Australia / New Zealand Focus: Aussie Live Biz Expands Globally As Records Tumble

Ed Sheeran set a new attendance record at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. (Photo by Zak Waters)

As records tumbled through 2023 and set up for an equally exhilarating summer, Australasia’s promoters continued to expand their footprint across the globe.

It bullishly maintained negatives as the weak Australian dollar, escalating production and travel costs, rising living costs and insurance premium dramas could be overcome. A 2022 PWC forecast of a 30.8% compound annual growth rate 2021-2026, put Australia as the second fastest growing live sector in the world.

“It’s shaping up as a really great year,” said Dion Brant, CEO of Frontier Touring, believing 2023 could equal FT’s best performance in 2018.

Laneway. Photographer credit Ian Laidlaw. image 2
The Laneway festival set a new record. (Photo by Ian Laidlaw)

Ed Sheeran in March was Frontier’s biggest tour. The “Mathematics” run pipped at just under 900,000 over Australia and New Zealand, compared to 1 million for 2018’s Divide.

But he set new venue attendances in five cities, notably at the Melbourne Cricket Ground March 3, with 109,500, his largest crowd in the world.

Elton John was nearing 1 million tickets until torrential rain axed his final show on January 27 at Auckland’s Mt. Smart Stadium.

Frontier’s slate for the rest of 2023 includes Paul McCartney, Robbie Williams, Foo Fighters, Sam Smith and The Chicks.

Taylor Swift’s multiple dates in Sydney and Melbourne in February 2024 saw 4 million vie for a reported 680,000 seats. Bookings at the Hilton Melbourne shot up 9400% and 1129% at the Sydney Hilton while domestic flight searches to the two cities around the time of her shows were up 282% and 151%, respectively.

Swift is up against P!nk’s 16 stadium concerts Feb/ March 2024, which has sold over 750,000, “making it the biggest selling Australian tour ever by a female artist,” pointed out Roger Field, president of Live Nation Australia and NZ.

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Dion Brandt, CEO of Frontier Touring
(Photo by Ian Laidlaw)

As for 2023, “LN Australasia is having a record year and we are on track for the biggest year ever.

“We’re seeing unprecedented attendances at all levels from clubs to arenas. More artists are visiting us Down Under.

“We’ve also seen several arena acts take the huge step up into stadiums and sell phenomenally well, and we’re having our biggest stadium years thanks to artists such as P!nk, Harry Styles and our Coldplay shows in Perth.”

Field was impressed by how mid-range acts like IDLES, Sam Fender, Melanie Martinez and NIKI successfully transitioned to larger venues.

TEG group CEO Geoff Jones was equally impressed by how all tiers were being embraced.

“We wondered for a while there what would happen as stadium acts got older and retired,” he said. “But there are replacements lining up very strongly, which gives us great confidence going forward at the stadium level.”

TEG’s biggest successes were touring festivals, Laneway in January and February, and Knotfest in March. Laneway hit a record 100,000 over five cities, said founders Danny Rogers and Jerome Borazio, while Knotfest reached 100,000 metalheads over three cities.

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Roger Field, President of Live Nation Australia & NZ

“We were absolutely delighted with them,” Jones related. “Both were at different ends of the spectrum with very different audiences but generated great experiences.”

Independent operator Untitled Group achieved its target of 400,000 tickets from 373 events July 2022 to June 2023, “despite a lot of uncertainty coming out of COVID, (when) the market was shifting and buying patterns were shifting,” stated co-founder Nicholas Greco. Its July 2023-June 2024 target is 500,000 tickets from 400 events.

Untitled has great success with its festivals, including its flagship at the end of the year, Beyond The Valley, which sells out its 35,000 allocation in minutes, and the multi-city Grapevine Gathering and Wildlands, which tip 100,000 each. As the company grew from seven to 62 staff members, it shifted focus more to tours.

Greco said that being independent made it tougher as costs rose 30% to 40% across all facets of their events, “but we love being independent as it allows us to remain agile, and it’s easier to innovate and make bold choices as we have less red tape.”

Untitled, which showcases at Amsterdam Dance Event, will push further into the Asian markets with on-the-ground staff “so we can offer acts Australian and Asian dates that are more lucrative and can often push them over the line.”

TEG continued to expand in the UK and Europe as well as in Asian territories, specifically India and Indonesia. Global expansion in 2024 will be “to acquire more businesses,” Jones revealed.

Field wants LN’s global Ones To Watch program to increase the profile of Australasian acts.

The Frontier-AEG partnership sees them operate independently but makes it easy to pitch Australasian acts to AEG-affiliated festivals in the northern hemisphere.

The New Zealand scene “has always been reasonably buoyant,” reported NZ Promoters Association President Brent Eccles.

Bad weather and flooding this year will see promoters going into summer cautious about outdoor events and facing high insurance premiums.

A lull in new local talent, ticket prices linked wrongly to Australian ones, and the need for the industry to keep production costs to realistic levels were also challenges.

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Beyond The Valley remained Untitled Group’s signature festival. (Photo by Mackenzie Sweetnam)