Business In France Remains Magnifique

Billie Eilish performing at Rock en Seine in 2022.
Photo by Olivier Hoffschir

France currently has a luxury problem: not enough space to contain all of the shows willing to tour, and all of the fans willing to buy tickets. As hosts of the 2024 Summer Olympics, the country’s main entertainment buildings have significantly less avails to offer to other forms of live entertainment, of which there has never been a greater variety.

According to Matthieu Drouot, CEO of Gérard Drouot Productions, “it’s not only rock ’n’ roll, or hip-hop, it’s also family entertainment. Musicals are back, taking up months in a venue’s schedule. And more international artists come to France from all over the world. I’m doing Fally Ipupa from Congo. We sold 38,500 tickets at [Paris] La Défense [Arena] in November, and went on sale in Lyon, and Bordeaux, which are 11,000 to 12,000 capacities. We have musical diversity from everywhere, which is very welcome.”

Live Nation France CEO Angelo Gopee said, “We are coming out of a very strong year, and in 2024 we hope to do better still. With the Olympic Games being hosted in Paris, we do not have access to the Stade De France or other Olympic venues for shows between July and September. However, thanks to the diversification of our business over recent years, we will still have a good year. We’ve got great regional business outside of the capital city, and demand for these shows keeps growing. Main Square Festival in July is going to be amazing, and is selling really well, so there are options for music fans as well as Olympics fans this year.”

Europe’s biggest indoor stadium, Paris La Défense Arena, will host the Olympic swimming and para-swimming events, but managed to squeeze in six concerts at the building’s maximum capacity of 43,000, including four nights with Taylor Swift, Sum41, and the Black Eyed Peas. Not counting the spectators coming for the Olympics, CEO Frédéric Longuépée expects some 800,000 visitors in 2024. “Without the Olympics, we would have welcomed around 1.3 million spectators, or 30% more than in 2023. Attendance in 2024 is still driven by the concert business, with 60% of visitors to 16 events,” he said, adding that he’s been observing a “growing demand for live entertainment experiences following COVID, and forecasts are extremely positive for live music ticket sales in the coming years.”

Nicolas Dupeux, CEO of Paris Entertainment Company, which operates Accor Arena, the Bataclan, and the new adidas arena, said the volume of sales at the beginning of the 2023-2024 season was “slightly lower than that in the previous season,” which had “an exceptional start post-COVID,” but emphasized, “our projections are still very satisfactory and continue to flirt with records.” He said he was “very proud” to be hosting and producing some of the Olympic and Paralympic events, with his team handling “everything from technical services to hospitality, security, catering, media, volunteers, broadcast lighting, etc. We organize and set up the sites, ensuring that they are operational and providing the associated services. This once again demonstrates the recognition of our expertise, not only in hospitality but also in production.”

A sports-focused year like 2024 highlights the importance of buildings that are dedicated to nothing but music. Said Drouot, “We are lucky enough in France to have amphitheaters in most markets, [17] Zéniths [across the country], and more, but these venues are also increasingly booked-up, especially in the big markets like Lyon, Nantes, and Bordeaux, which are becoming just as busy as Paris was 25 years ago. Some venues are still struggling in the smallest cities, in St. Etienne, for instance, or in Pau, which are tertiary markets, but the top five, top 10 French markets have become really busy.”

What exacerbates the lack of avails is the domestic business, which has always been strong in France. It has become increasingly important over the years, said Gopee, “because people are listening to more and more music. This means there are more artists with followings, and therefore the local live scene is thriving.” He picked Rsko, Ronisia, Franglish, Monsieur Nov, and Joé Dwet Filé as French or French-speaking artists everyone should have on their radars right now.

Longuépée, whose sold-out shows at Paris La Défense Arena this year included Michel Sardou, and Calogero, said, “local artists play an important role in ticket sales,” and Dupeux added, “on the national scene, we notice a growing presence of stand-up comedians and a real explosion of the urban scene, two significant trends in French entertainment.” Drouot confirmed, “there’s lots of new talent. I don’t promote this guy, but another French promoter, Pierre-Alexandre Vertadier, who is the head of Décibel Productions, is doing an urban act called Ninho. They went on sale last month for two nights at Stade de France in May 2025, and sold out in just a few hours. that’s an artist, who wasn’t even in the market 10 years ago. There’s lots of domestic talent that does well, which affects [the venue availability for] international tours. When you’re a French artist, you can do 50 to 100 shows in France on one album cycle, because there are so many different places to play. And as artists announce their tours more and more in advance, you need to book yours [as early as possible], especially if you want to avoid crazy routing.”

There’s good news on the festival front, as well. Jean-Paul Roland, managing director of Les Eurockéennes de Belfort, said this year’s edition was experiencing record sales. “Nearly 70% of tickets sold four months before the festival,” he said, adding “I feel the effects of a newfound enthusiasm for major outdoor events. Never in France have stadiums or large capacity rooms welcomed so many audiences as in the past two years. The major open-air festivals seem to be participating in this dynamic this year.”

Meersseman, head of AEG France, and programmer of Rock en Seine Festival, said “it’s shaping up to be one of our biggest years. This is the first year we’re going to do five days, and the extra opening show that we added, Lana Del Rey on the Wednesday, sold out within weeks. All festival days are tracking above 2022’s record sales, we’re confident we’re going to have five sold-out days, which is unheard of in our festival’s history. That’s really encouraging.”

There’s some evidence of small- to mid-sized shows struggling. One promoter anonymously told Pollstar he was certain market corrections were coming. “Given the high-risk environment we’re living in, a depressed economy – granted, inflation has gone down, but it’s still very high – I think it’s going to be very difficult to maintain this level of activity at these ticket prices for very long,” he said, adding, “the media’s very focused on Taylor Swift or Beyoncé selling 250,000 tickets in an hour, and conclude that touring must be doing well. But that’s masking the bigger picture, like the number of theatre shows, or arena shows, that are hitting 60% to 70% in terms of sales, and that nobody ever talks about.”