Jennifer Lopez and Black Keys Tour Cancellations Elevate Questions for Trade

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For the live performance enterprise, 2023 was a champagne-popping 12 months. The worst of the pandemic comfortably within the rearview, exhibits large and small had been promoting out, with mega-tours by Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, Drake and Bruce Springsteen pushing the trade to file ticket gross sales.

This 12 months, as with a lot of the economic system, success on the highway appears extra fragile. A string of high-profile cancellations, and gradual gross sales for some main occasions, have raised questions on an overcrowded market and whether or not ticket costs have merely gotten too costly.

Most conspicuously, Jennifer Lopez and the Black Keys have canceled total area excursions. Within the case of the Black Keys — a standby of rock radio and a well-liked touring draw for almost 20 years — the fallout has been extreme sufficient that the band has parted methods with its two managers, the trade big Irving Azoff and Steve Moir. By means of a consultant, Azoff and Moir mentioned they’d “amicably parted” with the band.

At Coachella, normally so buzzy that it sells out effectively earlier than any performers are introduced, tickets for the second of the California competition’s two weekends had been nonetheless obtainable by the point it opened in April.

These points have stoked headlines a few live performance enterprise which may be in hassle. However the actuality, many insiders say, is extra complicated, with no easy rationalization for issues on a variety of excursions, and a enterprise which may be leveling out after a few extraordinary years when followers rushed to exhibits after Covid-19 shutdowns.

“I believe it’s normalized again to the pre-Covid period,” mentioned Wealthy Schaefer, the president of world touring at AEG, the corporate behind excursions by Swift and the Rolling Stones. “Scorching acts are going to promote tickets. Center acts are going to promote, however take longer. And acts that don’t have lots of warmth on them are going to battle.”

In a press release, Stay Nation mentioned that to this point this 12 months, gross sales are up from the identical level in 2023, with over 100 million tickets offered. “Yearly,” the corporate mentioned, “some occasions naturally fall off for numerous causes, and in 2024 throughout all venue varieties we’ve seen a 4 p.c cancellation fee — which is flat to final 12 months.”

Along with Swift’s Eras Tour, which continues to be a phenomenon in Europe, scorching occasions this 12 months embrace excursions by Olivia Rodrigo, Coldplay, Morgan Wallen and Zach Bryan. Different festivals, like Lollapalooza in Chicago, have had notably sturdy gross sales.

Nonetheless, outstanding cancellations of high-priced exhibits is one other doable P.R. headache for Stay Nation, the proprietor of Ticketmaster, which final month was sued by the Justice Division over accusations that it operates an unlawful monopoly that stifles competitors and ends in excessive costs and charges. Stay Nation has denied these allegations.

The important thing fear all through the enterprise is that ticket costs, which have been rising steadily for years, could now be so excessive that they’re deterring followers from all however their once-in-a-lifetime, bucket-list exhibits. Tickets, even for a lot of main excursions, now not vanish immediately.

When Billie Eilish put her newest area tour on sale in April, for instance, upper-deck seats at some venues had been going for over $200, and took weeks to promote.

A joint tour by the rapper Future and the producer Metro Boomin, who shared a pair of No. 1 albums and a chart-topping hit single earlier this 12 months, has additionally lagged. Even with tickets as little as $44.50, the opening-night live performance in Kansas Metropolis, Mo., in July, nonetheless has 1000’s of seats on the market in any respect ranges. To the chagrin of underperforming acts, the power or weak spot of gross sales is now evident in actual time on Ticketmaster, which shows blue dots for each unsold seat (and pink dots for ones being supplied for resale).

Final 12 months, the typical ticket worth for one of many high 100 excursions all over the world was $131, up 23 p.c from the 12 months earlier than, in keeping with Pollstar, a commerce publication that tracks live performance tickets.

Steve Martin of Paladin Artists, a reserving agent for traditional rock acts like David Gilmour of Pink Floyd, mentioned that beneath the extent of pop superstars like Swift, artists have turn out to be aware of the financial pressures going through their followers.

“The meat of the enterprise is made up of issues like traditional rock packages,” Martin mentioned. “These persons are rather more worth delicate. Working-class persons are involved about groceries and the value of fuel.”

No single rationalization can cowl the vary of issues within the reside market this 12 months. Some excursions, just like the Black Keys’, could merely be a matter of the band overestimating demand.

In 2021, the Black Keys left their longtime supervisor for a brand new partnership with Azoff and Moir, who additionally work with John Mayer and the Grateful Lifeless spinoff Lifeless & Co., and the band later praised Azoff’s “deal with touring and promoting our tickets.” However even after a brand new album — the band’s twelfth — was launched in April, live performance gross sales lagged, resulting in the cancellations and a housecleaning behind the scenes.

In a social media publish after the tour was deserted, the group mentioned it could “make some adjustments” to its touring plan to supply a extra “intimate expertise.” A consultant for the band’s label didn’t reply to a request for touch upon the administration adjustments.

Nostalgia alone is probably not sufficient to simply pack venues throughout the nation. Lopez, although nonetheless a film star and a tabloid function, has not had a success track in a decade. Tickets to see the continued area tour from Justin Timberlake have been obtainable on each the first and secondary markets, with costs on StubHub generally falling effectively beneath face worth.

Followers exterior of high-demand markets like New York and Los Angeles don’t at all times must rush the digital queue the second tickets go on sale. Some genres, like hip-hop, have a tendency to maneuver tickets extra slowly than others, however can nonetheless promote out earlier than showtime. The newest leg of Nicki Minaj’s tour, for instance, is a sea of blue dots.

Many elements go into the value of the ticket, from the prices of fuel and crew salaries — which have risen for the reason that pandemic — to bigger-picture economics amortized over the course of a complete tour. International promoters like Stay Nation and AEG typically supply artists a assured fee overlaying all their exhibits; a much bigger assure signifies that costs have to be greater to recoup that funding.

Dan Wall, Stay Nation’s government vice chairman of company and regulatory affairs, mentioned that whereas promoters could recommend pricing primarily based on a deal assure, “it’s the artist’s staff that in the end decides ticket costs.”

Armchair evaluation of ticket gross sales has turn out to be one more ingredient of contemporary fandom to be memed and weaponized, upping the stakes. As trade watchers on social media race to display the dominance of their favorites, display grabs of accessible seats for upcoming live shows have gone viral, resulting in media protection.

“I really feel like individuals on-line simply form of realized that you could take a look at seat maps and see how exhibits are doing,” mentioned Sam Hunt, an government on the touring company Wasserman Music. “So I believe a part of it’s that perhaps not a ton has modified within the touring enterprise — not each swing is a house run — however persons are paying extra consideration to it and having a sometimes internet-y response.”

Nonetheless, the notion amongst some music followers is that large-scale live shows are extra of a luxurious than they as soon as had been.

Cliff Russell, 39, mentioned in an interview that his two teenage daughters had been inquisitive about seeing blockbuster excursions this 12 months from acts like Rodrigo, Drake, Eilish and Swift.

However after the household, residing exterior Toronto, spent large for tickets to see Swift’s Eras Tour in November — with prices totaling close to $3,000 for 4 tickets, “not counting transportation, parking, souvenirs” — spending one other $300 per ticket for upper-deck seats to see one other pop star simply wasn’t within the playing cards.

“What was as soon as a holy grail ticket worth is now the typical,” Russell mentioned. “You’ve bought to be actually choosy and picky.”

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