Scoop Marketing; Foo Fighters at MSG: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for FF; Green Day: Scott Legato / Getty Images; Harry Styles: Anthony Pham; Los Bukis: Ray Chavez/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images; Rolling Stones: Courtesy Concerts West; Lollapalooza 2021: Kevin Mazur/Getty

As the live entertainment industry limped into 2021, at first the best thing the new year had going for it was that it wasn’t 2020. Last year was the Year That Wasn’t, with touring on a global lockdown, sports teams relegated to determining championships in bubbles or greatly reduced houses, and artists and artist development left to less-than-fulfilling drive-in shows, streaming and social media. Fans largely did without the live thing, and we didn’t like it. Though certainly not without its challenges, 2021 was much different and, as Pollstar data reflects, much better. We’re calling it The Great Return, because return we did, in droves.

What a difference a year makes. By every measure, 2021 was both quantitatively and qualitatively better than 2020, which was catastrophic. Every chart in last year’s Year End issue marked a precipitous drop in shows, revenues, ticket sales and all other touring metrics. This year, however, is a markedly different story, especially Q4, which augers exceedingly well for 2022.

2021 Business Analysis:  All Systems Go For Live Industry Rebound
As most live entertainment opportunities were put on hold much of last year, all eyes were on 2021 with a hope that pathways to a rebound and recovery would begin sooner than later. Thus, even as early as the first quarter in some areas – most notably New Zealand, where COVID infection rates were far lower than elsewhere around the world – the entire outlook for a global industry rebound appeared profoundly positive. More and more artists began to find their own paths back to stages and live crowds during the first half of 2021, yet social distancing and safety protocols were still as much a part of the show experience as the guitar riffs.


Top 100 Tours 
Top 100 Promoters
Top 200 Arenas
Top 200 Theatres
Top 200 Clubs 
Top Stadiums 
Top Ampthitheaters


Top 100 Worldwide Tours
Top 200 North American Tours

Top 300 Concert Grosses 
Year End Top 20 Worldwide Festival Grosses
Top Clubs, Theatres, Amphitheatres, Arenas And Stadiums, Ranked By Gross
And Top 10 Livestreamers


 How The Rolling Stones’ ‘No Filter Tour’ Became 2021’s Highest Grossing Tour And An Industry Beacon

How Harry Styles Love On Tour Helped Bring Concerts & Fans Back

  Appetite For Discovery: Pollstar Staff’s Favorite Shows Of The Year

Sam Hunt, Marshall Betts, Kate McMahon, Rev. Moose, David Zedeck – Part 1
Jarred Arfa, Brandon Pankey, Kirk M. Somer, Lee Anderson and Noelle Scaggs – Part 2

Louis Messina, Yvette Medina, Darryl Eaton, Rick Roskin & Vicky Hamilton – Part 3
Amy Corbin, Boris Patronoff, Chamie McCurry, Seth Hurwitz, Matt Colon & Christy Castillo Butcher -Part 4


Deeper dives into specific 2021 live industry buckets

The Year In Agencies: Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes CAA Acquires ICM Partners, Execs Keep Making Moves

The Year In Concert Tech: Livestreamers Consolidate, Venue Technology Innovates, Blockchain Dominates 

The Year In Festivals: Marquee Moments From Disco Donnie To Outside Lands

The Year In Safety & Security: From COVID To Crowding, A Year Of Challenges

The Year In Sponsorships & Branding: Opportunities In The New Real

The Year In Touring: Artists And Their Teams Step Up To Challenge Of Rescheduling Rollercoaster

The Year In Europe: The World Outside The U.S. Is A Mixed Bag




2021 In Memoriam: Those We Lost?

In Memoriam

Gerry Marsden
Gerry and the Pacemakers (Jan. 3).

Sylvain Sylvain
New York Dolls (Jan. 13).

Phil Spector
Record producer, musician, songwriter and entrepreneur (Jan. 16).

Jimmie Rodgers
Singer-songwriter (Jan. 18).

Record producer, singer, DJ and trans icon (Jan. 30).

Mary Wilson
Founder and longest reigning member of Motown girl group The Supremes, Mary Wilson passed away on Feb. 8 at the age of 76.
Alongside Diana Ross and Florence Ballard, Wilson made up the first lineup as a member of The Supremes, the group becoming Motown’s first commercially successful girl group. Wilson continued to be a member of the group until it disbanded in 1977.

Armando Anthony “Chick” Corea
Jazz composer, keyboardist, bandleader and occasional percussionist (Feb. 9).

Glen Knight
Veteran Universal Attractions Agency agent whose career spanned more than 50 years.
Glen Night passed away at the age of 73 on Feb. 12. Night served as an agent for Universal Attractions Agency for more than 50 years. He first got his start at Associated Booking Corporation before joining Buddy Lee Attractions to be the head of the agency’s Contemporary Music Department (Northeast) and represent Johnny Paycheck.

Michael Gudinski
Australian music legend and founder of Mushroom Records, Mushroom Group, and Frontier touring, Michael Gudinski passed away March 1 at the age of 68. The Australian music legend founded his record label, Mushroom Records, at the age of 20 in 1972 and was responsible for helping to bring many Australian acts to the rest of the world. Mushroom Records has signed the likes of Skyhooks, The Sports, Split Enz, Jimmy Barnes and Kylie Minogue. In addition to his record label, Gudinski was the founder of Frontier Touring and Mushroom Group.

Bunny Wailer
The final surviving member of iconic reggae group The Wailers, which included Bob Marley and Peter Tosh (March 2).

Josh Humiston
Partner and Senior Vice President of Music at APA (March 3).

Michael Stanley
Musician, radio and TV personality (March 5).

Grammy-nominated rapper and actor known for his trademark growls (April 9).

Mike Mitchell
The Kingsmen (April 16).

Les McKeown
Bay City Rollers (April 20).

Shock G
Leader of Bay Area hip-hop group Digital Underground and former producer for Tupac Shakur (April 22).

Patsy Bruce
Songwriter and artist manager (May 16).

Craig Duffy
Tour manager for Blur, Gorillaz, Duran Duran, Tool, and The Damned (May 21).

B.J. Thomas
Pop/country/gospel singer. Oscar winner for “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” (May 29).

Biz Markie
Rapper, DJ and record producer (July 16).

Robby Steinhardt
Kansas (July 17).

Joey Jordison
Slipknot (July 26).

Joe Michael “Dusty” Hill
Member of ZZ Top who played bass and keyboard and sang lead and backing vocals (July 28).

Charlie Watts,
Drummer for The Rolling Stones (Aug. 24).
Charlie Watts first joined The Rolling Stones in January 1963 to replace Tony Chapman after regularly playing as a member of Blues Incorporated. After leaving art school, Watts first started his career as a graphic designer for an advertising company, and the drummer would contribute graphic art and comic strips to some of The Rolling Stones’ earlier records and tour posters. Watts remained a member of The Rolling Stones until his death on Aug. 24.

Steve Strange
Co-founder of X-ray touring (Sept. 24).
X-ray Touring partner Steve Strange passed at 53 following a short illness. The beloved agent represented major artists including Eminem, Coldplay, Snow Patrol and many others, known for a hearty laugh, sense of humor and always being eager to find the next developing artists. Just in August, it was announced X-ray was partnering with Artist Group International via an investment from Ron Burkle’s Yucaipa Companies.

Paul Cotton
Poco (Aug. 1).

Nanci Griffith
singer-songwriter (Aug. 13).

Don Everly
The last surviving member of the Everly Brothers (Aug. 21).

Randy “Baja” Fletcher
Tour production manager for ZZ Top, Brooks & Dunn, Keith Urban and many more (Aug. 27).

Lee “Scratch” Perry
Record producer and singer (Aug. 29).

George Wein
Jazz promoter, pianist, and producer (Sept. 13).

Jay Black
Jay & The Americans (Oct. 22).

Walter “Herbie” Herbert
manager of Journey and protege of Bill Graham (Oct. 25).

Jesse Aratow
A partner, booking agent and manager at Madison House (Oct. 29).

Young Dolph
Hip-hop artist (Nov. 17).

Mick Rock
the photographer known as “The Man Who Shot the Seventies” (Nov. 18).

Stephen Sondheim
composer and lyricist (Nov. 26).

Virgil Abloh
Fashion designer and entrepreneur, artistic director of Louis Vuitton’s menswear collection and CEO of Off-White (Nov. 28).