Music concert tours have made a huge splash in 2023

The appetite for big live music is big and getting bigger as 2023 is shaping up to be a record year for concert-going.
Posted at 4:07 PM, Nov 25, 2023

This year was a rockin good year for big music concerts, led by Taylor Swift's "Eras Tour," and people can't seem to get enough of these huge events.

As they have dozens of times over the last sixty years, the Rolling Stones are out on tour again, starting in April in Houston.

"Oh yeah, I keep my chops together between gigs, and you've got to keep your fingers moving when you get to our age; keep everything moving," said Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Woods at the launch of the band's new record, "Hackney Diamonds."

And why not? The band's last major outing, launched in 2017, called the "No Filter Tour," sold over 3 million tickets. Atop Billboard's list of biggest-grossing tours ever is Elton John's current trip, which is approaching a billion dollars in gross revenue, though Swift's blockbuster live event of the year is coming up fast at $780 million.

Chicago Tribune music critic Britt Julious explains that concerts create "longer-lasting memories compared [to] going out to a restaurant or buying something that's really expensive but then loses value after a couple years."

"You'll always remember that you were at, for example, like Beyoncé's Renaissance Tour when no one else could have gone to that," says Julious.

The industry says the appetite for live music here and abroad is breaking box office records after a pandemic slowdown. Earlier this month, promoter Live Nation said it had sold more than 140 million tickets through the third quarter. That topped the 121 million it sold in all of last year.

The cruise era: Taylor Swift-themed cruise to set sail in 2024
Taylor Swift on stage at her

The cruise era: Taylor Swift-themed cruise to set sail in 2024

The "In My Cruise Era" trip is a fan-sponsored four-night Bahamian cruise departing from Miami in October 2024.


Julious says many music fans seem to be setting inflation pressures aside for big events.

"I think going to a show can be a once-in-a-lifetime experience or [a] rare experience compared to things that you're seeing and encountering more often, such as the price of food, the price of gas, the price of clothing, etc. There's only so many times that Taylor Swift is going to be touring through your town. There's only so many times that Mariah Carey is going to be doing a Christmas show," she said. "And so it makes it more worth it."

Away from the stage, Live Nation and its subsidiary Ticketmaster have felt the spotlight from Washington, where a senate subcommittee has subpoenaed documents on pricing strategy amid fan complaints. And after a ticket fiasco ahead of Swift's tour, the singer criticized the company for being unprepared for the demand.

What does the future look like? Live Nation cited a survey that said 92 percent of concertgoers this year intend to go to the same number of shows or more in 2024.

In an earnings call, Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino told investors that "global demand for live events continues to reach new heights and is showing no signs of letting up."

Expect higher ticket prices ahead.

"Not just because artists want to make more money, but because it costs more money to tour," said Julious. "Many artists are trying to have health insurance for people who are on their staff. Gas costs a lot of money if they're traveling by bus. Food prices have gone up. And I think that's going to be reflected in the ticket prices."