Welcome To Pollstar’s 2023 Year-End Issue

The live entertainment industry remains on a boxoffice tear, with 2023 once again putting up record numbers by virtually every metric: ticket sales gross revenues, and home run tours, with the top two both notched by female stadium headliners. This was also a year that saw a new paradigm in what a venue can be, as Sphere in Las Vegas debuted with U2’s “U2:UV Achtung Baby Live at Sphere” and the possibilities of the concert experience — with or without psychedelics — has forever been changed. Check out our cover story on U2 at Sphere, with Senior Writer J.R. Lind checking in from Vegas.

Surprising no one, 2023 was once again the highest-grossing year ever for concerts, as total grosses for the Worldwide Top 100 Tours were up a staggering 46% to a record-breaking $9.17 billion (2022’s total was $6.28 billion), and attendance up 18.4% in total tickets sold to a record 70.1 million (2022’s total was 59.2 million). North American 100 tours also set a record at more than $6.63 billion, up from $4.77 billion in 2022 — a 39% increase.

This was the Year of the Blockbuster, none earning that title more than Taylor Swift’s cultural takeover with “The Eras Tour,” which Pollstar research determines grossed more than $1 billion at the boxoffice during our 2023 Year End chart period of Nov. 17, 2022, to Nov. 15, 2023. And she’s not done yet. Read all about it in the pages that follow.

It is worth noting that Swift’s tour promoter, Messina Touring Group in North America, did not officially report boxoffice numbers to Pollstar. That said, the consensus internally was “The Eras Tour” was too important to our industry for us to ignore. So our crack research department sharpened their pencils and went to work, using a variety of sources to get a number we stand behind. While the promoter did not report, more than a few venues did provide us with numbers; those that didn’t, we relied on what we know about ticket prices in each market, historical record capacities at each venue (which Swift routinely has shattered), and the expertise that comes with 40 years as the authority on the business of ticket sales and the liv industry. We view your trust as a big responsibility.

Even so, we vastly prefer tours reporting their boxoffice results to Pollstar, and we haven’t given up on getting an official report on “The Eras Tour.” When and if that happens, we will see how we did.

Though Swift’s “Eras” tends to suck up all the oxygen in the cultural room, there were other massive tours out in 2023, many continuing into 2024. Beyoncé would have dominated all comers and set a Pollstar touring record in a year where Swift wasn’t touring, and finished a solid No 2 worldwide. P!NK is crushing it at stadiums both in the U.S. and abroad. Morgan Wallen has solidified his status as the No. 1 ticket seller in country music, Drake remains a box-office power house, and Karol G led a general surge in Latin touring. And the Boss is still the Boss, in the midst of what will likely be his highest-grossing tour ever.

The mix of hugely successful touring artists in 2023 reflects a diverse industry in terms of genres, fans and positions on the career arc, a trend that bodes extremely well for the future of the live entertainment industry. The wealth of 30-somethings and younger who solidified their elite status means all the talk of “who’s gonna fill their shoes” for the past 20 years has been irrelevant. And if The Rolling Stones (who will tour in 2024, filling their own shoes) set the bar, that means the industry is pretty solid with headliners for at least the next 30 years.

We are in the midst of a boom that in actuality dates back to the industry’s exit from The Great Slump of 2009-’10. Without the shutdown we’d all just as soon forget, this industry has been surging for more than a decade. Of course, it all begins with the artists, and the industry is turning out some remarkable ones. But anybody that went to concerts back in the ’70s knows that, overall, the fan experience is light years better today, even though we can’t see the Eagles for $5 anymore (yeah, I have that stub). Think of all the people who saw their first show ever with “Eras” in 2023. They undoubtedly had a helluva good time, and because of that will likely be going to shows for the next 30-plus years.

Congratulations, live entertainment industry, for making the magic happen night after
night. Consider it an investment in the future. Wishing you a warm and relaxing holiday season and a prosperous, rockin’ 2024. A year from now in this space, we’ll be talking about another record year, I predict. And, as ever, thank you for letting me look behind the curtain.

With gratitude,

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Ray Waddell | President | OVG Media & Conferences