Selling tickets to a show might seem like an easy feat—you tell people the time and place and they agree to show up. But the reality is, tickets cost money and going to a show costs time and some people aren’t willing to spend it.
According to Nielsen Top 10, Americans buy around $50 worth of tickets to see concerts per year. But, local artists and smaller musicians know too well the trials and tribulations of getting people to attend their shows. The disparity between people who see smaller independent artists and those who see stars, like Katy Perry, is enormous. Still, there are many people out there who want to see shows, even if it costs them hundreds of dollars. The question is—what are they spending this money on?
This is a time when CD sales are exponentially shrinking; even though ticket sales are not where they used to be, arena and stadium tours are no remnants of a by-gone era, they’re as relevant as ever. So who are the ticket sale greats and how have they managed to build a career off of selling out stadiums? Artists like One Direction, The Rolling Stones, Beyonce and Jay Z, Michael Buble, Luke Bryan and Justin Timberlake in 2014 made a new record for ticket sales in the United States grossing $20 billion overall, according to Billboard.
Combining the total money made form ticket sales for both One Direction and Justin Timberlake, their global shows grossed around $500 million, with 5 million tickets sold worldwide, according to Billboard.
“I don’t read as much into those [Boxscore] metrics as I do individual tours and why something is working or not working,” says Rob Light, managing partner at Creative Artists Agency, who have booked large acts such as One Direction, according to Billboard.
Few artists seem to be selling out huge arena tours, but those that do are grossing millions of dollars.
Bon Jovi, Michael Jackson The Immortal World Tour, P!nk, Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band, Rihanna, The Rolling Stones, Beyonce and Taylor Swift were among Billboard’s top grossing tours of 2013. According to Nielson Top 10, U2’s 360-tour is the highest grossing tour ever.
Many of these groups diverge in sound but have one big thing in common—major label backing and tremendous amount of radio-play. Many artists without such radio hits, money and resources behind them are capable of selling out smaller venues, but the artists who sell out arenas and stadiums are different because they have become icons. They have garnered success through commercial hits that penetrate mainstream culture.
People seem to want to see these icons for more than just their music. People want to see them because it’s newsworthy. People can attend these shows and they’re not just hearing music, they’re seeing a media/radio legend. They are witnessing what everyone has been talking about.
Getting people to come to shows is not just about having good music; it’s about giving them a good story to tell. It’s allowing them to witness pop culture in the making. It enables them to be a part of something.