Live Nation posted a record $3.1 billion in revenue – up 73% from last year – in the first quarter of 2023, despite possible regulation and tremendous fallout from botched Ticketmaster sales for the Taylor Swift Eras tour.
In an earnings release, the ticket-industry giant said over 19 million people attended events across 45 countries in the first quarter. Many venues and markets opened fully for the first time since the global pandemic began in 2020.
But the success comes at a time a handful of bills are wending their way through Congress that target the company’s controversial and widely criticized ticketing practices and near-monopoly in the business.
CEO Michael Rapino, in a release, credited the company’s most recent results in part to stadium tours for superstars Beyonce, Drake and Bruce Springsteen.
“Demand was so strong that even when artists added a number of additional shows, they still were not able to meet all of the fan demand,” Rapino said.
In a single day last November, more than two million Taylor Swift tickets were sold on Live Nation’s Ticketmaster, a record for any artist. But those sales came with hours of delays, confusion and misinformation.
A near-meltdown of the site ended up denying millions of fans – including those with presale codes – the chance to buy tickets.
Eventually, the ticketing company canceled the public sale due to “extraordinarily high demands on ticketing systems and insufficient remaining ticket inventory to meet that demand.”
But this week the company posted earnings above analyst expectations and $320 million in first-quarter adjusted operating income, up 53% from a year ago. Live Nation stock rose about 15% on the news, to close at about $77 a share.
Rapino said the company is “watching what’s going on” in regards to legislation in an earnings call. In February, the company announced support for the FAIR ticketing act, which would let artists decide resale rules and crack down on bots and resellers.
“Through all of the noise, most people are ending up in the industry and politics at exactly where we are and the principles of what the FAIR Act is,” Rapino said.
Rapino also said some of the legislation “swirling around” should help rein in scalpers, which the company blamed for crashing the site during Taylor Swift.
“The common theme in all of this legislation that you’re seeing come forward is around limiting and putting some handcuffs around the scalper and the business,” Rapino said.
Ticketmaster and Live Nation face a lawsuit from Swifties across the country who filed the suit in December for “unlawful conduct” in the pop star’s chaotic tour sale, claiming that the ticketing giant violated antitrust laws, among others.
Fans of the Eurovision Song Contest were also unable to access Ticketmaster’s site in March.
Lawmakers grilled Live Nation president and CFO Joe Berchtold in a three-hour hearing in January, alleging the ticketing giant wields too much monopolistic control over the industry.
Jack Groetzinger, CEO of SeatGeek, alleged in the hearing that many venue owners “fear losing Live Nation concerts if they don’t use Ticketmaster” and its services, and argued the company must be broken up.
“I want to congratulate and thank you for an absolutely stunning achievement,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal pointedly said to Berthtold. “You have brought together Republicans and Democrats in an absolutely unified cause.”
Blumenthal and Sen. Amy Klobuchar introduced legislation in April to “improve competition in live event ticketing markets.”
“Right now, one company is leveraging its power to lock venues into exclusive contracts that last up to ten years, ensuring there is no room for potential competitors to get their foot in the door,” said Klobuchar in a release.
CNN’s Samantha Murphy Kelly, Julia Horowitz and Jordan Valinsky contributed to this report.