In its earnings reports for the last quarter and full year of 2020, the year of the pandemic, Live Nation shows remarkable optimism for the projected return of live entertainment.
Despite a devastating year in revenue and ticket sales for the world’s largest live-entertainment company, Live Nation’s stock is actually higher than it was before the pandemic — at the time of this article’s publication, it was at 87.05 compared with 67.76 a year ago — and it reports that 83% of fans continue to hold on to their tickets for postponed shows, and notes a $950 million cost reduction in 2020 and $1.65 billion in cash savings.
That said, the company’s concert revenue plunged to $1.46 billion for 2020 from $9.43 billion the previous year, and ticketing dropped to $188.4 million from $1.54 billion in the same period, and sponsorship and advertising was down to $203.7 million from $590.3 million.
The company ended 2020 with $1.86 billion in revenue, down 84% from from the previous year, with a 92% drop in revenue in the fourth quarter.
However, during a call with investors after the earnings were announced, Rapino expressed confidence that outdoor and smaller indoor concerts in the U.S. will follow the course set earlier this week by the U.K., which foresees a return to 75-100% capacity at those venues begining in late June.
“We’re feeling more optimistic than we were a month ago,” he said. “We still believe we’ll have enough open to keep what we have on the books in amphitheaters booked for now. We might have certain states that won’t be ready, but we feel we have enough artists [available and willing to tour], and as long as we have enough states we think we can open in mid-summer.”
The announcement earlier this month of a massive North American and European tour by the Weeknd beginning in January of next year sets a mark for the return of conventional superstar arena tours.
“Over the last year, leaders across all our business lines of Concerts, Ticketing and Sponsorship have been analyzing ways to improve their businesses,” CEO Michael Rapino said in a statement. “Some of our key initiatives include: Re-organizing to become more nimble while also reducing our cost structure by $200 million; Building concert streaming and direct to consumer businesses to expand our revenue streams; Advancing our technology initiatives globally while accelerating the shift to digital tickets to meet changing needs of fans, venues and artists; and reinforcing our balance sheet to endure this period, while maintaining a strong position to build our business for the future and act on opportunities as we identify them, such as our recent acquisition of the streaming platform Veeps and a continued pipeline of bolt-on acquisitions throughout the globe.
He also cited an unspecified surveys as saying that 95% of fans are likely to attend a concert when restrictions are lifted, and projected that “given the limited touring activity in 2020 and 2021, the pipeline for 2022 is much stronger than usual, with almost twice as many major touring artists on cycle in 2022 than a typical year – about 45 artists versus the usual 25. And there remains plenty of scheduling availability at arenas, amphitheaters and stadiums to accommodate these additional tours, with over two-thirds of these venues’ nights unused by sporting events or major concerts in a typical year.”
The announcement states: “At the end of the fourth quarter of 2020, the company had total cash and cash equivalents of $2.5 billion, which includes $643 million of free cash. This free cash, along with $962 million of available debt capacity and taking into account the additional $417 million of net cash added to the balance sheet with the debt raise in early January, gives the company $2.0 billion of available liquidity. The company believes this level of liquidity provides it with the ability to fund operations until the expected return of concerts in the summer of 2021, preceded by ticket sales earlier in the year.”