Live Nation says ‘demand for live music continues to build.’ Ticket-sale gains so far this year are mixed.

Live Nation Entertainment Inc. on Thursday said that concert-ticket sales have increased this year, albeit at a slower rate so far, following an explosion in demand over the past two years.

Executives for the company, which owns Ticketmaster and runs dozens of concert venues, said concert-ticket sales this year were “pacing up 6%,” with sales at amphitheaters and arenas up double-digits.

That compares with a 44% sales jump last year in its concerts business, which involves concert promotions and production, and a 14% increase in its ticketing segment, which handles selling tickets. For this year, management said it expected growth to be “weighted toward 2Q and 3Q compared to previous years.”

“The live-music industry reached new heights in 2023, and demand for live music continues to build,” Chief Executive Michael Rapino said in a statement.

“Our digital world empowers artists to develop global followings, while inspiring fans to crave in-person experiences more than ever. At the same time, the industry is delivering a wider variety of concerts which draws in new audiences, and developing more venues to support a larger show pipeline,” he said.

He added that he expected all of the company’s businesses to keep growing, forecasting “double-digit” gains in operating income and adjusted operating income this year. He said he saw Live Nation’s profitability “compounding by double digits over the next several years.”

During the fourth quarter, Live Nation’s

revenue jumped 36% year over year to $5.84 billion. That was well above analysts’ forecasts for $4.79 billion.

For 2023 overall, Live Nation earned $1.37 a share, a big jump from a year prior but below FactSet forecasts of $1.60 a share. The company’s 2023 sales were $22.75 billion, above estimates for $21.72 billion.

Shares rose about 4% after hours Thursday.

In the wake of Live Nation’s results, analysts will likely be focused on the year ahead, and trying to gauge whether the company’s results can top the massive concert-industry rebound in 2022 and Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour, which began last year and runs through this year. Management, in November, said it was seeing “no sign of weaknesses” in demand.

They’ll also be likely be focused on any updates on the Justice Department’s investigation into Live Nation’s size and competitive practices. Live Nation executives, in November, said they believed that investigation was in the “mid-stages.”

Live Nation and Ticketmaster have long faced irritation from concertgoers and lawmakers for hidden fees and allegations from its smaller rivals that it restricts competition. Musicians, meanwhile, have become more vocal about the challenges of earning a living while dealing with miniscule streaming income and higher touring costs.

In September, Live Nation said it would stop so-called “merch-cuts” on artists’ merchandise sales — long a source of artist frustration — at dozens of its smaller clubs. Live Nation told MarketWatch in October that change was “open-ended.” Some artists suspected the change wouldn’t last.

Shares of Live Nation are up 22.2% over the past 12 months.

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