Updated Sep 2, 2022 - Economy

Live events take off like a rocket

Illustration of a microphone cord forming a line chart going up.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Live events are returning at full blast this year and concertgoers are willing to pay a lot for them.

The big picture: The pandemic halted hundreds of shows and live events. But now, despite a summer of revenge travel and inflation, Americans are flocking to live events — and the concerts they're seeing are less glamorous than in the past.

What's happening: Some of the biggest names in the music industry are touring the country after taking the last two years off.

  • Harry Styles, arguably the biggest star in the United States right now, recently held a show at Madison Square Garden. BTS and Bad Bunny, two global superstars, have been hosting shows as well.
  • Stevie Nicks, Lil Nas X, Post Malone, and Lizzo all have fall tours that will only extend the number of shows for the year.

By the numbers: LiveNation, one of the largest concert management groups, had 12,500 shows in the second quarter of 2022 alone. That's 2,500 more than in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Attendance was up 20%, too: 33.5 million people attended LiveNation shows in the second quarter of 2022, higher than 2019's 27 million.
  • LiveNation has sold more than 100 million tickets through July 2022 compared to 74 million in 2019.
  • "Momentum across our business has remained strong in recent months and weeks, and demand combined with a substantial concert pipeline gives us confidence in our ongoing growth this year and into 2023," LiveNation said in an August press release.
  • LiveNation did not immediately respond to Axios' request for comment.

Context: Ticket sales for concerts and live events are soaring due to increasing consumer demand, the Wall Street Journal reports.

  • Fans are seeking better seats and experiences from their show that make expensive tickets worth the price.
  • Consumers are buying tickets that come with aisle seats, better views of the stage, and VIP upgrades, such as watching soundcheck, per the WSJ.

Reality check: Live events and summer tours may be in abundance, and there's an appetite from consumers. But artists are struggling to find the instruments, equipment, and gear they need. More shows mean demand will increase.

  • Shipments for stage pieces used to take one to three days. Shipments now take about a week if not longer, Daniel Nickleski, owner at Sound Works Production, tells Axios.
  • Suppliers are telling production companies that they won't have stage products for at least a year, Nickleski said. Because of this, bands have had to adapt to using different pieces for stages, lighting fixtures, and audio mixers.
  • Products needed for the stage, as well as buses for travel, have also gone up in cost due to supply chain issues. Prices have jumped 25% to 50% compared to pre-COVID times, he said.

What they're saying: "It's kind of just doing the work that's in front of us and getting it done, and hoping that, you know, the labor sorts itself out sooner than later," Nickleski tells Axios.

  • “We all got very used to this wonderful, very efficient world where everything ran on time," Coldplay production manager Jake Berry told Billboard. "We have to think further ahead."
  • Managers for Jack White's appropriately named "Supply Chain Issues Tour" have had problems finding the right lights, tour managers, buses, and trucks to make the show work.

Worth noting: Many A-list concert performers — such as Taylor Swift, Drake, and Beyonce — have not announced tours yet.

  • Nickleski, of Sound Works Production, said that A-listers might not want to deal with the headaches of the supply chains and COVID precautions.

Live events and concerts may be booming, but live theater and opera shows are not. The Met Opera said it only sold 61% of its available tickets last season — down from 75% seen at pre-pandemic levels, the Associated Press reports.

  • “There was a greater magnetic force of people’s couches than I, as a producer, anticipated," Jeremy Blocker, the managing director at the New York Theater Workshop, told the New York Times. “People got used to not going places during the pandemic, and we’re going to struggle with that for a few years.”
  • Some arts venues have had to cut events as a result of the decline in sales. Movie theaters, which offer a different form of live events, have been struggling to fill seats due to the lack of new movies.
  • DaBaby canceled his New Orleans concert Tuesday due to "business reasons" and a breach of contract of the promoter, per Nola.com. But it might have been related to a ticket sales issues as Ticketmaster info showed "several hundred" seats were sold for an arena with 14,000 seats.

The bottom line: People are still eager to watch bands and other musical artists in person. But there are still supply chain issues causing hurdles for many groups, and that might only continue in the near future.

Editor's note: This story was updated to clarify Jake Berry is Coldplay's production manager.

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