2022 Is The Year Of The Stadium

Grosses, tickets, shows go through the (open) roof.

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The 2022 Stadium Explosion: (from left) Elton John, Dodger Stadium; The Weekend, MetLife Stadium; Kenny Chesney, Detroit’s Ford Field; Lady Gaga, MetLife; Ed Sheeran, Etihad Stadium; Red Hot Chili Peppers, Stad De France; Motley Crue/Def Leppard, Truist Park; Coldplay, Wembley Stadium; Bad Bunny, Azteca Stadium (center, credits below).

It wasn’t long ago that this industry seriously asked itself, with worry and angst in its collective voice, who was going to replace the stadium acts aging out of touring? This meant that tried and true stadium rockers like the Rolling Stones, Queen, Pink Floyd, AC/ DC and others, had few if any foreseeable heirs apparent to carry forward the stadium mantle. Well, the short answer, which came full force in 2022, was everybody.

Pollstar 2022 Year-End Hub

Suddenly, this year, the stadium floodgates opened like never before: Bad Bunny, Ed Sheeran, Elton John, Coldplay, Def Leppard/Mötley Crüe, The Weeknd, Lady Gaga, BTS, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Kenny Chesney, Harry Styles, Los Bukis, Dead & Company, Chris Stapleton, Metallica, Dua Lipa, Paul McCartney, Billy Joel, Eric Church, Daddy Yankee, Zac Brown Band, Karol G, Swedish House Mafia, Blackpink, Morgan Wallen, the Lumineers, Iron Maiden, Garth Brooks, Guns N’ Roses, are just some of the more prominent artists to play the big buildings this year.

“When it was only Pink Floyd and the Stones doing stadiums in those days, it was always one generation attending. Most people listened to the same music who were all under a certain music umbrella,” says Dennis Arfa, CEO of Artist Group International who this year worked stadium shows by Def Leppard/Mötley Crüe, Metallica and Billy Joel. “The world’s changed. The population is different. There’s more diversity and music has many popular genres. It’s multiple worlds and in each of those worlds, there are superstars. There’s a lot of different music out there.”

And many of those superstars this year found themselves in stadiums, which like never before saw massive increases in grosses, ticket sales, show volume and average ticket prices. According to Pollstar’s 2022 Boxoffice Reports, stadium concert grosses for the top 100 facilities in 2022 increased by a massive 81% from $1.48 billion to $2.68 billion in 2019, the last full year of market data. Stadium ticket sales, over the same period, were up 48% to 23.8 million from 16 million three years earlier and average tickets prices rose 22% to $112.40 from $92.22. Additionally, stadium reports in Pollstar’s database grew by 20% over 2019.

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Bad Bunny, who had 2022’s No. 1 highest grossing tour, catapulted in the same year from an arena tour to a global stadium tour grossing a massive $393.3 million. His agent, UTA’s Jbeau Lewis, working closely with Bunny’s manager Noah Assad at Rimas Ent., says the stadium leap wasn’t a difficult decision.

“In April of 2021, when we put ‘El Último Tour del Mundo,’ the arena tour, on sale, which started in Feb. ’22, what we saw from a numbers perspective were indicative of demand that was off the charts,” Lewis told Pollstar. “And when you look at a virtual ticketing queue for a show that can hold 17,000, and there’s 300,000 people in the queue, it’s certainly suggestive of the fact that there’s a lot more meat on the bone to be had.”

Lewis spoke of the “sharp edge” their team felt after the arena tour sold out only leaving tickets on the secondary market for thousands of dollars. “I remember distinctly, the conversation with Noah Assad on the day of the arena tour on sale, where we both said, ‘We got to hold stadiums for next year.’”

The other artist who helped pave 2022’s stadium way was Ed Sheeran (see “3+ Million Can’t Be Wrong: Ed Sheeran Sells 2022’s Most Tickets'”), whose “Mathematics” tour this year sold the most tickets— just over 3 million (3,047,694). His previous pre-pandemic “Divide Tour,” which ran 2017-2019, set the all-time touring record of $776 million and was the proof of concept for new stadium fare. This, he and his team accomplished, by playing stadium multiples, keeping prices low and following the warmer climate around the planet for three years.

“For us, it’s about putting bums on seats and playing to people,” Sheeran’s manager Stuart Camp told Pollstar about the “Mathematics Tour” success. “We just want to put on a good show for people and not bankrupt them, the main thing is [giving] people something to come out to that’s a bit of a relief.”

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Bad Bunny’s two shows at SoFi Stadium on Sept. 30-Oct 1. set the all-time record for a two-show concert gross by a solo headliner with a mammoth $31M gross. (Steve Thrasher / SoFi Stadium)

Sheeran’s longtime European agent Jon Ollier at One Fiinix Live agreed on the pricing assessment, “It really is at the core of everything we do. The fans come first and that means value for money. I think it may be interesting in the next few years in a period of high inflation, but we will stick to our philosophy of always trying to do the best we can.”

All of which helped lay the groundwork the current stadium explosion. “2022 was really strong,” says Christy Castillo Butcher, SVP of programming at Los Angeles County’s SoFi Stadium, which hosted 21 stadium shows since opening in July of 2021, though this year the state-of-the art facility really got its concert groove on. “It was a year of a lot of firsts, for a lot of these artists that played the venue it was their first stadium tours with acts like Grupo Firme, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Weeknd  and Bad Bunny—those were all their first US stadium tours and we got to celebrate with them.”

And why wouldn’t stadiums, artists and management, promoter and agency teams and fans, too, celebrate stadium successes? First, the massive grosses for a stadium show can easily net 10 times as much as an arena show. Keep in mind, though, the costs for stadium shows are much higher.

“The taxes and the costs are huge, larger than ever,” AGI’s Arfa says, “which means those who can do them, have to charge a lot. The consumer basically picks up the freight if they want to go. So with concerts at the stadium level, you can’t go in with a low ticket price. And if you have a big production, there’s not as much money to walk out with as one would assume. However, when you win in a stadium, you win big and you can’t have those kinds of numbers in an arena.” Fans, too, can also win big.

The exuberant and beaming grins witnessed across tens of thousands of faces at three stadium shows in the last year or so — Kenny Chesney, Bad Bunny and the Rolling Stones (very different tribes, mind you, with different rituals and dress — Stetsons/cowboy boots vs. beachwear vs. black t-shirts/jeans, respectively) — were universal. The stadium fan experiences of today have improved vastly and clearly isn’t your daddy’s stadium rock shows. The production is bigger, better and has superior technology; the modern facilities have better sightlines, food and beverages and premium offerings, along with shorter egress times; and nosebleeds that feel less removed.

“The production has become bigger and better,” says SoFi’s Castillo Butcher. “The Weeknd is a great example of that. He had a huge moon and a long stage that took you from north to south that took him everywhere. People want to be immersed in the experience and a stadium show offers that.”

Bad Bunny’s “World’s Hottest Tour” had fireworks during the show, choreographed RFID bracelets, fire jets, lasers, immersive LED screens and, of course, flying dolphins. For the night’s crescendo, Bunny took flight around the stadium on a palm tree island with neon lights during his hit “Un Coco” circling the interior perimeter of the stadium; it was exhilarating. The demographics at stadiums, too, are more varied since the stadium rock days.

Ray Chavez / MediaNews Group The Mercury News / Getty Images
Los Bukis perform one of two sold-out shows at RingCentral Coliseum in Oakland. (Ray Chavez /MediaNews/Getty Images)

“What you’re seeing at a lot of these shows — we saw a lot of this at Los Bukis and at the Stones — is that it’s multigenerational,” says Castillo Butcher. “It’s anywhere from 8-to-11-year-olds going with their parents and the parents bringing their parents. It’s three generations coming to shows together because that’s the music they grew up on. At The Weeknd, we saw everybody, because he has a wide reach and a lot of people were in town for Thanksgiving, so you saw a lot of kids coming back from college going to the show with their parents.”

Looking ahead, there is no reason not to think that next year’s stadium market won’t be even bigger. First, there’s Taylor Swift’s much discussed “The Eras” tour, which has the potential to cross the unthinkable $1 billion mark with 52 stadium dates already on the books. Then, there’s major runs slated for P!nk, Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, Morgan Wallen, Ed Sheeran, Elton John, Dead & Co., The Weeknd, Def Leppard/ Mötley Crüe, Billy Joel/Stevie Nicks, Guns N’ Roses, Coldplay, Metallica, Luke Combs, George Strait & Chris Stapleton, Depeche Mode, Jimmy Buffett, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Grupo Firme and Blink-182. Additionally, it isn’t a stretch to surmise that superstars with new albums out, including Beyoncé, Drake, SZA and BTS’ J-Hope, will be out on the road next year, possibly in stadiums, maybe even with Super Bowl half time performer Rihanna.

“We’re looking forward to the next year it’s going to be even more incredible,” SoFi’s Castillo Butcher says. “We had a lot to learn in the first year and we offered a great experience, but it’s only going to get better.”


Additional Reporting by Bob Allen

Credits For Hero Image: Elton John (photo by Ben Gibson Photos); The Weekend (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty) Kenny Chesney (photo by Jill Trunnell); Lady Gaga (Kevin Mazur / Getty); Ed Sheeran: (Picture by Ralph Larmann/FKP Scorpio); Red Hot Chili Peppers: Stad de France Stadium (David Mushegain/Columbia); Motley Crue: (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty); Coldplay: (Photo by Jim Dyson/Getty Images); Bad Bunny (Medios y Media/Getty Images)