Live Nation has released financial results for the quarter and full year ended December 31, 2021, and those results are strong, despite a return to live entertainment that was disrupted by the omicron variant and the tragedy at Travis Scott’s Astroworld festival last fall. Yet the company’s eyes are on the coming months: CEO Michael Rapino predicted “record financial performance” and “the strongest multi-year period ever for the concert industry.”
While comparisons with 2020 — when Covid-19 essentially shut down the concert industry for 5/6 of the year — are virtually moot, Live Nation’s revenue thundered back in 2021, more than tripling to $6.27 billion, according to the company’s earnings report issued Wednesday; while that is just slightly more than half of its 2019 revenue of $11.55 billion, it is based on what was effectively a half-year at best of live entertainment. Concert revenue was $4.72 billion, up $3.3 billion.
While continuing the financial resilience it has displayed throughout the pandemic, Live Nation put on more than 17,000 concerts for 35 million fans in 2021, mainly in the U.S. and U.K. markets. The company even topped its 2019 numbers by nearly 25% for the final five months of the year in those territories, with more than 15 million fans attending outdoor events — festivals, stadiums, and amphitheaters.
The omicron variant struck during a traditionally slower part of the year for live entertainment — December and January — which worked to the benefit of both events and touring, and the company’s earnings.
The company says its confirmed show count through February is up 30% relative to 2019 across our large venue shows, for stadium, amphitheater, arena and festival events. Through mid-February, the company says it has sold 45 million tickets for shows this year, up 45% from this point in 2019 — with eight artists selling more than 500,000 tickets for their tours this year, including Bad Bunny, Dua Lipa and Billie Eilish.
Yet its main strength was looking ahead to 2022, with robust ticket sales and “demand-driven” price increases, particularly with platinum and other front of the house ticket pricing. It also reported that, contrary to some media reports, fans are spending more in the venues, with average per fan revenue up double-digits for the year relative to 2019 levels, across each of amphitheaters, festivals and theaters and clubs — and also that no-show rates are back to 2019 levels.
The report notes that sponsorship and advertising operating income and adjusted operating income was roughly the same for the second half of 2021 as it was in 2019, which was a record level. It singles out long-term relationships with brands like Bacardi, Heineken and O2, as well as new brand partners including Coinbase, Hulu and Cinch.
Ticketmaster, which is owned by Live Nation, had the dual benefit of strong ticket sales for events in 2021 and also surging sales for 2022. Ticket sales were at a record pace across every metric with October, November and December being its top three months ever for ticketing gross transaction value, excluding refunded tickets. The fourth quarter and second half of the year also set records for a quarter and six-month periods.