President & CEO
No single person in the live industry has had their feet held to the fire over the course of the pandemic as much as Michael Rapino. As President and CEO of Live Nation, the world’s largest promoter and a publicly traded company, the fortunes of this industry are inextricably tethered to the executive, who this year managed to come out of this industry’s two most challenging years with a loud roar.
In its most recent earnings report, Live Nation recorded its best Q1 in its history. 70 million tickets sold for shows in 2022, up 36% from 2019? Check. Show count up 44% through April relative to 2019? Check. Annual operating income (AOI) for Q1 doubling 2019’s? Check. Sponsorship AOI up 75% versus Q1 of 2019? Check. Ticketmaster having its best month ever in March 2022.
“Momentum has picked up for all of our businesses over the course of the first quarter. Artists are back on the road, and fan demand has never been stronger,” Rapino resolutely stated during Live Nation’s May 5th earning call with investors. “Live events remain a clear priority for consumers as our social lives restart.”
Look no further than Pollstar’s Live 75 and APEX Charts to see the CEO’s words manifested in today’s top current tour, including: Billie Eilish, BTS, Dua Lipa, Chris Stapleton, Eagles, Maroon 5, John Mayer, Imagine Dragons, Lady Gaga, Coldplay, H.E.R., Miranda Lambert and Bon Jovi, among many others.
Beyond concerts, Ticketmaster’s strong first quarter performance also helped drive the company’s overall profitability along with the company’s concert and sponsorship businesses this year positioned to deliver record-setting results.
Additionally, Live Nation’s secondary ticketing saw its gross transaction value growth up 106% relative to Q1 2019, “driven largely by average resale ticket price being up almost 20% relative to Q1 2019.” It’s a strong indication to artists and their teams when setting ticket prices that there is room for increases.
Venue Nation, the division that oversees the promoter’s operated venues, has 20 new venues in the pipeline. And most recently, the division opened the $375 million Moody Center in Austin with Pollstar parent company Oak View Group.
Additionally, Live Nation, with its festival partners, including C3 Presents (see cover story), Insomniac and Country Nation, is planning this year to add 38 more festivals. “38 is an indicator,” Rapino said on the earnings call. “We launched the When We Were Young Festival out of Vegas and hoped to sell 40,000 tickets; we sold over 160,000 tickets in Vegas. So, a huge success on a brand new festival.”
On the international front, in December, Live Nation completed its acquisition of Ocesa, Mexico’s largest promoter, which promotes thousands of events in a typical year across Mexico and Colombia. The promoter’s portfolio includes ticketing, sponsorship, food & beverage, merchandise, and the operation of 13 venues across Mexico.
“While the US and UK have driven much of our activity over the past year, the rest of the world is now rapidly opening up,” Rapino said. “Ocesa’s financial performance for the quarter exceeded its 2019 results, and both Latin America and western Europe are expected to have record attendance for our concerts this year. I continue to expect this just to be the start of our run. The global addressable markets for concerts, ticketing, and sponsorship all provide a long runway for continued growth.”
Live Nation promoted tours on the horizon this include Kendrick Lamar, Harry Styles, Lil Nas X, Def Leppard & Motley Crue, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Florence + The Machine, Wu-Tang Clan and Nas, Los Bukis, Black Keys, Odesza, Smashing Pumpkins, Arcade Fire, Jack Harlow and Rufus Du Sol among many others.
Beyond 2022, there is good reason for optimism after this strong, record-setting quarter. “We have over 60 tours already under discussion for 2023, our earliest indicator of next year,” which is roughly double the amount LN would typically have this time of year, Rapino said. Live Nation, he concludes, is in “great positioning for ongoing growth.”