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UTA’s ‘Peak Performance’ Report Breaks Down Live Music’s Post-Pandemic Boom

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The concert business is set to close out another record year fueled by pent-up pandemic demand, higher priced tickets and intense fan commitment to their favorite artists.

Hoping to capture a snapshot of the concert business when cumulative grosses for the top 100 tours and attendance are higher than ever, Variety VIP+ and talent agency UTA have released a new report titled “Peak Performance” combining data from Billboard and Pollstar with insights from PwC and an online survey of more than 1,500 concert goers.

“Our desire to do this study was spurred by the anecdotal evidence we were seeing from our own music representation and music brand partnerships business,” said Joe Kessler, UTA partner and global head of UTA IQ.

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The report paints a bullish and optimistic picture of the concert business with more fans willing to spend money and travel farther to see their favorite artists live, as well as an increased urgency for consumers to find time for more live music and festivals in the post-pandemic period. But the rapidly increasing price of tickets and the increased use of credit cards and debit to pay for experiences continues to represent a potential liability for both music fans and the industry writ large, the report finds.

For the first time ever, the concert business is expected to cross the $30 billion revenue mark in 2023, with the top 100 tours accounting for nearly 20 percent of total sales. Survey respondents overwhelmingly agreed that some of their favorite memories took place at concerts and 79 percent of respondents agreed that attending a concert or festival is more important to them following the COVID-19 pandemic. Approximately 43% of consumers said live music events were more meaningful to them than other types of live events or experiences.

Driving the enthusiasm for concerts, Kessler explains, are millennials, now in their mid 20s to early 40s, who have “consistently and substantially shown a desire to want to engage in collaborative and communal experiences as a group.”

“Music has always been a big part of that,” Kessler says, noting that it was millennials who fueled the growth of the festival business over the last two decades.

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“As the economy improve and they have more disposable spending, I think we’re going to see a continued rise in the desire to want to see live shows,” Kessler says,” a trend he expect to grow “as our lives become increasingly virtual and we spend more and more time behind screens.”

While Taylor Swift and Beyonce have dominated the headlines in 2023, the report found that men still significantly outnumber women in terms of concert attendance, with men more likely to have gone to a concert in 2023, with 42 percent saying they’ve attended a live music show in the past 12 months, compared with 31 percent of women.

The survey also found that more fans are traveling for events than ever before, with half of respondents traveling four hours or more to attend a concert, 39 percent have flown within the U.S. to attend a show, and 30 percent have traveled to another country for a live music event.

While fans are willing to spend more money that ever on concert tickets, the survey also finds that high ticket prices are among consumers’ chief complaints. With average ticket prices north of $122, more than 62 percent of respondents said the biggest impediment to live music attendance was the price, while 38 percent of fans reported that high ticket prices have prevented them from attending at least one concert in the last 12 months.

“That should not be all that surprising,” says Andrew Wallenstein, president and chief media analyst for Variety Plus, noting that while concerns over price have long existed in the concert business, ‘more than half of the consumers surveyed are just as willing to purchase VIP tickets now as they were prior to the pandemic, while 3 in 10 have become more willing” to buy expensive tickets.

“I think there is a demographic out there that despite the cost pressures feels there is more value in spending top dollar than ever before,” Wallenstein says.

Unsurprisingly, debt is fueling a large part of consumer spending. The survey found that more than one-third of fans had used a buy-now, pay later service to buy tickets, while 34% have opened a credit card specifically for a concert or music festival presale.

“Macroeconomic circumstances have to be paid attention to,” says Wallenstein, who notes that federal student loan payments are resuming this month after a three-year pandemic pause, but notes “this demographic values the concert going experience in a way that previous demographics may not have.”

“Despite the fact that student loan forgiveness is out the window, and many are not saving for things like home ownership, [millennials] may still spend money on concerts the same way they have in the past,” he tells Billboard.

While the report doesn’t offer up any forecasts as to how much runway is left for growth in concerts, Kessler says be doesn’t expect the business to cool off any time soon.

“No one can know how long it will last, but I don’t think this is a temporary blip on the map,” Kessler says. “The data that came through the study tells us that, this is here to stay for the foreseeable future.”

Click here to access a copy of the report.

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