Live Music in the Digital Age
How can an inherently “offline” business use online tools to its advantage?
Live Nation Entertainment is the largest producer of live music concerts in the world, connecting more than 63 million fans to over 25,500 events for nearly 3,300 artists in 2015. The company also owns Ticketmaster, which sold over 465 million tickets in 2015.  While Live Nation’s live events business is inherently an offline one, the internet provides the company with many opportunities to create value for live event attendees in new and exciting ways, and to expand their reach to a larger segment of the population.
Live Nation promises fans high quality live events and a great on-site experience. To deliver best-in-class service, the company relies on several key pieces of operational infrastructure. Its primary ticketing platform, Ticketmaster, allows fans to discover shows they want to see and purchase tickets through a range of channels, including mobile and online. They also offer a secondary ticketing platform, TM+, where fans can resell tickets they cannot use. Furthermore, Live Nation can offer the top concert tours because has relationships with artists through its Artist Management arm, which has over 100 managers who manage greater than 350 artists. Finally, Live Nation owns or has exclusive relationships with approximately 167 venues. 
Leveraging Technology to Add Value for Customers
For Live Nation, digital technology has created numerous opportunities to create incremental value for customers. When a fan goes to a show, she can use the Live Nation app to display her tickets at the door, to upgrade seats and even to order concessions for delivery directly to her seat. Anyone who has ever tried to use their smartphone at a concert or sporting event knows how hard it is to access the internet while tens of thousands of people around you are trying to do the same. So, equipping more venues with wi-fi is key to offering these value-added services.
Fans are not the only segment of Live Nation’s customer base that can be better served through increasing adoption of digital technology. The company also has a lucrative Sponsorship & Advertising business, which facilitates connections between brands and Live Nation’s fan base.
An example of a traditional way Live Nation helps brands connect with fans is through sponsorship of its music festivals, including Electric Daisy Carnival, Austin City Limits, Lollapolooza and Bonnaroo. However, digital technology has expanded the audience advertisers can reach through Live Nation, increased the number of ways they can reach them, and improved their ability to target the customers that are most relevant. Live Nation offers a network of online content properties where brands can advertise, including its own website, concert streaming partnerships with YouTube and Yahoo, and an original music-related content partnership with VICE Media. The company uses its extensive fan database to target ads to the most relevant audience for each advertiser.
Incremental Opportunities for Digital Revenue Generation
While Live Nation has done a good job of leveraging digital technology to improve their customer value proposition, there are areas where they could improve. The largest opportunity is live streaming, coupled with virtual reality (“VR”).  To date, their efforts in these areas have been limited and not well-publicized. There might be some hesitation to put more events online and potentially cannibalize their core live events business. However, I think that they could limit concert streaming to people who live in remote areas where tours do not stop, like other media companies limit streaming of professional sports to “out-of-market” fans. Expanding distribution of concerts via the internet could be a significant revenue opportunity for the company, which can then sell sponsorships and ads against the content. They could also explore a paid model, but I am skeptical that many customers will be willing to pay to watch concerts online, at least until VR technology improves significantly. To that end, Live Nation could try to partner with as many VR companies as possible, so they have the broadest distribution once VR technology becomes more mainstream.
Digital technology poses challenges as well as opportunities for Live Nation. One challenge is the rise in automated “bots” buying primary tickets when they go on sale and reselling them through other websites.  Because it’s now easier than ever to buy, sell and re-sell tickets on the internet, Live Nation needs to stay ahead of the curve by investing in technology to prevent automated buyers from buying and reselling its tickets. Resellers not only make tickets less accessible, they may also increase the risk of having empty seats if resellers overestimate demand, set prices too high, and are not able to resell every ticket. 
Ultimately, the benefits of digital technology outweigh any costs for Live Nation. In the long-run, using technology to create incremental value for fans and sponsorship & advertising clients should increase the company’s revenues and profits. (797 words).
 Live Nation Entertainment, Inc., December 31, 2015 Form 10-K (filed February 25, 2016), via BamSEC. https://www.bamsec.com/filing/133525816000167?cik=1335258, accessed November 2016.
 Billboard Staff, “Citi, Live Nation, NextVR Launching Virtual Reality Concert Series,” Billboard. September 28, 2016, http://www.billboard.com/articles/news/7525661/citi-live-nation-nextvr-launching-virtual-reality-concert-series, accessed November 2016.
 Live Nation Entertainment, Inc., December 31, 2015 Form 10-K.
 Alicia Adejobi, “The Real Reason Beyonce’s and Rihanna’s Webley Stadium tour shows had Empty Seats,” International Business Times, July 6, 2016, http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/beyonce-rihanna-tours-empty-seats-wembley-stadium-blamed-ticket-tout-scams-1569199, accessed November 2016.
Student comments on Live Music in the Digital Age
Hi AG! Thanks for the interesting post. Has LiveNation considered blending the offline and digital experiences as a potential alternate revenue stream? I’m thinking about TED, and how they have been able to take the offline conference experience online. For fans in rural areas, LiveNation could serve as a provider of experiences – live-streaming conferences in large stadiums, using VR to augment audience perceptions. As a market leader in the space, they have the brand recall and scale to experiment with alternate business models.
Interesting read, AG! You mentioned that Live Nation managed around 350 artists through its talent management arm. Given the digital revolution has really changed the ecosystem for music, I’d be interested to hear how you see the current landscape and where you feel Live Nation is best suited to play. For artists who are under Live Nation management, do they still work with traditional record labels to produce and release albums? Or is this paradigm now dying with the rapid growth in digital music services such as Spotify. Furthermore, do you see these digital music services as potentially posing a threat to Live Nation? Thanks!
The growth of Live Nation in particular and live music performances in general, is an interesting corollary to the decline in record sales during the same period. Where concerts were once a way to drive consumers to purchase recordings, recordings now are viewed as the loss leader that generates live ticket sales. Spotify/Apple Music/Tidal are of relatively little value as compared to the worldwide tours that the biggest stars embark on.
One thought – given the closeness of Jay Z and Live Nation (see here: http://www.theverge.com/2015/4/9/8366967/apple-live-nation-tidal-streaming), could there be an interesting partnership play between Tidal and Live Nation to further cement the online-to-offline business model that streaming and ticket sales represent?