Billboard Boxscore’s Midyear reports are in, and once again, the box-office ticket sales data voluntarily submitted by promoters and venues shows continued growth in the top tier of tours.
This year’s numbers are a strong signal of strength in the post-pandemic concert business. Still, a more in-depth look shows that the business may also have to adjust the way it looks at the touring calendar.
For much of the history of the concert business, touring schedules were planned around the calendar year: Outdoor tours launched in spring hit their high mark in summer and wrapped up in autumn, coming off the road just as winter began. But the growth of the indoor arena business — and growing importance of international markets — has upended the traditional touring calendar, in turn affecting how information from reporting tools such as the midyear Boxscore reports is used.
“The idea of touring year-round was once revolutionary,” says Gregg Perloff with Another Planet Entertainment, which produces concerts in the San Francisco Bay Area. “In California, the moderate climate allowed for year-round touring, but few acts wanted to be the ones who experimented with performing during the winter months. But as the business became more global, that shift started happening without any people noticing, and today, the schedule for how major acts tour is totally different than it was in the past.”
In the Spring of Things
This year’s data shows that many tours now begin in late March or early April, and that the fall months of October and November, when tours once wound down, are now more of a midpoint.
The height of concert season now takes place well past the middle of the summer and continues into the beginning of the new year — and often wraps up in seasonally warm climates. Take for example the midyear Top Tours title holder, Harry Styles, who began the European leg of his Love on Tour trek in late June 2022, and will end his run in July 2023. Coldplay, which launched its Music of the Spheres world tour in late March 2022, will end the bulk of its touring in July of this year. (The band will then play four fall dates, including makeup performances in San Diego, Australia and Malaysia.)
By late May/early June, it often starts to become clear which headline concert tours stand out as big earners, which major-market venues won the big shows of the summer and who will be headlining the big festivals that run through Labor Day weekend. But that’s a challenge for calendar-based reporting metrics such as Billboard Boxscore, whose midyear tracking period covers shows from Nov. 1, 2022, to April 30, 2023. While November is typically a strong month for the concert business, touring grinds to a halt around mid December and often doesn’t resume in a major way until mid March.
Still, while the top 10 of the Top Tours chart is $94 million stronger than 2022’s midyear recap, it’s not because the 2023 season started earlier, but because the 2022 season ran longer.
New Year, Same Success Stories
The 2023 Top Tours chart essentially functions as an addendum to the 2022 year-end chart at the halfway point, with all of the top 10 midyear tours from 2023 also appearing on the 2022 year-end chart, including seven within the year-end top 10. The crossover is simple to explain: The tours continued after Billboard’s Nov. 1 cutoff date.
Bad Bunny’s record-breaking $373 million haul from 2022 actually extends past the $400 million mark after factoring in the last two months of the year. Elton John adds $60 million to his $338 million year-end total when his shows at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles are accounted for, according to the midyear report.
Nearly all of the concerts featured on the midyear charts took place in venues in the western United States, Mexico, South America or Australia.
Only one entry on the top 10 Boxscores chart was located in a cold-climate city: John’s run of shows in London, which took place during the fairly warm month of April.
That’s not to say the East Coast and Western Europe is dead in the winter. Eleven of the top 20 performing venues in the categories of 10,001-15,000 capacity and 15,001 or more capacity are located in cold-climate cites such as London; Hamburg, Germany; New York; and Washington, D.C. The number drops to five out of 10 for theaters and four out of 10 for clubs.
Some of the year’s biggest tours — including those by Taylor Swift, Beyoncé and Madonna — will likely make a sizable dent in 2023’s year-end charts with blockbuster summer grosses as stadiums in America open up for the next several months. (Beyoncé’s and Madonna’s tours began after the tracking period for the midyear report ended; Swift is yet to report numbers during that span.) Once reported, those figures will provide a strong indication of how 2023 looks — and early sales reports have concert business executives feeling optimistic.
Mexico Drives International Growth
Even with half of 2023 remaining, data from the midyear Boxscore report may indicate what lies in store for the rest of the year. One example is Phish reporting that it earned $22 million from its February engagement at the Moon Palace Golf & Spa Resort in Cancun, Mexico. The impressive eight-figure return proves that the perennial jam-rock band can still generate huge sales. It also shows that demand for live entertainment is still strong there, both for concerts targeting U.S. tourists and those aimed at residents of Mexico.
Two other concerts, both held in Mexico City — Daddy Yankee at the Foro Sol and Corona Capital at Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez — each generated over $20 million apiece, making Mexico the highest grossing country on Billboard’s Top 10 Boxscores chart. That data shows that despite a continued rise in cartel violence since 2019, according to the U.S. Department of State, the Mexican concert market remains strong nearly a year after Live Nation purchased Mexican promoter OCESA. That information can be extremely helpful to concert bookers and promoters as they plot touring plans — potentially far more important than what part of the touring cycle Billboard Boxscore covers. Still, the inexorable shift toward year-round touring is making itself felt in a way that’s hard to ignore.