Live-Events Industry Lost Estimated $30 Billion in 2020

Music fans enjoy a life performance from their tuk-tuk, Thai traditional taxi cars, in Bangkok on August 8, 2020, during the first-ever new normal Thai-style concert while respecting social distancing to avoid the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
(Photo by MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP via Getty Images)

A recent year-end report from Pollstar, a live-events trade publication, projects that its industry has lost approximately $30 billion globally in 2020.

The report predicted, based on Q1 earnings, that 2020 was set to see significant growth, yielding an 11% growth for the live-music industry alone.

In the first quarterly analysis of 2020, Boxoffice tallies hinted at what might have been a trailblazing year in concert touring and live entertainment. Overall gross and sold tickets among the Top 100 tours showed a healthy bump of 10.9% compared to 2019’s Q1, while ticket sales rose 4.6% over the previous year. 

The report also predicted a growth in the average profit, the overall number of tickets sold, as well as a record-breaking year for the concert industry.

Grosses potentially could have reached about $6 billion if the global pandemic had not occurred, triggering the shutdown of live performing. And, estimating revenue from all concert activity worldwide – the Top 100 and beyond – 2020 might have produced the first $12 billion year in Boxoffice earnings.

The industry saw an unfathomable 90% decrease in business in what was was supposed to be the crown jewel in a 10 year-era of growth in live events. The estimated $30+ billion in losses includes unreported events and ancillary revenues, including ticketing, sponsorships, merch sales, concessions, transportation, and more.

A study entitled “Global Entertainment and Media Outlook 2018-2022” projected 2020 revenues would reach more than $34 billion and would continue to grow into 2024. It looked at macroeconomic factors to predict a steady climb in the concert and event promotion industry. Though now, with millions of people out or work, and little economic support from the government – at least in America, the long-term recovery of the industry is cast in a long shadow.

“Without a doubt this worldwide pandemic has been like a meteorite strike for the entire live entertainment industry,” Peter Schwenkow of DEAG Detsche Entertainment AG told Pollstar. “This crisis has had an impact on every single player in the industry which makes this situation incomparable to previous crises.”

Many mobilized to prop up the industry that they loved so much in the form of Save our Stages, Crew Nation Global Relief Fund, and many others. However, many smaller venues, like the famous Slim’s in San Francisco, decided it was a battle not worth fighting.

However, people are resourceful, and the internet has enabled many to create new ways of performing, and let’s be honest, make money.

Several bands who planned on touring have held out for a triumphant return in 2021, fingers crossed, but others saw an opportunity to do intimate live-streams. Drive-in theaters also made a surprising comeback, and other live-events saw socially distanced concerts that featured everything from separated platforms to actual bubbles.

“Livestreaming has also been very helpful,” says Billie Eilish‘s manager Danny Rukasin. “With Billie specifically, we found the opportunity (and great partners) to produce an incredible interactive live stream show for her that was at the standard of what she would want for herself and to make a very special experience for her fans. Without touring, no single moment this year was as effective for her to bring to life her live show and the response was incredible. It was also really helpful to bring our very valued touring team in helping produce the show and keep them working.”

Whether you’re donating to relief funds, buying tickets to virtual shows, or visiting a burgeoning drive-in, 2020 has undoubtedly changed the face of live music forever. And while there will always be an asterisk next to the profits “that could have been,” there are many creative minds looking for ways to keep people working and supported through hard times.



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