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Harry Styles, BLACKPINK & More Lead New Generation of Stadium Acts – Billboard


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A decade ago, the top eight acts on the 2013 Billboard Boxscore Top Tours chart each took in more than $100 million in ticket sales. Of those, Taylor Swift and Rihanna were young superstars; Pink and Beyoncé were each in their second decade as solo performers; and three — Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi and The Rolling Stones — were legacy rock acts. (The eighth was Cirque du Soleil’s Michael Jackson show.) Those results were typical for the time, which was why concert industry executives feared for years that their business wouldn’t have a steady supply of superstars that could fill stadiums and arenas after acts like the Stones and Elton John retired.

Now in 2023, the second full year of post-pandemic touring, 17 acts reached the $100 million mark (and 13 hit the inflation-adjusted equivalent of $132 million). Of those, nine released a debut album after 2010: Harry Styles, Morgan Wallen, Ed Sheeran, The Weeknd, BLACKPINK, Karol G, Drake, Luke Combs and Post Malone.

They look and sound differently, too. Unlike the rock acts that dominated the Boxscore charts in 2013 and for many of the years before and after, this new generation of headliners leans more toward pop, either in terms of genre (Styles, Sheeran, BLACKPINK), radio airplay (The Weeknd, Post Malone) or both. They’re more diverse, both personally and in terms of audience appeal, and more likely to score hits on the Billboard Hot 100. And they have enough drawing power to charge as much or more than legacy rock acts that appeal to an older, and presumably wealthier, audience.

To understand why so many newer acts can now gross more than $100 million, it helps to look at how that happens. To score those kinds of results, an act needs to not only sell a lot of tickets — it needs to sell them for a fairly high price. For years, most stadium acts had their roots in classic rock, and they alone could break the $100 mark for per-ticket pricing, at least partly because their audience tends to have more money and partly because fans knew they wouldn’t tour forever.

Some younger top acts use elaborate productions and cultural cachet to create that same sense of event — the fear of missing out — that makes fans willing to part with more money. That’s at the heart of the year’s top outing, Swift’s The Eras Tour, which Billboard Boxscore estimates brought in $920 million. (Swift and her team opted not to report attendance or ticket sales to Billboard Boxscore, which disqualifies her from the chart. Swift, who has previously reported her ticket sales, is not the first act to opt out, but she’s the first who would have been a contender for the top spot.)

If Swift had reported her numbers, she would certainly come in ahead of the official No. 1, Beyoncé’s Renaissance world tour, which took in $570.5 million from 55 shows during the tracking period. (Beyoncé played a final show on Oct. 1, which added $9.3 million to the tour’s overall haul.) That’s the highest single-year gross ever reported to Boxscore. Some of that success was due to pent-up demand — Beyoncé hadn’t performed as a solo artist since the 2016 Formation World Tour — and some resulted from more aggressive pricing. Many acts have raised ticket prices, apparently in order to capture more value that might otherwise go to scalpers.

Like Beyoncé’s shows, Coldplay’s Music of the Spheres world tour, which came in at No. 2 with $342.5 million from 55 concerts, had an elaborate visual component. So did Styles’ arena outing, which took in $338.2 million from 69 concerts, including nine at the Los Angeles Forum. Rounding out the top five were Wallen ($260.4 million from 44 shows) and Sheeran ($256.9 million from 46). Filling out the top 17 tours that grossed over $100 million were P!nk, John, The Weeknd, Depeche Mode, BLACKPINK, Karol G, Drake, Combs, Metallica, Dead & Company, Post Malone and George Strait.

The concert business isn’t only reacting to this trend toward younger and more diverse artists — it has played a role in making it happen. Over the last decade, the industry has shifted its focus from breaking individual acts as top touring attractions to creating a venue network that can identify artists with growth potential.

AEG and Live Nation have both adopted this strategy, and each has its own club and theater network that it uses to court artists like Wallen, Karol G, Combs and Post Malone. From there, artists can be steered into the company’s other divisions, including festivals or specialty promoters like The Messina Group, which is half-owned by AEG and this year produced tours by Swift, Strait, Eric Church and others.

This approach to developing artists as live acts focuses on boosting them to a certain level of popularity before moving on to the next. It’s paying off. The total gross of the top 10 tours is up 22% from 2022, to $2.7 billion, while the total for the top 100 is up 17%, to $7.5 billion. (These figures undercount industry growth because the time period that Boxscore used is a month shorter than in previous years — Nov. 1, 2022, to Sept. 30, 2023, rather than the previous period of Nov. 1 to Oct. 31.) That means 36% of the money taken by the top 100 tours went to the top 10 — and 51% went to the top 20.

That sharp rise in revenue partly comes from increased ticket prices, especially for younger artists. In fact, in a break with long-standing industry practice, younger acts are now charging more for some tickets than veterans. This year, it cost an average of $33 less to see the oldest of the top 10 touring acts, 76-year-old John (average: $166), than the youngest, 29-year-old Wallen (average: $199).

That might not last. The average price for the top 100 tours is now around $122, and fans may not be able to pay much more. A recent Peak Performance study by UTA Intelligence and Variety surveyed 1,500 concertgoers and found that over 62% said the biggest impediment to seeing more shows was the price, while 38% said the sole reason they didn’t go to a concert they wanted to attend was the expense.

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Written by: radioroxi

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