2020 Concert Revenues Plummet; $30 Billion Loss

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The audience at a 2016 concert at New York’s Radio City Music Hall. When will crowds be able to return?

That’s billion with a “b.” Pollstar, the trade publication dedicated to covering the worldwide concert industry, has released its 2020 year-end special issue with a startling image on its cover: a lone spotlight with only “2020” and an asterisk. For the first time in its history, the live events industry saw losses far outweigh gains in a supremely challenging year.

In the Dec. 11 announcement, Pollstar puts 2020’s total lost revenue for the live events industry, which was shuttered in March due to the global pandemic, at more than $30 billion. It’s a staggering figure and is based on Pollstar’s Box-office database, the largest in the world, which would have hit a record-setting $12.2 billion in 2020, but instead incurred $9.7 billion in box-office losses.

The projected $30+ billion figure includes unreported events, ancillary revenues, including sponsorships, ticketing, concessions, merch, transportation, restaurants, hotels, and other economic activity tied to the live events. Additionally, these calculations took into consideration the losses among the 147,000 live businesses featured in Pollstar’s industry-leading directories as well industry studies.

Since its founding in 1981, Pollstar is considered the leading resource for the touring industry encompassing box office numbers, routing, and directories.

“It’s been an extraordinarily difficult year for the events industry, which has been disproportionately impacted by the Coronavirus. As painful as it is to chronicle the adversity and loss our industry and many of our colleagues faced, we understand it is a critical undertaking towards facilitating our recovery, which is thankfully on the horizon,” said Ray Waddell, president of Oak View Group’s Media & Conferences Division, which oversees Pollstar. “With vaccines, better testing, new safety and sanitization protocols, smart ticketing and other innovations, the live industry will be ramping up in the coming months, and we’re sure that at this time next year we’ll have a very different story to tell.”

The special year-end issue looks in depth at 2020 with business analysis and deep dives into specific live industry sectors, including promoters, agencies, venues, ticketing, festivals, innovation, philanthropy, and livestreaming. Elton John’s “Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour” crowned the year’s Top 100 Worldwide Tours with $87.1 million grossed between Nov. 30, 2019 through March 7, 2020. The historic multi-year trek was No. 2 on 2019’s tally with $212 million grossed. Rounding out the Top 10 in the abbreviated year are Celine Dion, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, U2, Queen + Adam Lambert, Post Malone, Eagles, Jonas Brothers, Dead & Company, and Andrea Bocelli.

Related: Listings for 100s of classic rock tours

The $30+ billion in projected losses is derived from the 10.92% year-over-year growth rate tabulated in Q1, the last full quarter before the pandemic. The $9.7 billion in Pollstar box-office losses represents an increase over the $8.9 billion projected in Q1 as losses grew substantially after the quarter’s end.

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