Live Nation reports double-digit concert pipeline uptick following huge Q1 loss

Live Nation Entertainment said it is witnessing unprecedented demand for upcoming live events with its concerts pipeline for 2022 up double digits from 2019.

The group, which owns Ticketmaster, outlined an optimistic view of the coming years in its financial results for Q1, although COVID-19 related lockdowns, cancellations and postponements caused it to post an adjusted operating loss of more than $300m for the period.

The group said it expects the second quarter of 2021 to be its first quarter to show year-on-year improvement since the fourth quarter of 2019, and also expects to generate positive adjusted operating income through the second half of 2021.

Ticketmaster’s ticket sales began to pick up at the beginning of March, particularly in the US, with weekly ticket sale counts significantly ramping as concert on-sales have restarted. It said it has already added new clients representing over five million net new fee-bearing tickets.

Michael Rapino, Live Nation’s chief executive and president, said the group is increasingly confident that live events will soon be returning in its key markets due to the widespread roll-out of COVID vaccines in the US, UK and continental Europe. US festivals Bonnaroo, Electric Daisy and Rolling Loud sold out in record time, he said, while Live Nation’s three biggest UK festivals – Reading, Leeds and Parklife – are also sold out.

He said: “Around the world, people are showing the need to get out and socialise once again which reinforces our expectation that a return to concerts will be the logical progression as vaccines are readily available to everyone who wants to get one.

“This is generally already the case in the US where we are confidently planning our reopenings, particularly for outdoor shows, and we expect many of our other major markets will follow this summer.”

Rapino added: “As we get further clarity on reopening timelines, we are announcing more tours for later this summer, including Dave Matthews, Luke Bryan, Maroon 5 and others to come, showing artists’ increasing confidence in performing this summer.

“Given the longer lead times associated with global arena and stadium tours, we expect these will start later this year and into 2022. We are already seeing confirmed major tour dates for 2022 up double digits from the same time pre-pandemic in 2019 for 2020. Many of these artists will have multi-year tours, spanning the US, Europe and often either Asia or Latin America, setting us up for a strong multi-year growth run.”

While Live Nation’s positivity seems to be justified, its figures for the three months to March 31 are sobering. Q1 revenue of $290.6m was down 79 per cent year-on-year and 83 per cent lower than the first quarter of 2019.

Ticketing revenue in Q1 was just $28.3m, compared with $284.3m in 2020 and $337.6m in 2019.

Live Nation staged just 664 concerts and 664,000 fans in Q1 2020 compared to 8,207 concerts and 14.9m fans in Q1 2019. It sold 17.1m tickets in the period, compared to 91.5m in Q1 2019.

Despite its $750m cost reduction programme, the group posted an operating loss for the period of $303.2m with ticketing accounting for $120.7m of that. The company’s adjusted operating loss for the quarter was $151.7m, which consisted of $323m in operational fixed costs and $171m of contribution margin, which included $149m from operations, along with various one-time items including insurance recoveries.

Live Nation said that for concerts tours that have gone through a second refund window, the refund levels continue to generally be much lower for the second window than the approximately 17-per-cent average refund rate (through the first quarter of 2021, unchanged from the fourth quarter of 2020), as the casual fans requested their refunds during the first window.

Across both concerts and festivals, since March 2020, the company has refunded $295m for rescheduled Live Nation shows and $920m for cancelled Live Nation shows. Of this $1.2bn total, $495m was from funds held by third-party venues and $720m was from Live Nation-held funds.

Rapino said: “With Ticketmaster’s client base increasingly shifting to digital ticketing, we will continue to enhance our offerings, ranging from upsell and improved advertising opportunities, as well as blockchain and NFT ability on the Ticketmaster platform.

“Our brand partners remain engaged and are responding well to our reopening, and like our concerts business, our sponsorship pipeline of committed activity for 2022 is up double digits for next year relative to where it was at this time pre-pandemic in 2019 for 2020.

“Like so many of you, I’m excited to get back to concerts over the next few months, and even more excited to see what I expect to be a non-stop 2022, that continues roaring into 2023 and beyond.”