After a year without concerts, touring and ticketing giant Live Nation Entertainment is shifting into gear as COVID-19 vaccines give fans and industry CEOs hope for a real summer concert season. In New York — where all adults will be eligible for the vaccine by next week — in-person concerts, sports and live events, with up to 100 people indoors and 200 outdoors, will return on April 1.
Live Nation and its sister company Ticketmaster (the two merged in 2011) are hiring rapidly in preparation. Last year, the company laid off over 96% of its staff. But Live Nation is well on its way back to a full workforce, adding nearly 150 jobs over the last three months, an increase of 330% since January when it counted just 45 open positions. That’s a tiny number for the over 10,000-employee strong company. Live Nation hadn’t had fewer than 1,000 jobs listed at any given time since 2017, until the pandemic hit.
Meanwhile, Ticketmaster’s job listings have increased over 1,000%, up to 61 postings from just a handful in January.
Live Nation would be hiring in even higher numbers if large-scale tours were safe again. As one music executive told Rolling Stone, “You can’t do Swiss-cheese routing” for Live Nation’s 150-date plus tours, skipping states that haven’t opened up or bypassing cities with outbreaks. Live Nation’s hiring rebound is partially owed to the much anticipated return of music festivals.
Fall has optimistically been deemed 2021’s festival season with some of the highest-grossing music festivals like Las Vegas’ Life Is Beautiful, San Francisco’s Outside Lands, and Tennessee’s Bonnaroo — all of which are run by Live Nation — setting dates for September and October. Coachella has yet to set a date.
Few companies are as well-positioned as Live Nation to benefit from the post-vaccine live music boom. Despite not having put on a show for over a year, thus losing over a billion dollars and 84% of revenue, Live Nation has only become more dominant in touring and live events during the pandemic, thanks to the industry’s contraction. Sure, Live Nation’s lost some serious cash, but many venues, festivals, and touring companies lost entire businesses.
This environmental consolidation hasn't gone unnoticed by investors. Despite their objectively awful year, Live Nation's stock hit an all time high of nearly $90, up 60% year-over-year on March 1. Pitchfork theorized about shareholders’ confidence: “They believe that this global conglomerate doesn’t need to worry about competition,” pointing out that Live Nation has twice the market share of its closest rival, Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG). AEG notably hasn’t been rushing to hire for the summer, with still just a handful of job listings posted.
Eventbrite notably has stayed competitive despite Ticketmaster’s dominance. It’s found new industries to tap into, hosting virtual events and partnering agencies distributing the vaccine to help with appointment sign-ups. As such, Eventbrite is seeing a twin hiring spike with Ticketmaster leading up to summer events.
But Live Nation’s diversification simply can’t be trumped. In addition to tickets and touring, Live Nation operates one of the world’s largest artist management firms Artist Nation, parent of Roc Nation, which manage big names like Megan Thee Stallion, Rihanna, and DJ Khaled. Also under its umbrella is the sponsorship and marketing business and livestream platform Veeps. Some of Live Nation’s more aggressive growth tactics have gotten the company dubbed “a music monopoly,” and scrutinized by the Department of Justice for anti-competitive behavior. In 2018, Live Nation was investigated by the DOJ for pulling shows from venues or threatening to if they didn’t agree to use Ticketmaster. These liabilities haven’t hurt them much — Live Nation’s stock jumped 9% on the day in 2019 when they reached a settlement with the government over their ticketing practices.
The one area where Live Nation lags is venue ownership. The companies owns or has equity in 30 plus venues, including the Hollywood Palladium, Wilternand Belasco Theatres and House of Blues. But its roster is smaller and less prestigious than AEG’s, which includes Staples Center and El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles, the O2 in London and Forest Hill Stadium in Queens. But given that both AEG and Live Nation have fewer competitors than they did 12 months ago, 2020 brought the latter closer to full music industry domination, 2021 will be one to watch.
About the Data:
Thinknum tracks companies using the information they post online, jobs, social and web traffic, product sales, and app ratings, and creates data sets that measure factors like hiring, revenue, and foot traffic. Data sets may not be fully comprehensive (they only account for what is available on the web), but they can be used to gauge performance factors like staffing and sales.