After a grueling 18 months of pandemic, Live Nation Entertainment posted a strong third quarter of 2021, with the return of festival concerts helping to drive “all our business segments to positive operating income and adjusted operating income for the first time in two years,” according to the report, with a company-wide operating income and AOI of $137 million and $306 million, respectively.
The report notes that its results are driven “primarily” by the U.S. and the U.K., as other territories have been slower to return, and that 17 million fans attended Live Nation shows during the quarter, with festivals providing a large percentage of that boost; it also notes that and that 90% of those attendance figures are from August and September, when concerts began to return in earnest.
“Overall ticket sales for major festivals were up 10% versus 2019,” it states, also noting that several major tours, including those by Harry Styles and Chris Stapleton, have already sold more than half a million tickets for the year.
In addition to increased attendance, the company also priced tickets high — “improved pricing,” in touring industry parlance — with average amphitheater and major festival pricing up double-digits versus 2019. This was due to more VIP tickets being sold, driving up the average price by $7, and promotions (sale pricing) being on a smaller scale, for an impact of $2 per ticket.
Returning fans also spent at record levels, with on-site spending per fan up over 20% in amphitheaters and festivals compared to 2019, the report says.
The company also notes the caution with which it has returned to concerts:
We delivered these results within an operating environment that required us to ramp up quickly, institute new health and safety protocols, and staff our front line in a tight labor market. On the health and safety front, we set the industry standard by requiring proof of vaccine or testing for our shows, with no change in fan purchasing behavior. More importantly, our protocols proved effective in mitigating major Covid disruptions to our business in the U.S. and the U.K. and allowed us to work in conjunction with local health officials to mitigate transmission risks from our events. On the labor front, we were able to meet staffing requirements for our peak outdoor season without any show disruption.
Live Nation-owned Ticketmaster, which was ravaged by the pandemic, delivered its highest operating income and AOI quarter ever, led by sports leagues restarting and growing concert on-sales for 2022.
As fans came back, so did sponsors and brand partners. Live Nation’s sponsorship and advertising business delivered over $100 million in operating income and AOI in the quarter, the first time at that level since third quarter of 2019, the report says.
The company says it has already sold 22 million tickets for its shows in 2022, singling out Coldplay and Red Hot Chili Peppers tours as already passing the 1 million ticket mark, with several other tours already selling over 500,000 tickets.