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LIVE NATION SET TO REBOUND—AND SCORE

More tours will be announced this summer, says Live Nation Entertainment President/CEO Michael Rapino, who expects road shows from Luke Bryan (starting 7/8), Dave Matthews (7/23) and Maroon 5 (8/10) to go off without a hitch as vaccination rates alter the live-entertainment landscape.

In a conference call announcing financial results for the first quarter of 2021, Rapino said Live Nation has “incredible supply” and is speaking with artists about what makes most sense, a late ’21 run into 2022, a full 2022 tour or, in some cases, waiting until 2023.

“Artists are patient and smart,” he said, “and we’re not looking to cram three years into one. Spread [the postponed tours] over two years and you find enough weekends.”

Currently confirmed major-tour dates for 2022 are up double digits from the same period, pre-pandemic, in 2019 for 2020. As-yet-unannounced global arena and stadium tours will start later this year and run into 2022, he added.

Rapino said pent-up demand has resulted in sellouts in record time for the Bonnaroo, Electric Daisy Carnival and Rolling Loud festivals—all at full capacity. Live Nation has 11 festivals in the U.K. that have also sold out, as has New Zealand’s largest festival, Rhythm and Vines.

Further supporting Rapino’s claim: Bad Bunny’s upcoming tour was the fastest-selling on-sale since 2018, as Live Nation President Joe Berchtold noted on the call. In addition, Thursday boasted the best first-day sales for Governors Ball in its 10-year history, and sales exceeded expectations for the half dozen Broadway shows Ticketmaster is handling.

While Live Nation did have some good financial news for Q1—concert revenue was up 34% over Q4 of 2020—Rapino emphasized the work that's been going on while the concert business has been on hold; Live Nation’s teams have had time to explore new products now in the pipeline. Rapino said he’s “very confident that the next couple of years” will see new offerings in the subscription, concert and ad-business models, with NFTs being a big attraction.

The pandemic, he said, allowed LN to “not only think about how can we run more efficiently, but what other new products will [helpt us] think differently about the fan and the artist.” 

He touted Ticketmaster’s growth via the addition of new clients and products related to digital ticketing, plus significant spikes in sponsorship commitments in 2022. He’s also thrilled that the concert-going audience is not just adults.

“Is the 17-, 16- and 14-year-old as excited about going to the show as the last generation? Our data will continue to show that there are pockets of strength from young artists regenerating the supply side,” he said, singling out BTS, Bad Bunny and Billie Eilish.

In Q1, Live Nation brought in $239.4m from 300 concerts in North America and 364 international events. Ticketing generated $28.3m; sponsorship and advertising pulled in $22.6m.

The company has $2.1b in readily available liquidity, up from $1.6b at the end of 2020, with Q2 expected to be the first year-over-year improvement since 2019. The company plans to reduce costs this year by $750m and cash spend by $1.5b relative to pre-pandemic levels.

Live Nation stock closed at $75.12 on Thursday; a year ago, it was selling below $40 a share.

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