Live Nation Entertainment released its year-end and fourth quarter 2021 earnings reports today, and the results appear to be everything President and CEO Michael Rapino and the rest of the company had hoped for, and possibly more.
Full-year operating income improved by $1.2 billion, with adjusted operating income up by $1.3 billion as compared to 2020; with 35 million fans attending concerts and per-fan revenue driving up by double digits over 2019.
Fourth quarter highlights saw ticketing deliver its best quarter ever, Q4 operating income up 118%, AOI up 62% and sponsorship operating income up 37% vs. the same period in pre-pandemic 2019.
“The past two years have only reinforced the power of live music, and it’s been great to see artists and fans reconnecting at scale around the world,” Rapino said in a statement. “Over the course of 2021, we saw the strength of live events. The year started in the midst of the pandemic, but by summer fans were returning to shows, and by the end of the year, we had a record pipeline of concerts, ticket sales and advertising commitments for 2022.”
While 2021 started with the concert industry still largely in a pandemic-forced lockdown, by summer – with the advent of effective COVID vaccines and easing of various crowd restrictions and public mandates – fans flocked back to shows. By year-end, according to Rapino, “we had a record pipeline of concerts, ticket sales and advertising commitments for 2022.”
According to the report, Live Nation staged more than 17,000 concerts for 35 million fans in 2021, mostly in the U.S. and UK. Of those, more than 15 million attended outdoor events at festivals, stadiums and in amphitheaters during the last five months of the year – nearly 25% higher than during the same period in 2019.
Rapino noted that ticket price increases didn’t dampen sales.
“Through the ramp up, we saw demand-driven price increases, particularly with platinum and other front of the house ticket pricing,” Rapino said. “Fans continue to seek the best tickets, and the ongoing rapid growth of the secondary market indicates there’s more room to grow. “
On-site fan spending also rose, with the average per head revenue up double digits relative to 2019 levels across all levels from stadiums to clubs, Rapino reports.
“And as shows came back, so did the desire of brands to connect to our fans,” explaining that sponsorship and advertising operating income and AOL “was roughly the same for the second half of 2021 as it was in 2019, which was a record level.”
In addition to setting a per-quarter record for ticketing gross transaction value (excluding refunded tickets), the fourth quarter and the second half of the year also set records for both quarter and six-month periods, Live Nation reports.
With the data in hand, Rapino makes his case for a powerful return to business at all levels in 2022.
“With the strength in ticket sales, not surprisingly, we are seeing every leading indicator for 2022 up relative to 2019, reinforcing our confidence that we will have a record year in 2022 that sets us up for growth over the next several years,” Rapino said.
Also fueling Live Nation growth in 2021 was the acquisition of Mexican concert promotion powerhouse OCESA, which gives the company a clear path into the exploding Latin American market. Live Nation gained 31 venues during the year – almost half coming from the deal – giving the company 320 global venues it now operates.
Rapino reports its confirmed show count across stadiums, sheds, arenas and festival events through February is up 30% relative to 2019.
“Then for concert ticket sales, through mid-February we have sold 45 million tickets for shows this year, up 45% from this point in 2019,” Rapino continues. “We already have eight artists who have sold over 500 thousand tickets for their tours this year, including Bad Bunny, Dua Lipa and Billie Eilish.”
More encouraging news is that the no-show rate – the number of people who bought tickets but did not attend events – has dropped in the U.S. to 2019 levels, which should help allay fears about the “resiliency of fan demand.”
“The two-year wait for artists and fans is over,” Rapino said. “Never have the tailwinds to our business been so strong, and I believe this is just the start of what will be the strongest multi-year period ever for the concert industry.”