Here’s a story which says everything both about the phenomenon that was/is One Direction, and the power of the live music business today.
According to the latest Pollstar year-end figures, the British four-piece scored the world’s biggest tour in 2015, beating the likes of Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran.
1D’s 80-date On The Road Again tour shifted over 2.36 million tickets in the year – 2,364,390 to be exact.
That was slightly ahead of Swift (2,273,328) and comfortably out in front of Sheeran (1,578,003).
When you start calculating how much these tickets were worth in monetary terms, it’s something of an eye-opener for the power balance in the music business.
Last summer, Pollstar calculated that the average primary ticket price for major league concerts across the world was US $87.13.
That sounds about right: witness news reports of 1D’s gig at Scotland’s Hydro. With tickets ranging from £44 ($64) – £168 ($244), the band’s gig at the venue was the most expensive in its short history.
Voila, we’ve got a basic estimate of 1D’s primary ticket gross across the world last year: $87.13 X 2.36m = $206m.
But the revenue doesn’t stop there, not by a long shot – which brings us on to a factor that has deeply frustrated 1D management company Modest! in the past.
According to a Ticketmaster report from 2011, ‘20% of the tickets that Ticketmaster sells on behalf of our clients are resold in the secondary market.’
That may well be a conservative estimate, particularly amongst lucrative blockbuster pop artists like 1D – a calibre of act which finds itself especially plagued by professional touts.
When these touted tickets are then sold on sites such as Viagogo or StubHub, argue some managers, none of this value actually gets back to the artist or the music industry – it is all kept by profiteering third parties.
Back to 1D.
Of those 2.36m primary tickets, according to Ticketmaster’s estimate, 473,000 would have ended up on the ticket resale market.
According to TiqIQ – via Forbes – the average secondary ticketing price for a 1D concert last year in the US stood at $216.68.
(The highest average ticket price for 1D’s tour in the US came at the Gillette Stadium, where the mean resale price landed at an eye-watering $447.41. Ouch! Imagine being that dad with three young daughters.)
Remember that, if all is right and correct, these secondary ticketing sales are additive to the initial primary market purchases.
More maths: 473,000 X $216.68 = $102.5m.
That’s a pretty conservative estimate of the cash that changed hands for 1D tickets on the secondary market in 2015.
In total, then, across primary and secondary ticketing, 1D’s tour gross in 2015 – before merch, a potential percentage of food/drinks and other extras – stood at around $308m.
A third of this figure, remember, was generated on platforms that the band probably never saw a penny from.
So here’s an interesting comparison.
One Direction’s latest album, Made In The AM, was a big success, selling just over 1m copies across the UK and US in 2015 after being released in November.
Judging by the 2014 calendar year performance of its predecessor, Four, it’s a fair bet that the newer album sold around 3.2m units across the world before last year was finished.
At an average US sale price, you’d therefore expect it to have grossed somewhere around $36m – although that is without streaming revenue.
Being generous, adding in streaming and single sales, let’s round it up to $50m.
The fact that this total is approximately one sixth of the size of 1D’s 2015 tour gross probably tells its own story.
The fact it’s less than half of the band’s secondary ticketing gross alone tells another.
Remind us again: what’s an artist’s core product – and what’s their ‘ancillary income’?Music Business Worldwide