Jan 10, 2023 - Things to Do

Major concerts are skipping Cleveland this year

Taylor Swift sings into a microphone while standing on stage in a black lace outfit.

Just shake off Taylor Swift's decision to skip Cleveland this year. Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Some of the world's biggest music acts, from Taylor Swift to Ed Sheeran, are bypassing Cleveland in 2023.

Why it matters: Cleveland, home of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, may no longer be the concert force it once was.

Driving the news: When Swift announced her Eras Tour in November, Cleveland wasn't on the itinerary, but Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Detroit were. It's the first headlining tour of Swift's career that won't stop in Cleveland.

  • Tours featuring Billy Joel, Janet Jackson, Pink, Sam Smith, SZA, Ed Sheeran and Metallica are also without Cleveland dates.

By the numbers: Cleveland has trended downward with regard to major concerts. Despite the industry's recovery in 2022, just eight of last year's 25 highest-grossing tours came to Cleveland.

  • Those are down from pre-pandemic numbers; 13 of the top tours stopped here in 2019, and 18 did so in 2018.

What they're saying: Cleveland concert promoter Denny Young tells Axios that touring decisions are driven by market history, demographics and production costs.

  • "It all comes down to how you can turn the biggest profit," says Young.

Yes, but: Young insists "Cleveland still has a lot of music fans that will come out if you provide them quality entertainment."

  • To his point, big acts including Bruce Springsteen, Lizzo, Paramore and Blink-182 are set to stop in Northeast Ohio this year.

Flashback: Longtime Cleveland radio executive John Gorman says Cleveland was a major concert destination from the 1970s through the 1990s.

  • That's when local promoter Belkin Promotions ran the bulk of Northeast Ohio's concert industry, which Gorman tells Axios gave the region a "unique and beneficial infrastructure."
  • Live Nation acquired Belkin in the mid-2000s, making it part of the "national system that devalued Cleveland," says Gorman.

The other side: Live Nation did not immediately respond to Axios' request for comment.

What we're watching: It's early. Rumored tours featuring Rihanna, Beyonce, Madonna and other artists have yet to announce plans.

The bottom line: Live Nation and AEG, the country's biggest concert promoters, are predicting record revenue for 2023. Cleveland has to pick up the pace if it wants to reap the benefits.


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