Concert Industry Roars Back! Pollstar 2022 Mid-Year Report

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During the first half of 2022, one thing was abundantly clear about music fans in North America and throughout much of the world: they couldn’t wait to see live music again. Part of the return to normalcy, for many, was the opportunity again to buy a ticket and see a favorite artist at an in-person live event. And many were willing to pay a healthy price for it.

The numbers certainly indicate as much, as box-office figures reported to Pollstar during the first two quarters of the year reflect strong demand by a populace eager for live entertainment.

The average gross, average number of tickets sold per show and average ticket price all show upward movement this year among the top 100 North American tours in comparison to totals from 2019, the last full year of live activity prior to the pandemic.

Gross averages bounded back in the first half of the year with an average box-office haul of $856,206 per show – a whopping 24.4% increase over the $688,535 gross average in 2019’s mid-year analysis.

An increase in average ticket prices may help explain the increased grosses showing a significant upward trajectory at mid-year with this year’s average ticket totaling $108.20 – 17.8% higher than the 2019 average price of $91.86 for the top 100 North American tours.

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And it’s not just the average gross and average ticket price that showed a bump in a year-to-year comparison. The overall gross reported for the top 100 tours in North American venues totals $1.69 billion in 2022. That is a 9.1% increase over 2019’s total gross of $1.55 billion.

The average number of tickets sold at North American events also surpass 2019 totals. Live shows by the top 100 touring artists during this year’s first two quarters produced an average sold-ticket count of 7,913. This is a 5.6% improvement on the 2019 ticket average of 7,496.

A new metric presented in this year’s mid-year analysis is the capacity sell-through percentage that interestingly shows almost the same result as in 2019. This year, tickets sold at a steady rate of 92.7%. That alone is impressive, but even more so as it is just .1% less than the sell-through percentage three years ago when 92.8% of the available tickets were sold in North American markets during the first two quarters.

But there are two areas where mid-year percentages in the top 100 drop in 2022: the overall number of sold tickets and the number of shows reported. This year’s total ticket count is just over 15.6 million in North America, which is 7.4% lower than 2019’s sold tickets totaling 16.9 million.

Likewise, the number of shows reported this year is 1,974, which is 12.2% less than the 2,248 shows reported for the top 100 in 2019. Several factors come into play with this result – most notably that reporting for 2022 is not complete as it is for 2019. Talent buyers, venue personnel and other show reporters will still be reporting data from Q1 and Q2 throughout 2022, and the final show total for the mid-year period will rise as the year progresses.

Ultimately, box-office results at concerts in 2022 show upward movement among major artists with tours at the arena and stadium level following the most disastrous period in the history of the industry – this following a decade-long period of double-digit growth in concert touring around the globe that peaked in 2019.

Yet, looking beyond the top 100 tours, total numbers reported in North America show that rebuilding and recovering from the pandemic shutdown is still something of a work in progress.

Pollstar’s mid-year data sheds light on an industry that is coming back strong and largely overcoming the lingering impact of a pandemic shutdown while still coming to terms with an uncertain economy, heavy traffic, and rampant inflation, particularly as the latter relates to gasoline and diesel prices.

While many of the tours that are out in 2022 were planned and budgeted before the cost of touring rose sharply, we are beginning to see the high cost of touring reflected in overall ticket prices as those fielding tours are challenged to keep touring profitable.

Boxoffice tallies this year present some obvious realities for the industry. A rise in gross levels in the top 100 in contrast to fewer tickets sold reflects higher ticket prices overall, yet consumers are undeterred in their willingness to buy them – even amid a period of economic uncertainty throughout much of the world.

THE YEAR’S TOP TOURS

Bad Bunny performng at The Forum in Los Angeles on Feb. 25, 2022.
(Photo by MICHAEL TRAN/AFP via Getty Images)

The names that appear on the Top 100 Tours for the mid-year recap include touring heavyweights on the road in North America and around the world. There are veteran acts with legendary standing as well as artists still in their early years of headlining stardom.

Surpassing all other headliners in both gross revenue and sold tickets is Puerto Rican artist Bad Bunny, who racked up over $120.1 million at 39 performances of his “El Último Tour Del Mundo” in North America from mid-December through early-April. He sold 663,868 tickets overall at 27 venues including Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan where he played for 70,000 fans over two nights in December. His three-night tour finale at Miami’s FTX Arena was his top grosser with $12.4 million from 54,998 tickets, April 1-3.

Elton John ranks at No. 2 on the Top 100 Tours in North America (and is third on the worldwide chart behind Bad Bunny and Genesis) based on more than $70 million reported from his “Farewell Yellow Brick Road” tour. His final trek on the road has amassed over 423 million since beginning in 2018, and with concerts booked at both stadiums and arenas through July of next year, the final overall gross of his farewell tour is projected to easily rank among the highest-grossing tours of all time.

WORLDWIDE IN SCOPE

Year-to-year comparisons of box-office results worldwide for 2022 and 2019 show a different result than the North American tallies. Globally, only the average ticket price is higher this year. While the average price in 2019 totaled $92.42, this year saw a 14.2% jump to $105.55, again indicating that higher ticket prices do not appear to be a disincentive for concert-hungry fans.

Yet, the gross and sold-ticket averages globally fell this year compared to 2019.
Revenue among the top 100 tours worldwide totaled 2.2% less while ticket sales showed a
14.4% drop. One contributing factor may be that many North American venues have been
able to return to full capacities and pre-COVID operational standards earlier perhaps than venues in other regions around the globe.

Overall, the worldwide gross at mid-year is $3.5 billion with ticket sales at 46.8 million
based on 20,684 shows reported in the first two quarters. In contrast, 2019 saw 35,903 shows reported worldwide for mid-year with a $5.1 billion gross and 76.6 million sold tickets.