2022 Year-End Biz Analysis: Record-Setting Year Marked By Bad Bunny, Ed Sheeran & Stadiums
“Drinking from a fire hydrant,” the live industry’s mantra in 2022, was heard often and invoked constantly for good reason: The tsunami of shows, festivals and live events flooding the market were mostly—but not always—met with voracious demand amidst myriad impediments. The year, we now know, was not a “return to normalcy,” far from it; rather, it was a historic, record-setting high-bar of a year returning with astronomical grosses, ticket sales and average prices. Far more was accomplished with far less, which made the year’s successes even more profound.
We saw it coming last year, based primarily on the tail end of Q3 and Q4 2021, which Pollstar termed “The Great Return.” The quarters’ record-setting grosses and tickets helped us to predict 2022’s full-year gross fairly accurately. “From Q4 2021’s $1.34 billion gross,” we wrote, “we can extrapolate a total gross of $5.63 billion for the Top 100 Tours of 2022…” We were short, but just by a bit.
An Historic Year
$6.28 billion, $6,280,417,764 to be exact, is a beautiful number. It’s also 2022’s record-setting total gross based off Pollstar’s Year End Top 200 Worldwide Tours chart, It represents a whopping 13.2% increase over 2019—the glorious pre-pandemic year saw a record-setting gross of $5.5 billion, which, coming out of COVID, many thought would take years to reach.
Au contraire. In corporate America, 13.1% growth over the last full market year would be cause for popping Moët. That it happened whilst emerging from COVID, with a bumpy Q1 return challenged by a new variant and shaky consumer confidence, is all the more impressive. For North America, it was even better.
A 28.4% increase in grosses is outlandish; but that’s how much total revenue for the North American Top 200 grew from $4.4 billion in 2019 to $5.65 billion in 2022. Keep in mind, North American data made up the vast bulk of this year’s Worldwide chart as the domestic live market was at full boil in Q2, while many international markets didn’t fully open until well into Q3 or beyond.
Going beyond the Top 100 Tours, final figures for the year show that overall ticket sales reported around the globe in 2022 also set an all-time gross record with an astounding grand total of $11.7 billion — just over a 5% increase compared to 2019’s $11.1 billion. It marks the third consecutive year breaking the $11 billion barrier overall as 2018’s final numbers reached a whopping $11.4 billion. (Keep in mind, that’s just a slice of the entire global live industry, which easily surpasses an estimated $30 billion annually).
The Top 100 Worldwide ticket sales in 2022 hit 59.2 million, edging out 2019’s total of 57.7 million tickets by 2.6%. Yet, the 2022 North America Top 200 ticket sales saw a significant increase of nearly 8% hitting 54.5 million from 50.5 million in 2019. That means the vast majority of increased concert grosses can be attributed to higher ticket prices, which on the Top 100 Worldwide charts grew 10.29% from $96.17 to $106.07 over 2019. The growth is even more pronounced on the North American Top 200 where ticket prices increased 19% from $87.19 in 2019 to crossing the three-figure barrier of $103.71 in 2022.
The Year Of The Stadium
When discussing three-figure average ticket prices, clearly we’re not talking about club level shows, but the highest echelons of the business. Indeed, when broken down by venue size, it’s the largest buildings that drove the majority of 2022’s growth.
The massive increase in stadium revenue and ticket sales in 2022 was the key driver in the year’s increases (see “2022: The Year Of The Stadium”), The past 12-months finally answered the question we’ve been asking ourselves for years: “Who’s going to replace Pink Floyd, U2, The Rolling Stones and other stadium rockers?” The answer, it turns out, is everybody from every genre and generation as the stadium flood gates shot open.
The Weeknd, Lady Gaga, Ed Sheeran, BTS, Coldplay, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Bad Bunny, Los Bukis, Billy Joel, Daddy Yankee, Def Leppard & Mötley Crüe, Dua Lipa, Zac Brown, Eagles, Swedish House Mafia, Iron Maiden, Blackpink, Morgan Wallen, the Lumineers, Dead & Co., Garth Brooks, Guns N’ Roses and Chris Stapleton are a partial list of those who headlined stadiums in the last year, and the data reflects that.
Shows recorded at the top 100 stadiums in 2022 grossed $2.68 billion—a whopping 81% more than 2019’s stadium haul of $1.48 billion. Ticket sales, too, for stadiums were up a massive 49% from 16 million three years ago to 23.8 million this year.
Additionally, with the market still having something of a COVID hangover, it makes perfect sense that in addition to stadiums, which are outdoors, the other venue category in 2022 with a significant rise in grosses were amphitheaters. For the top 100 sheds this year, grosses were up 18% hitting $814 million as compared to $690 million in 2019 with ticket sales up 2% to 12.6 million.
Arena and theaters in 2022, however, didn’t fare as well, according to Pollstar Boxoffice reports. Grosses at the top 200 arenas worldwide were only slightly down 1% compared to 2019, dropping to $4.49 billion from $4.55 billion, but revenue from the top 200 theaters fell 11% to $1.64 billion in contrast to 2019’s $1.84 billion. Ticket revenue at the top 200 clubs, though, saw a 5% boost over the $309 million gross from 2019, hitting $324.8 million.
We’ve heard throughout the year of an uneven recovery, especially at the mid-size venue levels. With the perfect storm of inflation, labor shortages, supply chain, gas prices and a glut of tours (see page 75) many venues—and artists—are still very much struggling to make ends meet.
Breaking Down The Tours
So what were 2022’s Top Tours driving the enormous growth? First and foremost: Bad Bunny (see “Bad Bunny’s ‘World’s Hottest Tour’ Lives Up to its Name”). Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio topped Pollstar’s Worldwide Touring chart grossing $393.3 million, earning $120 million more than his nearest competitor (sorry, Sir Elton) and did it with two different-sized tours in the same year (who does that?). The first, his 36-date “El Último Tour Del Mundo,” was a sold-out 35-show arena tour which ran from Feb. 2022 in Denver and ended in Miami on April 3 grossing $113 million before 574,000 fans. His second, the presciently named “World’s Hottest Tour,” hit stadiums in the U.S. starting in August before heading to Latin America and grossing $269 million with 1.3 million tickets through the year-end’s Nov. 16 chart cut-off date.
His $188.15 average ticket price was the highest of the year’s Top 10 tours. And while significantly less than a few others, most significantly Sir Paul McCartney’s No. 15 tour came in at with a $248 ATP, Bunny’s 2,090,785 tickets was second only to Ed Sheeran, the No. 3 tour of the year but whose $82.456 average ticket prices yielded less than half of Bunny’s gross.
Elton John followed at No. 2 among the Top 100 based on 65 of the arena and stadium shows played this year on his long-running “Farewell Yellow Brick Road” tour that first hit the road more than four years ago. His $274 million gross for the year brings the tour’s reported haul well over the $600 million threshold since launch, perhaps putting the legendary performer on track to break Ed Sheeran’s all-time boxoffice records with his final jaunt on the road before it wraps next summer. Stay tuned. As for 2022, John also topped Pollstar’s Artist Power Index which measures an artists’s popularity using data from touring, social media, streaming and radio airplay.
If anyone knows about breaking all-time touring records, it’s Sheeran (see “3+ Million Can’t Be Wrong: Ed Sheeran Sells 2022’s Most Tickets”) who currently claims the highest gross ever for a single tour with his “Divide” trek that reached $776 million when it wrapped in 2019. This year he was back on the road with “Mathematics,” a European stadium run that racked up a $251 million gross to earn the No. 3 ranking, but he stands apart from the crowd as the artist with the best-attended tour of the year. He is the only concert performer to top the 3 million mark in sold tickets with 3,047,694 sold at 63 shows in 28 venues throughout the year for a massive average of 48,376 tickets sold per show. That includes his six warm up shows prior to the first stadium date in Dublin on April 23. His last show in Europe was on Sept. 25 at Frankfurt’s Deutsche Bank Park.
Harry Styles lands at No. 4 in the Top 100 based on box office success at both arenas and stadiums on his “Love On Tour” that began in September of last year with a string of North American arena dates. Stadiums followed, though, in 2022 with Hazza’s 23-show European run that kicked off in June. He performed in 15 countries through the end of July, selling more than 638,000 tickets.
Then, beginning in August, it was back to North America with multiple shows in five arenas including his historic 15-night engagement at New York’s Madison Square Garden, aka “Harry’s House,” from Aug. 20 through Sept. 21. As it turned out, the numbers from New York were staggering with a ticket count of 276,852 and a whopping $63 million gross – a total which helped cement The Garden’s overall $241 million haul, the highest gross of the year for a single venue worldwide. With solid numbers from two shows in Toronto and six at both Moody Center in Austin, Texas, and Chicago’s United Center, Styles headed to Los Angeles to complete his fall tour with another massive multiple-night run of 12 concerts at the Kia Forum. Again, the final counts were jaw-dropping with $38 million in sales from over 200,000 sold tickets— which were more like multi-stadium play numbers than arena numbers.
2023’s Massive Year Ahead
After a record-setting year at the boxoffice – most notably in stadiums with dynamic ticket sales figures produced by some of the industry’s hottest stars, the forecast for the year ahead is bright and beautiful—especially considering the number of stadium tours announced for 2023.
Chatter about just how large the gross potential might be for Taylor Swift’s “The Eras” tour (with the possibility of crossing the unthinkable $1 billion mark) has flooded social media, trade media and all media since it was first announced.
P!nk also made the news cycles with the announcement of her “Summer Carnival” stadium tour planned for next year, beginning in Europe on June 7 and in North America on July 24. Double- show bookings at Paris, Munich, Boston and L.A. are among the upcoming highlights.
Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, touring together next year for the first time since 2017, will also play stadiums during the summer with a European trek stretching from late April through July, but North American fans of The Boss won’t have to wait that long. His 2023 tour will kick off on Feb. 1 in Tampa, Florida, and remain stateside through mid-April with 31 shows planned.
Country’s Morgan Wallen who headlined his first stadium in 2022 will sell tickets at a few more in 2023 as 17 stadium concerts are planned on his “One Night at a Time” world tour along with a slew of arena and shed dates.
Other artists already slated for stadium and/or arenas in 2023 include (inhale) Ed Sheeran, Elton John, Harry Styles, Dead & Co., The Weeknd, Def Leppard/Mötley Crüe, Billy Joel and Stevie Nicks, Guns N’ Roses, Coldplay, Metallica, Luke Combs, Eagles, George Strait & Chris Stapleton, Depeche Mode, Jimmy Buffett, Carrie Underwood, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Grupo Firme, Blink-182, Arctic Monkeys, Journey, Kane Brown, The Killers, Lizzo, Machine Gun Kelly, Maná, Mary J. Blige, New Edition, Paramore, Post Malone, Reba McEntire, Shania Twain (exhale).
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 next year in stadiums and/or arenas. Additionally, though nothing’s confirmed, never count out Rhianna, who’s headlining the Super Bowl, or Olivia Rodrigo and Megan Thee Stallion could all possibly be out there, too.
So what does that mean for next year? If we’ve learned anything in the last tumultuous three years, it’s that nothing is certain. That said, if market conditions remain constant and we have a more fully realized Q1 without a damn COVID variant marring the quarter, international markets fully opened, an even bigger stadium year as is forecasted and arenas, theaters and clubs doing better than 2022, than year-end grosses will most certainly increase.
If we take the average percentage increases of the total gross of the Top 100 tours over the past five years – 2016 through 2019 and 2022 – the average growth rate worldwide is 9.15% and a larger 12.33% for North America. Applying those increases would put worldwide grosses for the Worldwide Touring Top 100 Tours Chart for 2023 at $6.78 billion and North America Top 200 at $6.32 billion. No matter how it breaks down, for sure it’s going to be another fascinating year to behold. s