It’s A Global Business, But A (Price) Gap Remains

Sir Elton John on the first night of his 10-date residency at London’s The O2, which has claimed the top spot on Pollstar’s mid-year arena chart (ranked by tickets) once again. The concerts were part of John’s “Farewell Yellow Brick Road” farewell tour, which ranks No. 4 on the worldwide tours chart. Photo by Simone Joyner / Getty Images

Europe and the UK are traditionally strong on Pollstar’s arena chart, and the 2023 mid-year ranking is no exception. The O2 has firmly taken back its top spot as the world’s busiest arena with 802,843 tickets sold, and $80,550,657 grossed, right ahead of Cologne, Germany’s Lanxess Arena, which reported 738,116 sold tickets, and a gross of $45,820,655 to Pollstar’s Boxoffice. New York’s Madison Square Garden ranks third (670,450 tickets; $82,157,552 gross). There are two more UK buildings in the Top 10: The OVO Hydro in Glasgow, Scotland, at No.4 (627,518 tickets; $42,401,407 gross), and AO Arena in Manchester in the 10th position (443,468 tickets; $33,462,061 gross). Ireland’s 3Arena ranks ninth (445,161 tickets; $35,512,190 gross), and WiZink Center in the Spanish capital of Madrid lands on the fifth spot (532,801 tickets; $27,495,301 gross).

Along with Mexico’s Arena Monterrey at No. 7, that means that more than half of the top 10 arenas are made up of international venues. If one ranks the arenas by gross revenue, MSG takes the top position. Kia Forum in Inglewood, California, ranked sixth on the ticket sales chart, moves up to the third spot ($67,439,557 gross; 494,586 tickets). T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, which ranked No. 34 on the top ticket chart, jumps all the way up to the fourth spot on the arena grosses chart, grossing $64,334,006 with a mere 252,691 tickets sold, indicating the prices that can be charged in the world’s mecca of entertainment.

Sydney’s Qudos Bank Arena lands in sixth place ($43,519,687 gross; 409,036 tickets) and Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, ranks eighth ($42,224,014 gross; 279,060 tickets). Rounding out the top 10 is Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle ($34,582,262 gross; 329,162 tickets). So, when ranked by gross, it is the U.S. arenas forming the majority of the top 10, which speaks volumes about international price levels.

The promoters ranking helps solidify these findings with the following examples: SJM Concerts from the UK ranks 13th on the grosses chart with a $90,136,910 gross and 1,624,839 tickets sold, followed by Italy’s Vivo Concerti at 14 ($83,814,333 gross; 1,547,846 tickets), and Semmel Concerts from Germany at 15 ($72,442,157 gross; 1,129,303 tickets). FKP Scorpio ranks 28 with a $36,728,002 gross and 763,935 tickets. All of these companies improve their positions when ranked by ticket sales, in other words: when their U.S. colleagues don’t out-price them. On the tickets chart, SJM moves up to No. 6, Vivo lands at No. 8, Semmel climbs three spots to No. 12, and FKP Scorpio comes in at No. 18.

To compare levels in the U.S. and Europe, it helps to look at tours that visited both continents. When pulling up Ed Sheeran’s Pollstar Boxoffice, for instance, his most recent U.S. stadium run was priced between $49 and $145. When he last visited European stadiums in August and September 2022, tickets ranged from $50 to $90. Coldplay charged between $32 and $179 per ticket on their 2022 U.S. stadium run. The most recent boxoffice reports from European stadium shows show a price range of $26 to $130. Lizzo charged between $34 and $160 on her last U.S. arena run. When visiting arenas in Europe and the UK, the starting price was roughly the same, or higher, but the top tier tickets got capped at a much lower price, around $100 max.

Any rule comes with exceptions, and there are promoters in Europe that can charge ticket prices equivalent to their U.S. colleagues. Either because they are Swiss – when Ed Sheeran performed at Zurich’s Stadion Letzigrund last September, tickets ranged between $120 and $155 – or because their audience can afford it. UK veteran promoters Marshall Arts, for example, work with Elton John, Paul McCartney, Celine Dion, Herbie Hancock and others – artists who have grown with their fans over decades. Their fans, generally speaking, have more disposable income than younger demographics. As Elton John’s Pollstar Boxoffice indicates, there’s not much need to adjust prices between the U.S. and Europe. When looking at the stadium capacity, ticket prices range between $55 and $249 in the U.S., between $65 and $245 in the UK, and between $60 and $250 in Europe.

André Rieu Productions from Belgium is another example. Prices don’t change much between the U.S. and Europe, as long as the buildings, and therefore the production, are of a similar size. Therefore, both Marshall Arts and André Rieu Productions improve their positions on Pollstar’s Mid-Year Promoters Chart when ranked by gross instead of tickets sold. Marshall Arts jumps from 60 to 33 (187,580 tickets, $32,080,759 gross), André Rieu climbs from 36 to 32 (362,724 tickets, $32,785,354 gross).

These are very general statements, of course, as any good promoter will adjust their prices depending on the economic reality in the countries and cities they visit. Pollstar’s Boxoffice is full of examples of that. And be aware that U.S. dollar prices were calculated depending on the exchange rates for Euros and Pounds Sterling at press time.