What a friggin’ year for live, the likes of which we’ve never before seen. Of course, we’ve said that before; yet, as we process the Q3 data, there is no other conclusion that can be reached.
The worldwide box-office totals through the third quarter of 2023 show grosses and the number of sold tickets on a dramatically upward track, a trend that has been noted in every quarterly recap throughout the year. All signs easily point to a record-setting year for global live entertainment, based on reported ticket sales data from the 100 highest-grossing tours during the first nine months of the year.
Grosses and sold tickets both show substantial increases over Q3 figures from 2022, as do the average ticket prices from reported shows. For all three metrics, totals are higher in a year-to-year comparison to last year’s Q3 data. They are also higher, in most areas, compared to figures calculated at the end of the third quarter in both 2019 and 2018 – the two most recent years prior to the pandemic.
Certainly, the touring artists on the road this year who top the list of tours are a primary factor, but a deeper dive into the top 100 shows that box-office increases remain constant at every point – not just for the 10 tours at the top, but also the 10 tours in the middle as well as the 10 at the bottom.
In a year-to-year comparison, overall grosses from the top 100 surpass 2022’s totals at every level across the board. They are also higher than the totals for 2019 and 2018 as well and by a substantial margin. This year’s gross for Q3 totals $5.7 billion – a four-year high that marks a 50 percent increase over last year’s $3.81 billion gross. It is also 44 percent higher than the $3.96 billion in 2019 and tops 2018’s $4.04 billion by 41 percent.
For the top 10 tours alone, the third-quarter gross hits $2.62 billion – considerably higher than any of the previous four years. The top 10 grossed $1.32 billion in 2022, while 2019’s total was $1.24 billion. And in 2018, the 10 highest-grossing tours accumulated $1.44 billion through Q3.
That trend is also reflected in the grosses recorded in the middle and lower levels of the top 100 – although by not as wide a margin of growth. For those in the middle (tours ranked No. 46 through No. 55), the 2022 gross is $326 million – a 47 percent increase over 2022’s $222 million. But last year, grosses from the tours in the middle dropped considerably compared to the $298 million recorded in 2019, so this year’s result is only nine percent higher than 2019’s. In 2018, though, the mid-ranked tours grossed $212 million, so 2023 surpasses that amount by 54 percent.
For the 10 tours at the bottom of the top 100 (ranked Nos. 91 through 100), their combined gross is just over $155 million. The total in 2022, on the other hand, hit $107 million, while 2019’s bottom 10 grossed $115 million. The $143 million gross in 2018 comes closest to the current Q3 total, but this year is still the highest by 9 percent.
Global ticket sales comparisons tell a slightly different story, although still a positive one with overall 2023 figures showing growth over three of the four previous years. Sold tickets total 46.4 million this year – a 24 percent increase over the 37.4 million tickets in 2022. But last year, attendance had dropped 14 percent compared to 2019’s 43.5 million, so this year’s increase over 2019 is only 7 percent. The top sales figures in those four years— 47.5 million tickets — came in 2018; thus, 2023’s Q3 ticket count drops 2 percent compared to 2018.
Attendance for this year’s top 10 signifies robust growth across the board, just as the grosses did at the top. Ticket sales total 17.1 million in 2023 which is well more than last year’s 10.3 million at Q3. The top 10 for 2019 moved a total of 12.2 million tickets, while 2018’s ticket count was 14.5 million – the closest total to this year, but still 15 percent less.
The middle and bottom of the list of the top tours is where we see drops in 2023 — not compared to last year because 2022’s numbers were lower at every level in both gross and ticket sales. But counts in the two pre-pandemic years were higher than this year in the mid-section of the chart and also among the lowest 10 tours.
The tours in the middle – Nos. 46 through 55 – sold 2.9 million tickets, topping last year’s count of 2.4 million. In 2019, though, that group of tours sold 3.3 million, while the 2018 total was slightly higher at 3.32 million. Likewise, ticket counts from tours ranked Nos. 91 through 100 are 1.56 million this year, surpassing 2022’s 1.41 million.
Back in 2019, the ticket tally was just slightly higher than this year at 1.58 million, but 2018’s total was considerably more at 1.91 million.
Ticket prices are still a major contributing factor to global box-office success in Q3, as they have been all year long – and as they were in 2022 with a rise in ticket price averages in every segment of the top 100 tours in both years. The average ticket price from all 100 tours this year is $122.84 which, not only tops 2022’s $102.07, but also beats the $91.18 average from the top 100 tours in 2019 and the $85.03 average price in 2018.
The average ticket price for just the top 10 tours is, of course, the highest of all, totaling $152.97 in 2023. That is 19 percent more than the average price last year of $128.45.
But last year the average ticket price was one of the only areas that showed an upward movement in comparison to 2019. That year, the average ticket price was $101.28. The average in 2022 also topped the 2018 price of $99.28, but this year topped them all.
Looking further down the chart, it is more of the same with the average prices from the middle and bottom of the list all showing growth from one year to the next at all levels. Along with the top 10’s average price of $152.97, the average ticket cost for the middle of the top 100 tours is $111.63 and $99.42 for the bottom 10.
In overview, this boom at the box office in 2023 is the result of many factors in the world of live entertainment. Among them, the effects of post-pandemic global inflation on the costs involved in producing a show – hence, one of the causes for a rise in ticket prices. We are also further away from the pandemic shutdown, so box-office reporting has increased this year. And most COVID-related issues that probably stunted live activity early in 2022 were generally in the past by the beginning of this year.
But it’s the artists themselves who are the main reason for the box-office bonanza in 2023.
All 10 concert headliners at the top of the tour list drew sellout crowds to stadiums this year. All of them were already over $100 million in sales by Q3, with the top five also topping the $200 million threshold. Ranked second on the chart, Beyoncé is the sole artist who lands in the $300 million range, although at $390 million by the mid-August Q3 cut-off date, it didn’t take her long to pass $400 million.
While Taylor Swift’s box-office figures have not yet been reported to trade media, her gross through Q3 is estimated to surpass $756 million, earning her a solid lock on No. 1.
Swift also has the highest ticket count in the top 10, estimated at 2.98 million, but Harry Styles follows her with the second-highest attendance of 2.67 million. His gross of $290.5 million lands him at No. 3 among the 10 highest-grossing tours, followed by Coldplay at $275.6 million and Ed Sheeran at $217.3 million.
Morgan Wallen’s sixth ranking is based on a gross of $181.5 million, followed by Elton John at $149.2 million, Red Hot Chili Peppers at $125.4 million, Luke Combs at $119.2 million and P!NK at $116.7 million.
(Q3 totals are based on worldwide ticket sales from live events that occurred Nov. 17, 2022, through Aug. 16, 2023.)