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Hundreds of thousands of Taylor Swift fans will closely be checking their phones Monday night, waiting to see if they’ve been chosen by Ticketmaster’s Verified Fan system to buy tickets to the pop star and singer-songwriter’s upcoming stadium tour. When those tickets go on sale later in the week, it’ll likely be minutes before they all sell out.
Live music roared back in the U.S. as the pandemic has waned, and the refrain of high demand and low inventory for tickets has become now a common theme for music fans, who have seen 2023 tour announcements in recent weeks for acts ranging from Blink-182 and Paramore to Bruce Springsteen and Chris Stapleton result in near-instant sell-outs when tickets become available.
That extreme demand is coming as fans are spending more money than seemingly ever to go to a concert, two things that Live Nation Entertainment, the parent company of Ticketmaster, recently indicated will likely not be waning any time soon.
Ticket sales for concerts through the third quarter of 2022 were up 37% compared to 2019, and ticket sales for concerts set to be played in 2023 are pacing up double digits compared to the previous year, the company said. Fans on average spent 20% more at the venue compared to 2019.
Joe Berchtold, Live Nation president and chief financial officer, said on the company’s third-quarter earnings call with analysts on Nov. 4 that “this is structurally a level of spend that we’re seeing from the consumer now.”
“More VIP, more platinum tickets, getting that money to the artist. And we’re seeing a relatively strong inelasticity on the demand for those best tickets,” he said. “People are going to a bit higher quality in terms of some of the alcohol, some of our product offerings are making more of a deal for people to take higher price point products.”
“All of those we think are a continuation of the trends that we’ve seen over the past several years and have no reason to expect that that would be any different going forward,” he added.
This past summer stadium shows from acts like Coldplay and the Red Hot Chili Peppers were some of the most in-demand, with multiple tours selling more than 500,000 tickets, pushing Live Nation to record its highest quarterly attendance ever – more than 44 million fans across 11,000 events.
Berchtold said that Live Nation’s outlook for stadium tours next year – boosted by Swift – will be “far and away the largest stadium we’ve ever had.”
But with high-profile acts like Swift and Springsteen already booked for stadiums next spring and summer and the potential for other acts like Beyoncé and Rihanna to also set out on tours, that will likely push other acts into the following years. That means there will likely be no end to the high demand for tickets.
“The good news is ’22 is going to probably be a record year, but there’s only so many Fridays and Saturdays and artists are pretty smart about how they route their tours and how they look at the world and find their right positioning,” Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino told analysts. “You’re never going to have a bunch of tours on the same weekend piled on. So that just meant we have more inventory to spread into ’22, ’23, and we’re talking ’24 now. So, I would say we have a backlog that needs to still work through the system in ’22, ’23, which will be incredibly strong years.”
Criticism about the cost of tickets
With more people looking to buy tickets for the tour of their favorite musician, criticism around the price of tickets as well as the fees associated with them has grown too.
Last month, U.S. President Joe Biden said that as part of his plan to lower costs for American citizens that he was going after “hidden junk fees,” one of which he said was tied to concert tickets.
“I know hidden junk fees – like processing fees on concert tickets – are a pain. They’re unfair, deceptive, and add up,” Biden tweeted.
Live Nation issued a press release following Biden’s comments saying it applauded his “advocacy for fee transparency in every industry, including live event ticketing,” adding that it would support an FTC mandate that would require face-value prices and fees to be shown upfront, as it is required in other parts of the world.
However, Ticketmaster has faced other complaints about the rising price of tickets, as well as the inclusion of premium seats for concerts in its “Official Platinum” feature, which have variable prices based on demand. Tickets in those categories have seen their price skyrocket in situations of high demand, such as reports that some seats for Springsteen’s upcoming tour were listed as high as $5,000 each on the first day of being on sale.
While Ticketmaster said just 11.2% of seats were included in that program and the average ticket price sold for that tour was $262, U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell wrote a letter to Live Nation in August calling for “much needed transparency to the sale, pricing, and distribution of live-event tickets.”
“The verified pre-sale of tickets each morning has caused high levels of stress and frustration for our constituents as they see tickets disappear from the primary marketplace website as if purchased, only to reappear at higher prices,” Pascrell wrote.
Ticketmaster distanced itself from ticket prices in its own statement, noting that “promoters and artist representatives set pricing strategy and price range parameters on all tickets, including fixed and market-based price points.
“As the resale ticketing market has grown to more than a $10 billion industry over the past few years, artists and teams have lost that revenue to resellers who have no investment in the event going well or any of the people working behind the scenes to bring the event to life. As such, Event Organizers have looked to market-based pricing to recapture that lost revenue,” the company said.
“We’ve had over the year, double-digit growth in the live entertainment space ongoing. We project that to continue both on pricing and global volume as demand and supply continues to grow around the world,” Rapino told analysts.