Beyonce, Justin Timberlake, Rolling Stones Drive Summer Concert Rebound
This story first appeared in the May 10 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
The concert business is about to experience its most robust summer season in years. Early indicators point to a 20 percent increase in ticket sales when compared with 2012, according to Billboard, with multi-artist package tours -- like the co-headlining duo of Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z or the triple bill of 98 Degrees, New Kids on the Block and Boyz II Men, along with heritage acts like Paul McCartney, Fleetwood Mac, Black Sabbath, Rush and The Rolling Stones -- setting the pace.
Indeed, the last time Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and friends toured the U.S. (in late 2012 to celebrate the band's 50th anniversary), they grossed an average of nearly $8 million a night. With 18 arena shows kicking off May 3 at Los Angeles' Staples Center and ticket prices ranging from $170 for the cheap seats to $700 for a prime spot (with VIP package incentives going for $2,000-plus), it all points to another watershed achievement for the group of 70-somethings.
A more realistic take for an arena act is about $600,000 a night, with top-tier sellouts commanding closer to $1 million. Among those in the upper bracket is Beyonce, who looks to take a cue from last year's top touring act, Madonna. Like the MDNA tour, which grossed $228 million for 72 sold-out shows, Beyonce gave potential ticket buyers a sneak peek of her Mrs. Carter Show at the Super Bowl. Campaigns for Pepsi and H&M and word of a new album followed, and now the four-month world tour is off and running, with the 28-date North American leg set to end at Brooklyn's Barclays Center in August.
After years of dramatic increases, ticket prices seem to be stabilizing as artists continue to push for more affordable price points to pack arenas with merchandise-buying fans. Even the Stones have lowered prices from their mid-2000's peak. At the same time, secondary sellers like StubHub and TicketsNow often dictate what the market will bear. McCartney's Out There tour, for example, boasts only nine U.S. dates and big buzz, yet tickets to some shows are going for as little as $40 on StubHub. Kid Rock priced all tickets to his Best Night Ever tour at $20 in a deal with Live Nation that calls for profit-sharing from parking, concessions and merch sales.
But not every act has the fan base to toy with creative ticket pricing. "It's a balancing act and one of the hardest things we have to do in our jobs," says David Galea, a 12-year booker at The Agency Group, which represents such bands as Muse, Nickelback, The Black Keys and Paramore. "If you're overpricing your artist, ticket sales are going to suffer, but you don't want to undervalue your artist, either. It's tricky."
To hedge risks, more tours are combining several acts -- be it the Under the Influence tour, which brings together hip-hop newcomers Wiz Khalifa, A$AP Rocky and Trinidad James, the Americanarama outing featuring Bob Dylan, Wilco and My Morning Jacket or co-headlining bills such as the Honda Civic Tour featuring Maroon 5 and Kelly Clarkson.
"These are acts that bridge five decades of music listeners," says Galea. By growing the pool of potential ticket buyers, "you've got a lot of one-plus-one-equals-five."