Live Nation’s US concert operations are now ‘fully open’ after Covid break, CEO says

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Live Nation Entertainment CEO Michael Rapino told CNBC on Thursday that its US concert operations are now “fully open” as it brings back its full summer lineup after more than a year of pandemic-related disruptions.

It comes as public health officials are increasingly concerned about the highly transmissible delta-Covid variant and are urging people to get vaccinated as a defense.

“We’re very excited about the US market. You know, 70% of our business will be US and UK. Those two markets seem on track,” Rapino said on “Power Lunch.”

“In America, we are completely open right now,” added Rapino, who joined CNBC’s Julia Boorstin of Sun Valley, Idaho, where technology and media CEOs returned for an influential annual conference after last year’s event was suspended. because of Covid.

Live Nation, the owner of Ticketmaster, is hosting 30 nationwide amphitheater tours at full capacity this week, Rapino said. Later in July, it will host the Rolling Loud festival in Miami, which is expected to draw some 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 into the fall. Asia won’t be back in serious business until next year due to a delay in Covid vaccinations.

Live Nation will not cram shows to make up for the artist performance backlog created by the pandemic, Rapino said. Looking to 2022 and 2023, he said, artists won’t be performing “unless they have the weekends and the right cities and the right markets.”

“We’re going to make sure we don’t… do the four shows in one week and you have to pick one,” the CEO said. “We’re spreading that out over a few years and a few markets. So we see the pent-up demand as a lot of availability, but we’re also going to make sure that 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 personal experience changing at Live Nation venues is payments.

“We’ve used Covid to rebuild a lot of infrastructure programs, product around Ticketmaster, but contactless was a big piece that we accelerated,” said Rapino, who has led Live Nation since 2005. “You now go to locations and you will be able to get into that room, buy your ticket, buy that beer, buy that T-shirt contactless via your app via the internet.”

During the pandemic, Live Nation also acquired a majority stake in Veeps. Founded by two members of the rock band Good Charlotte, Veeps facilitates ticket live streaming shows, which exploded in popularity as artists in the age of social distancing looked for ways to connect with fans.

Rapino said he expects virtual concerts will largely serve as a “complementary product” for fans who can’t make it to the live, in-person show.

Shares of Live Nation closed 1.8% lower on Thursday, marking a negative day for Wall Street in general as investor concerns about the pandemic economic recovery weighed on. Live Nation’s share is up 11.7% so far.

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