Leadoff: Sky’s The International Limit – How Live Music Makes The World Go Round

Karol G Performs At The O2 Arena
THE WHOLE WORLD IN HER HANDS: Karol G epitomizes the global dominance of live. The Colombian superstar plays markets throughout the world, with impressive box office performances in Europe and North and South America. Here, she’s pictured at The O2 in London, where she brought the European leg of her “Mañana Será Bonito” tour, June 18-19, 2024. (Photo by Jim Dyson / Getty Images)

This week’s Pollstar issue features Indian artist Diljit Dosanjh on the cover, who is playing stadiums and arenas in the U.S.; a story on U.S. country artist Riley Green, who, aside from touring the U.S. all year, will perform at BST Hyde Park in London and head to Australia in October; a focus on the live entertainment market of Spain, which, aside from bringing forth major touring artists, serves as a gateway between Europe and Latin America; an interview with CAA’s U.S. based Latin agents, and a preview of one of Canada’s biggest festivals, FEQ in Quebec City, that brings artists from all over the world. If anyone still needed proof that this business knows no borders in 2024, well, here it is.

The Latin connection with Europe works both ways, for the homegrown artists it exports as well as the international tours it imports. Colombian star Karol G is currently in Europe with her “Mañana Será Bonito Tour,” and had two sold-out O2 Arenas in London, England, under her belt at press time. She’s also doing multiples in the Netherlands, Italy, Portugal and France on this run, which will culminate with four sold-out concerts at the newly refurbished Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, a “historic milestone,” according to Nacho Córdoba, head promoter at Live Nation Spain, which promotes the concerts, marking “the first time an artist has filled four stadiums in Madrid.”

Looking at the major European tours coming through Latin America, two things stand out: One, both ticket sales and gross revenues are nothing shy of what they’d do in their home territories. If anything, they are able to do more shows in LATAM, seeing how eager fans are to see their favorite acts visit from abroad.

As Henry Cárdenas, founder and CEO of CMN, recently told Pollstar, “People in Latin America enjoy any concert more than those in the United States. I’m not trying to put down the consumer in the United States, but it’s a fast-paced life that we live here. People going to Crypto.com Arena [in Los Angeles] show up like an hour before a show. In Latin America, they start at 3 p.m. and tailgate. It’s just that the United States has so much more content and so many more opportunities when it comes to entertainment. But in South America, when they go to a concert that they paid $100 for, they’re going to make sure those $100 are being enjoyed all night long.”

Two, even fans in markets like Argentina, which has economically struggled for decades, don’t hold back on spending on live experiences. Coldplay’s 10-show residency at Argentina’s national stadium in Buenos Aires in 2022 had a higher average ticket price than their preceding shows at the national stadium of Santiago de Chile, although Chile has one of Latin America’s richest economies, measured on purchasing power per-capita.

Pollstar‘s cover artist this week takes us right into Punjab in India, a country that has seen “a significant increase in the number of international tour promoters expressing interest in exploring performance opportunities,” according to Ashish Hemrajani, founder and CEO of BookMyShow, India’s largest live entertainment company, which sold close to 20 million tickets per month (!) the last time we checked in 2019. Hemrajani said, “the evolving landscape of the entertainment industry, coupled with India’s diverse and enthusiastic audience, has made it an attractive destination for international artists and promoters.”

20 Million Tickets Per Month And Just Getting Started: How Big Tree Entertainment Is Building India’s Live Entertainment Business

Fans at Lollapalooza India 2023 in Mumbai, watching Indian-born Canadian singer AP Dhillon perform, Jan. 28, 2023.(Photo by Punit PARANJPE / AFP)

Lollapalooza held its first Indian edition in 2023 in Mumbai, featuring international acts such as Imagine Dragons, The Strokes, Greta Van Fleet, Japanese Breakfast, Diplo, Jackson Wang and more; the second iteration in January this year featured Jonas Brothers, Sting, OneRepublic, Halsey, Lauv, Eric Nam, The Rose and more on the bill.

Events like Lolla don’t just put the host city on the map. “In fact,” said Hemrajani, “out of the total attendees at Lollapalooza India 2024, 34% traveled from other Indian cities to be a part of the extravagant musical experience including Bengaluru, Delhi-NCR, Pune, Hyderabad, Chennai, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Chandigarh, Goa, Guwahati and more. This highlights the festival’s widespread appeal and its ability to attract attendees from various regions, all eager to soak in the electrifying atmosphere and revel in the performances of talented international and homegrown artists.”

In terms of international tours, Westlife’s “Wild Dreams Tour,” or Backstreet Boys’ “DNA World Tour” stand out. Both visited the Indian subcontinent last year. Backstreet Boys, for instance, performed at Reliance Jio Gardens in Mumbai, May 4, and the Airia Mall in Gurugram, May 5, moving 23,892 tickets, grossing $2,052,168. The numbers are in line with every other established market the iconic boy group visited on the “DNA World Tour,” both in terms of capacity and gross, suggesting a similar ticket price level.

Ed Sheeran performed at Mumbai’s Mahalaxmi Racecourse March 16, 2024, attracting more than 50,000 people from across the country, as the Times of India reported after the show. Hemrajani told Pollstar, “Out of the total attendees for Ed Sheeran’s record-breaking ‘Mathematics Tour,’ 40% reside in Indian cities outside Mumbai, including Bengaluru, Delhi-NCR, Pune, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Kochi, Nagpur, Indore, Chandigarh, Goa, Jaipur, Surat, Guwahati and more.”

History In The Making: Diljit Dosanjh Takes The Stadium Stage, Sets Records With North America Tour (Cover Story)

India has a population of 1.3 billion, spread across 29 states that are almost like individual countries stitched together. There are over 50 cities with a population of more than 1 million, while the top 10 cities have a population of 8 million-plus. Mumbai alone has a population of over 22 million; Delhi, another 20 million. Many languages are spoken. The movie industry reflects that: there’s the Tamil movie industry, the Telugu industry, the Malayalam industry, etc., which are just as big if not larger than Bollywood. This explains why stringing together multiple dates across the subcontinent isn’t as straightforward as having the right infrastructure in place, i.e. venues to perform in and staff to handle the shows. If it was, BookMyShow, which employs more than 1,400 people in over 650 towns and cities in India, would already be doing it.

So, while there’s no real circuit in India yet, there’s one with surrounding territories like the Gulf Region. The program of Coca-Cola Arena in Dubai, for example, always includes popular Indian artists aside from local Arabic, and Western content. The arena’s general manager Mark Jan Kar told Pollstar, “I often spend 90% of my time on these regional shows, discussing Indian, and Arabic content, rather than necessarily Western content. And, I must say, that Arabic and Indian content is performing on par, if not better in some cases, than some of the bigger Western shows.”

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