Stay Nation’s U.S. live performance enterprise is now ‘totally open’ after Covid pause: CEO
Live Nation Entertainment CEO Michael Rapino told CNBC on Thursday its U.S. concert business is “fully open” now, as it brings back its packed summer lineup after more than a year of pandemic-related disruptions.
It comes as public-health officials are growing more concerned about the highly transmissible delta Covid variant and urging people to get vaccinated to provide a defense.
“We’re very excited about the American market. You know, 70% of our business is going to be the U.S. and the U.K. Those two markets seem on track,” Rapino said on “Power Lunch.”
“In America, we’re fully open at this point,” added Rapino, who joined CNBC’s Julia Boorstin from Sun Valley, Idaho, where tech and media CEOs returned for an influential annual conference after last year’s event was shelved due to Covid.
Live Nation, the owner of Ticketmaster, is hosting 30 nationwide amphitheater tours at full capacity beginning this week, Rapino said. Later in July, it’s putting on the Rolling Loud festival in Miami, which is expected to bring in around 200,000 people. There will be 10 to 15 music festivals this summer, he said.
Rapino expects Live Nation’s European market to reopen later this summer and in the fall. Asia will not be back in business in earnest until next year due to a delay in Covid vaccinations.
Live Nation won’t be cramming together shows to make up for the backlog in artist performances created by the pandemic, Rapino said. Looking into 2022 and 2023, he said, artists will not perform “unless they have the weekends, and the right cities and the right markets.”
“We’re going to make sure that we don’t … give the four shows in one week and you’ve got to pick one,” the CEO said. “We’ll spread those over a couple of years and a couple markets. So we look at the pent-up demand as lots of availability, but we’re also going to make sure the consumer has time to buy it.”
While the pre-pandemic “magic” of attending live shows has returned, Rapino said, one aspect of the revamped in-person experience that’s changing at Live Nation venues is payments.
“We used Covid to do a lot of rebuilding infrastructure programs, product around Ticketmaster, but contactless was a big piece we accelerated,” said Rapino, who has led Live Nation since 2005. “You’ll now go to venues and you’ll be able to get in that venue, buy your ticket, buy that beer, buy that T-shirt contactless through your app through the web.”
During the pandemic, Live Nation also acquired a majority stake in Veeps. Founded by two members of the rock band Good Charlotte, Veeps facilitates ticketed livestream shows, which exploded in popularity as artists looked for ways to connect with fans in the era of social distancing.
Rapino said he expects virtual concerts will largely serve as just a “complementary product” for fans who cannot come to the live, in-person show.
Shares of Live Nation closed down 1.8% on Thursday, which was a negative day for Wall Street overall as investor concerns about the pandemic economic recovery weighed. Live Nation’s stock remains up 11.7% year to date.