Friday, January 31, 2014
(By Paul Farhi, Washington Post, 31 January 2014)
It’s one thing to create a buzzworthy commercial packed with celebrities, hot babes or that old reliable, Stuff Blowing Up. You’ll see plenty of that during Sunday’s Super Bowl telecast, from Budweiser’s puppy-meets-Clydesdales spot to Jaguar’s cinematic extravaganza on behalf of its new $65,000 coupe. But it’s quite another thing to figure out how to deliver all that would-be buzziness to the most people at the lowest possible price. That’s the game within the big ad game, the multimillion-dollar Super Bowl sponsor challenge. Advertisers know their commercials will be seen by tens of millions of people, and that airtime will sell for appropriately ludicrous amounts. This year, the average cost of a 30-second commercial will be about $4 million, or $133,000 per second, about the same as last year.
But, as the ads often say, your results might vary. The average cost is all but meaningless to Super Bowl sponsors, who cut complicated deals with the game’s broadcaster (this year, Fox), often many months in advance. What advertisers really care about is an ad’s “efficiency,” or its cost per viewer. Figuring that out is harder than you’d think — “more art than science,” as marketing professor George Belch of San Diego State University puts it. The calculation involves some educated guesswork about when to buy a Super Bowl ad, how much to pay and where to place a spot during the nearly four-hour broadcast. The process is complicated by an unknowable factor: Will one team dominate, or will the game be close? And for how long? It matters — a lot. Viewers stick around for competitive games but leave by the millions during a blowout. The NFL found this out to its chagrin in the 1990s, when ratings dipped for a series of lopsided games.
The rules of the Super Bowl ad game have evolved over the preceding XLVIII years and are evolving still in the age of social media. Here are a few of the basics:
Rule No. 1: No one pays the sticker price.
The Super Bowl advertising marketplace is like a Turkish souk: Everyone haggles. Yes, $4 million is the average cost per ad, but the actual cost to an advertiser varies widely. The biggest advertisers — Coca Cola, Anheuser-Busch, General Motors, etc. — will pay far less than the reported average, says Marc Morse, senior vice president of media-buying agency RJ Palmer in New York. The primary reason: Big buyers command big discounts. They buy multiple ad “units” — 30- and 60-second spots — spread over the game. Anheuser-Busch, for example, will run three ads for Bud Light and two for Budweiser. It also has a multi-year contract to advertise during the game, further reducing its overall costs. No such luck for one-off advertisers, such as SodaStream, which markets do-it-yourself soda-making machines (and has lately been involved in a controversy over its decision to build a factory in an Israeli settlement in the West Bank). The company, whose ad stars Scarlett Johansson, paid top dollar for its single, 30-second unit, though President Yonah Lloyd declined to specify his cost. “For us, the Super Bowl is the perfect vehicle to educate the American consumer” about the company’s products, he said in an interview. And deals involving Super Bowl ads usually involve more than Super Bowl ads. Time during the big game is often sold as part of a package that includes commercials during other programs or on channels owned by the Super Bowl’s broadcaster. “The networks try to get you to buy other things,” Morse said. “CBS [last year] said, ‘If you want the Super Bowl, you have to [buy] March Madness. This year it was, ‘If you want the Super Bowl, be prepared for an equal spend on Fox [Sports] 1,’ ” a Fox-owned cable network.
Rule No. 2: Buy early, save later.
Spending millions on a Super Bowl ad isn’t all that different than spending a few hundred on a plane ticket or hotel room. The sooner you buy, the lower the price is likely to be. Many advertisers buy at the “upfronts,” the annual meetings between network sellers and advertising buyers, held in June. As a result, much of Fox’s “inventory” of Super Bowl time was spoken for by last summer. (Fox declined to comment for this article.)
As long as there’s demand, prices for whatever is left tend to rise as the game gets closer. But on occasion, it pays to be patient. When Detroit’s slumping automakers passed up the game during the worst years of the recession, last-minute advertisers snapped up unsold spots at bargain prices.
Rule No. 3: First in, last out.
Advertisers pay extra to air commercials in the first and last positions in a “pod,” or cluster of commercials. These are considered the most-watched and the most memorable positions. Basic inertia explains why it’s good to be first: People haven’t jumped off the couch yet as the game stops for the commercial break. Anticipation explains why the last spot is primo: People are rushing back to their seats as the game gets set to resume.
Rule No. 4: Buy early in the game, too.
Advertisers tend to clamor to show ads in the first half of the game and usually in the first quarter. The reason? It’s when the audience is most stable, most predictable and most attentive to the advertising. “It’s the safest place to be,” says Jennifer Clayton, the manager of advertising planning and buying for Herndon, Va.-based Volkswagen of America, which is airing a humorous one-minute ad in the second quarter (in the first “pod” position of the second ad break) Sunday. “The game hasn’t been determined, and there’s a lot of hype about what the brands are doing. People focus on that.” Which is why advertisers pay premium prices for ads shown during the first half. Second-half advertisers, meanwhile, not only risk losing droves of viewers to a bum game, they also have to fight viewer fatigue. “A lot of people are watching the game at parties. They’ve been there for hours, and they’re getting tired,” says San Diego State’s Belch. “By the third or fourth quarter, the same enthusiasm is just not there. So, you’re rolling the dice a little bit” by placing an ad during this part of the game. Last year, the bet paid off. According to the Nielsen ratings service, the audience for the Ravens-49ers contest grew by 25 percent from its low point to its high point, peaking at nearly 115 million viewers late in the second half of what turned out to be a dramatic game. Although that result delighted fourth-quarter advertisers — Big audience! Low price! — it was a fortuitous result, Morse said. “You can look like a genius [under those circumstances], but you can’t really plan it,” he said. “If we could, we’d be running the world.”
Rule No. 5: You need ads for your ads.
A Super Bowl commercial is just the start of an advertiser’s advertising . . . about its Super Bowl advertising. The commercial is just the middle. Thanks to social media, companies engage in a buildup about their ads before the game, and most follow up afterward, too. Volkswagen says it was the first advertiser to release its Super Bowl ad online before the game in 2011 (for a charming spot called “The Force”). It also says it was the first to release a teaser ad, called “The Bark Side,” for its Super Bowl commercial in 2012. The effort propelled its commercials to viral status. (Well, technically, Apple may have been the first advertiser to “pre-release” its legendary “1984” Super Bowl ad 30 years ago by quietly airing it a few times in places such as Twin Falls, Idaho, in late 1983; it did so to qualify the commercial for advertising awards.) Now, pre-release promotion is common. Many advertisers have released teasers on YouTube, Facebook and other platforms. And many advertisers release the ads themselves days before the game, seemingly undercutting their big-game “reveal.”
The idea, of course, is to create buzz before the buzz starts. SodaStream’s Johansson commercial, released this week, led to calls for a boycott of the Israeli-based company; a Cheerios commercial featuring a biracial family also got media attention after Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus objected to MSNBC’s characterization of it in a tweet. (MSNBC tweeted, “Maybe the rightwing will hate it, but everyone else will go awww,” but then withdrew it and apologized.) This year, Volkswagen promoted its Super Bowl commercial with a teaser ad making fun of Super Bowl ads. It will also run mobile ads mentioning its Super Bowl ad after the game in an effort to capture residual interest, according to Clayton. But there’s a limit to how much anyone can keep hyping the hype; search-engine queries for Super Bowl ads start to fall quickly about 48 hours after the game ends, she said. At which point, of course, the company will be thinking about the 2015 Super Bowl.
Wednesday, January 29, 2014
(By Scott Adams, 03 January 2014)
I have no expertise whatsoever on the topic of happiness. But I do have a knack for observation and simplification. That’s what I do for my day job as the creator of Dilbert. Today — as some of you are already backtracking on those New Year’s resolutions — I’m going to strip out all of the mumbo-jumbo around the topic of happiness and tell you the simplest way to get some. You’re reading this in the business section because every bit of what follows on the topic of happiness is relevant to your career, especially if you have entrepreneurial ambitions. You’ll need all the good health, good looks and mental energy you can muster to influence people and survive the long hours. As luck would have it, the good habits that make you healthy and energetic help to make you happy at the same time, so it’s a double win.
As far as I can tell, people usually experience the sensation of happiness whenever they have both health and freedom. It’s a simple formula: Happiness = Health + Freedom I’m talking about the everyday freedom of being able to do what you want when you want to do it, at work and elsewhere. For happiness, timing is as important as the thing you’re doing. For example, your favorite food is useless to you if the only time you can eat it is when your stomach is already full. But if I offer you bland food when you’re starving, you’ll feel as if you won the lottery. The timing of things matters.
The same principle is true for exercise. If you exercise when you’re in the mood for it, you can enjoy the workout. But if you can only exercise after a long day on the job and a grueling commute, you might hate it. There’s a right time and a wrong time for nearly every activity, from sleep to sex to paying bills. Matching your mood to your activity is a baseline requirement for happiness. The good news is that timing is relatively controllable, especially in the long run.
If you’re just starting out in your career, it won’t be easy to find a job that gives you a flexible schedule. The best approach is a strategy of moving toward more flexibility over the course of your life. That quest could take the form of badgering your pointy-haired boss into letting you work from home one day per week, or it might mean going back to school to learn a skill so you can run your own business. In my case, it means waking up several hours before the rest of the family. There isn’t one formula for finding schedule flexibility. Just make sure all of your important decisions are consistent with an end game of a more flexible schedule. Otherwise you are shutting yourself off from the most accessible lever for happiness — timing. We can’t ignore the role of money in all of this. Money can’t directly buy happiness, but it can give you more options, and that’s an important part of freedom. So don’t give up too much income potential just to get a flexible schedule. There’s no point in having a flexible schedule if you can’t afford to do anything.
The second part of the happiness formula is health. It’s never a good idea to take health tips from cartoonists, so check with your doctor if anything here sounds iffy to you. I don’t know how many people have died after reading health tips from cartoonists, but it probably isn’t zero. Don’t say you weren’t warned. The most important thing to know about staying fit is this: If it takes willpower, you’re doing it wrong. Anything that requires willpower is unsustainable in the long run. And studies show that using willpower in one area diminishes how much willpower you have in reserve for other areas. You need to get willpower out of the system. I’ll show you some tricks for doing that.
My observation is that you can usually replace willpower with knowledge. That isn’t an obvious point, so I’ll give some examples. Imagine you are hungry and I offer you a delicious but unhealthy dessert. It would take a lot of willpower to resist. Now imagine the same scenario, but I simultaneously offer a healthier food option that is also delicious. Suddenly it is easy to pick the healthy alternative over the dessert. The dessert was only irresistible when the alternative was starving. So the trick for avoiding unhealthy foods is to make sure you always have access to healthy options that you enjoy eating. Your knowledge of this trick, assuming you use it, makes willpower far less necessary.
Now imagine I offer you a choice of pasta or a white potato. And let’s say you enjoy both to a similar degree. Which do you choose? If you have only a basic understanding of nutrition — similar to what most people have — you might say it’s a toss-up. You’ve heard carbs are bad for you and that’s where your knowledge ends. But if you knew that pasta is far lower on the glycemic index than a white potato, you would make a far healthier choice that requires no willpower at all. All it took was knowledge. And while you’re eating your pasta, feel free to pile on the parmesan cheese. Cheese adds calories, but the fat content will help suppress your appetite, so you probably come out ahead. If you didn’t already know that, you might end up using willpower to avoid cheese at dinner and willpower again later that night to resist snacking.
A little knowledge replaces a lot of willpower. Is there anything else you should know about diet? Let me give you a quick quiz.
Did you know that sleepiness causes you to feel hungry?
Did you know that eating peanuts is a great way to suppress appetite?
Did you know that eating mostly protein instead of simple carbs for lunch will help you avoid the afternoon energy slump?
Did you know that eating simple carbs can make you hungrier?
Did you know that exercise has only a small impact on your weight?
If this is the first you have heard any of those facts, and you are sporting some extra pounds, you probably have a knowledge gap that feels to you like a shortage of willpower.
Speaking of knowledge, I’ve recently discovered that my cravings for certain foods can be manipulated. That surprised me because I thought my food preferences were baked into my DNA. I once loved french fries with an almost insane passion. But after I started noticing how drained and useless I felt after eating simple carbs, french fries became easy to resist. Knowledge weaned me off french fries when willpower could not.
I also learned that I can remove problem foods from my diet if I target them for extinction one at a time. It was easy to stop eating three large Snickers every day (which I was doing) when I realized I could eat anything else I wanted whenever I wanted. I can give myself that kind of permission because I’ve trained myself to enjoy relatively healthy food and to always have it nearby.
If you’re on a diet, you’re probably trying to avoid certain types of food, but you’re also trying to limit your portions. Instead of waging war on two fronts, try allowing yourself to eat as much as you want of anything that is healthy. I think you’ll find that healthier food is almost self-regulating in the sense that you don’t have an insatiable desire to keep eating it the way you might with junk food. With healthy food, you tend to stop when you feel full. That has been my experience anyway. In my 20s I could snarf my way through an entire box of donuts. But not once have I eaten an apple — which I also enjoy — and started in on a second apple. One of the biggest obstacles to healthy eating is the impression that healthy food generally tastes like cardboard. So consider making it a lifelong system to learn how to season and prepare healthy foods. If you know how to make your veggies taste great, it isn’t so hard to avoid junk food. Here again, knowledge replaces willpower.
It’s easy to spot the people who are trying to use willpower instead of knowledge to get healthier.
They tend to say things like this:
My goal is to lose 10 pounds.In my experience, the fittest people have systems, not goals, unless they are training for something specific. A sensible system is to continuously learn more about the science of diet and the methods for making healthy food taste great. With that system, weight management will feel automatic. Goals aren’t needed.
I’m limiting my portion size.You only need to do that if you are eating the wrong foods. Eating half of your cake still keeps you addicted to cake. And portion control takes a lot of willpower. You’ll find that healthy food satisfies you sooner, so you don’t crave large portions.
I’m increasing my workout to lose a few pounds.No one can exercise enough to overcome a bad diet. Diet is the right button to push for losing weight, so long as you are active. People who eat right and stay active usually have no problems with weight.
I’m doing the (whatever) diet or cleanse.Following a diet is hard. A cleanse is even harder. It takes effort and willpower. You’re better off learning to eat right and letting that knowledge nudge you in the right direction over your lifetime.
Once you get your diet right, the next topic to tackle is exercise. I’m about to share with you the simplest and potentially most effective exercise plan in the world. Here it is: Be active every day. Under this system, anything that gets you up and moving counts. It doesn’t matter if you’re swimming, running or cleaning the garage. When you’re active, and you don’t overdo it, you’ll find yourself in a good mood afterward. That reward becomes addictive over time. You’ll be like Pavlov’s dogs, but conditioned to be active. After a few months of being moderately active every day, you’ll discover that it is harder to sit and do nothing than it is to get up and do something. That’s the frame of mind you want. You want exercise to become a habit with a reward so it evolves into a useful addiction. When that happens, you no longer need willpower to exercise.
It’s important to remember that the intensity of your workout has a surprisingly small impact on your weight unless you’re running half-marathons every week. If your diet is right, moderate exercise is all you need. Your natural impulse to seek variety and challenge will cause you to learn more about the best practices of exercise over your lifetime. The only thing you absolutely need to get right is the part about being active every day.
When I was in my 20s I enjoyed playing pick-up games of soccer on Sunday mornings. It was terrific exercise, but it left me so sore I couldn’t exercise for several days afterward. Whoever came up with the saying “No pain, no gain” hadn’t thought it through. For me, the pain kept me from gain. These days I simply stay active every day, without pain and without the need for willpower, and I’m in the best shape of my life at age 56.
You will be tempted to quibble with some of the things I said about diet and exercise. Don’t get hung up on the details, because science keeps changing what we think we know anyway. The important point is that there are simple ways to substitute knowledge for willpower so you can ease into healthier eating and an active lifestyle. When your body is feeling good, and you have some flexibility in your schedule, you’ll find that the petty annoyances that plague your life become nothing but background noise. And that’s a great launch pad for happiness.
As you find yourself getting healthier and happier, the people in your life will view you differently too. Healthy-looking people generally earn more money, get more offers and enjoy a better social life. All of that will help your happiness. Keep in mind that happiness is a directional phenomenon. We feel happy when things are moving in the right direction no matter where we are at the moment. The homeless guy who finds a promising dumpster is happier in the moment than the billionaire who just lost $100 million on a bad investment. It’s the direction of your life — progress if you will — that influences happiness. When you are learning more about diet and exercise it will give you the sensation of progress and control over you destiny. And that feels good compared to losing ten pounds and gaining it back. I’ll reiterate that you shouldn’t get your health information from cartoonists. I’m a simplifier, not a doctor. All I’m offering is the idea that happiness is more accessible if you replace willpower with knowledge and you replace short-term goals with lifelong systems.
Saturday, January 4, 2014
Top 20 Music Moments Of 2013
(By Billboard Staff, Billboard magazine, December 26, 2013)
It was a year of blockbuster comebacks, surprise albums, game-changing moves in hip-hop, twerking teddy bears and tearful goodbyes of all kinds. For sure, 2013 kept us busy. These are the 20 biggest music moments in a 12 month span that was crammed with milestones.
1D's Memorable Moves
Another year, another smashingly successful One Direction album. "Midnight Memories" sold over 500,000 copies in its first week (according to Nielsen Soundscan) making the heartthrobby quintet the first group to debut at No. 1 with each of its first three albums. The group explored more mature, guitar-based sounds on the new set, which featured a pair of top 10 singles ("Best Song Ever" and "Story of My Life") and another pair that reached the top 20 ("Diana" and "Midnight Memories"). Outside of album sales, the band introduced its best-selling perfume (dubbed "Our Moment") and starred in the behind-the-scenes tour film "This Is Us," which proved a box office triumph.
Kendrick Takes 'Control'
Somehow with no album out this year, Kendrick Lamar still created the type of buzz that most acts only get when they're in-cycle. The rhymer's guest verse on Big Sean's "Control," a throwaway cut from his "Hall of Fame" album no less, attacked lazy rappers and respectfully challenged (and named!) Drake, J. Cole, Wale and more to step their games up. That's after the Los Angeles stud proclaimed himself the "King of New York." Oh yeah, Kendrick ruffled feathers.
Tragic End to a Fallen Country Star
In a series of events too macabre even for country music, singer Mindy McCready ended her life on Feb. 17 with a shot of a gun, in the same spot that her ex-boyfriend, David Wilson, killed himself a month before. Nearby lay his dog, shot dead by McCready. The grim scene was the end of a turbulent decade for the "Guys Do It All the Time" singer, which included several arrests, a pair of suicide attempts, a tabloid scandal tied to an alleged underage relationship with Roger Clemens, and her ill-advised appearance on "Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew."
YouTube Made the Hot 100 Star
If you knew Baauer and Ylvis before 2013, you were either one of a select few or simply from Norway. Exiting 2013? Nearly everyone knows those names -- or at least recognizes "Harlem Shake" and "The Fox." And thanks to our revamped Billboard chart methodology (which now factors YouTube plays along with digital sales, radio spins and streaming plays), each act vaulted high on the Hot 100. Baauer's "Harlem Shake" became the first benefactor by vaulting to No. 1 on the Hot 100 (announced on the cover of Billboard) -- and held that spot for five weeks total. Months later, it was comedy duo Ylvis, whose "The Fox (What Does the Fox Say?)" peaked at No. 6 on the strength of, again, a massive amount of downloads and YouTube spins. Both songs became the first of many to receive assists from massive amounts of video streams and rocket higher on the charts than ever before, making that nationwide hit all the more reachable for even the most small-time of artists.
BBMAs Light Up Las Vegas
Not to toot our own horn, but this year's Billboard Music Awards rocked. On May 20, 9.5 million viewers across America tuned in to watch a galaxy of A-list musicians light up the stage at Las Vegas' MGM Grand. Taylor Swift, Bruno Mars, Nicki Minaj, Lil Wayne and Icon Award recipient Prince turned in top performances, Madonna turned up to grab her Top Touring Artist award, and Miguel turned red after a miscalculated stage jump had fans in the pit ducking for cover. Most notable of the night was Justin Bieber, who performed twice, took home the fan-voted Milestone Award, and made headlines for calling out the haters in his acceptance speech. Take that, non #Beliebers!
Justin Bieber Hits Highs & Lows
As usual, Justin Bieber was constantly in the spotlight during 2013. This year, however, the headlines weren't always flattering. On the plus side, there were the flurry of top 10 hits from his 2012 album "Believe," a Milestone Award-win at the Billboard Music Awards (see No. 16), and a 10-song set dubbed Music Mondays that kept new music in the ears of his Beliebers. But there was also Mally, the singer's pet capuchin monkey who was quarantined in Germany due to improper documentation. There were the backstage fainting spells in London. His hope that Anne Frank "would have been a belieber" didn't go over so well. And most recently, the singer embarked on a whirlwind South American tour that saw him end a concert early in Argentina, anger Brazilian police by spraying graffiti on a wall, and get caught leaving an alleged brothel in Rio de Janeiro. Bieber ends 2013 on an up note, with the release of second movie, 'Believe,' and 'Journals,' a collection of his Music Mondays singles. After that, his manager Scooter Braun says that Justin will "(take) a break just to make music and relax, take some time for himself for the first time since he was 12." After his chaotic '13, we're sure he could use the rest.
David Bowie and More Triumphant Rock Revivals
David Bowie celebrated his 66th birthday on Jan. 8, but his fans got the best gift when the long-dormant legend unexpectedly dropped a new single and announced "The Next Day," his first album in 10 years. Bowie's surprise kicked off a year of unanticipated returns from some of alt-rock's heaviest hitters. On Feb. 2, British shoegaze giants My Bloody Valentine broke the Internet after self-releasing 'm b v,' their first album of new material in 21 years. Then, on May 21, Trent Reznor announced that Nine Inch Nails wasn't as defunct as he'd led fans to believe: later that summer, the project released its eighth album "Hesitation Marks" and hit the road for the first time since 2009.
Death at Electric Zoo
New York's Electric Zoo wasn't the first EDM festival to be plagued by the loss of life due to drug overdoses. But after two attendees passed away during the first two days of the annual event this past September, promoters cancelled the third day. It sent a clear message that death wasn't an acceptable part of dance music culture, prompting larger discussions about rave safety and the dangers of "Molly."
Jay Z's New Rules
Before Beyoncé stunned the world with the promotion-free release of her self-titled album, her husband Jay Z installed some "new rules" of his own. Less than a month after surprisingly announcing its debut date through a three-minute Samsung ad, Jay Z (yeah, no more hyphen) collaborated with Samsung to release his album, "Magna Carta Holy Grail," for free to the first one million Samsung Galaxy users on July 4. Even after its unique promotion, Jay earned his 13th No. 1 album when "Magna Carta" debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, selling 580,000 in its first week according to Nielsen SoundScan. Jay broke countless chart records with his unconditional marketing and continued to tour on one of this year's most successful stadium tours, Legends of the Summer, alongside Justin Timberlake.
Swedish House Mafia Bids Fans Farewell
They came, they raved, they left. EDM supergroup Swedish House Mafia closed the book on the relatively brief phenomenon of its career in March. The trio (Axwell, Steve Angello, and Sebastian Ingrosso) disbanded after their whirlwind, 52-date One Last Tour, including sold-out shows at Madison Square Garden and five at San Francisco's Bill Graham Civic and with one final and very emotional last hurrah at Ultra Music Festival in Miami.
The Night We (Thought We) Lost Lil Wayne
In March, TMZ reported sobering news for rap fans: Lil Wayne was on his deathbed after suffering a seizure. But not hours later, Weezy himself quashed fears, tweeting "I'm good everybody." Though reports swirled that his hospitalization was due to a codeine overdose, Wayne later asserted it was due to stress and his past medical history. True enough, the scare offered a deeper glimpse into the life of the popular rapper, especially after coming out later that month as an epileptic in a radio interview and revealing that, though he'd had plenty of seizures, this time he'd experienced three in a row and came close to death.
Robin Thicke Winks His Way to the Summer's Top Song
In 2013, Robin Thicke knew exactly what you wanted. After carving out a modestly successful career, the singer teamed up with Pharrell and T.I. for "Blurred Lines," the inescapable hit of the summer that spent 12 weeks at No. 1 on the Hot 100, effectively ruining the chances of songs like Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" to get its share of the glory. But "Blurred Lines" transcended mere radio airplay; during Miley Cyrus' MTV Video Music Awards performance last August, Cyrus came out during "Blurred Lines" to twerk up against Thicke, causing a ruckus that eventually became the most-tweeted-about event ever. Couple that with accusations of plagiarism from Marvin Gaye's family and controversy surrounding the song's subject matter, "Blurred Lines" was more than a hit song -- it was a phenomenon.
Daft Punk's Random Acts Pay Off
It started with two helmets: one gold, one silver, on a black, wordless poster. It became a media event -- from a TV ad during "Saturday Night Live" to a fan-map of billboard sightings on Reddit -- ushering the return of the pioneering French duo known as Daft Punk and its new album, "Random Access Memories." Made with real instruments and featuring Pharrell Williams, Nile Rodgers and the legendary Giorgio Moroder, the album spent its first two weeks atop the Billboard 200 and lead single "Get Lucky" reached No. 2 on the Hot 100. And they look set to have a big 2014 as well: In January, Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter will perform at the Grammys and compete for five awards.
Rock and Country Reel From Huge Losses
There's really no way to measure just how important both Lou Reed and George Jones were to their own corners of the music world. Reed was an occasionally polarizing punk poet who preferred challenging his listeners ("Berlin") over churning out hits ("Walk on the Wild Side"). "I'm not a human jukebox," he once said. Jones could literally fill that jukebox with his signature odes to heartache ("He Stopped Loving Her Today"), booze ("White Lightning") and other country tropes -- often enduring those same hardships in his real life. Jones was 81 when he passed away on April 26, spoiling a final tour that would have wrapped up in November. "I will surely miss my fans and the good people I have met along this journey," he told Billboard. Reed died on Oct. 27 of liver disease at 71, leaving behind a legacy of fierce independence that spanned his years in Velvet Underground and a wide-ranging solo career.
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Lorde Lead Class Of New Superstars
One of the pleasures of closely following mainstream music is to watch fresh-faced artists shake up the scene in real time, and 2013 was stocked with new talent. Witness Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, the first duo to ever take their first two singles to the top of the Hot 100, who also happened to score the biggest hit of 2013 ("Thrift Shop"), pen a moving gay-rights anthem ("Same Love") and land multiple Grammy nominations in the process. Speaking of Grammys, Lorde also has a shot of winning multiple trophies, after the 17-year-old New Zealander released an out-of-nowhere smash hit on her first try ("Royals") and issued a dark, gorgeously written debut album around it. While Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and Lorde were two of the brightest new figures in pop, artists like Ariana Grande, Imagine Dragons, Florida Georgia Line, Kacey Musgraves, Capital Cities, Icona Pop and A Great Big World also shone in their own right.
Kanye West Careens Through 2013
Highs and lows were constants in Kanye's 2013. This time last year, he announced that his then-girlfriend (now fiancé) Kim Kardashian was pregnant with their first child. "Yeezus," his sixth solo album (arriving in June just days after his daughter North was born), reflected none of the joy a first time parent typically boasts. Instead, it was the soundtrack of frustration, harsh and militant -- punk and aggro. The anti-establishment "Yeezus" sentiments were echoed often in radio interviews, where Kanye often said he felt marginalized by fashion houses not willing to back his own line. But the tide has turned a bit since then. He's currently on an ambitious tour and Adidas recently announced that West has signed with them (his line is expected to be out next fall). Kanye's also revealed that he's working on a new, potentially more hit-filled album as well. Happier days seem to be ahead for Mr. West.
Justin Timberlake Suits Up for a Busy Comeback
On the evening of Sunday, Jan. 13, just after pop culture fans had finished digesting the Golden Globe Awards, another bombshell dropped -- Justin Timberlake had returned to music, dropping his first new song since 2006. Timberlake released "Suit & Tie," a debonair, horn-laced single featuring Jay Z, and announced that his third album, "The 20/20 Experience," was due later in the year. "Suit & Tie" and "Mirrors" both cracked the Hot 100's top 5, and "The 20/20 Experience" enjoyed a dominant debut, selling 968,000 copies in its first week, according to Nielsen Soundscan. Timberlake followed with a second edition of the "20/20 Experience" on Sept. 27, which helped him stay in the headlines for the rest of the year. To get the word out, Timberlake and his team succeeded in saturating the pop culture world with all things JT: a week-long residency on "Late Night," an 'N Sync reunion at the VMAs, more performances on the Grammys and American Music Awards, and a musical guest spot on "SNL" to close out the year. Meanwhile, JT rocked shows big and small, from the Legends of the Summer with Jay Z and the opening dates of the 20/20 Experience World Tour, to buzzworthy gigs like SXSW and Super Bowl weekend in New Orleans. In one of the most tireless years for a performer in recent memory, Timberlake's twin albums went on to sell a combined 3,071,000 units, according to Nielsen Soundscan.
'Glee' Fans Mourn for Monteith
Cory Monteith had run for a long time, but in 2013, his demons finally caught up with him. On July 13, the singer, actor and "Glee" star was found dead in his Vancouver hotel room from a combination of alcohol and heroin. The 31-year-old had documented a struggle with substance abuse since he was a teenager, but had begun to seek treatment for addiction earlier this year. Unfortunately, it was too much to overcome, leaving in his wake a stirring tribute at the 2013 Teen Choice Awards by fellow "Glee" mainstay -- and girlfriend -- Lea Michele, as well as a show episode honoring his character of Finn Hudson this fall.
Boom Goes Beyonce
Remember back in February when Beyonce played the Super Bowl and many fans expected her to drop a new single? Even though that didn't arrive until more than 10 months later, it was still Beyonce's year. After causing a minor lip-syncing scandal at President Obama's second inauguration, she delivered the second most-watched Super Bowl Halftime performance ever (104 million viewers), debuted new music with Pepsi and H&M, stomped her way (in stilettos!) through the Mrs. Carter World Tour -- all before delivering the ultimate mic drop just before midnight on Dec. 13. "We went through everything to keep it sacred and a surprise," the singer also known as Sasha Fierce, Mrs. Carter and now "Yonce" said at a screening for the "Beyonce" visual album held in New York Dec. 21. "Because there's joy in that and it's missing, and that's something I was able to experience as a kid." Based on all the breathless, Christmas-morning-like video reactions -- which were followed by stunning chart and sales debuts -- Beyonce made us all feel like kids again, too.
Miley Can't Stop: The Year's Most Talked-About Pop Star
Miley Cyrus was a maelstrom that expanded and grazed nearly every aspect of pop culture in 2013, from stop-in-your-tracks performances to salacious music videos, from the tabloid sections to the "twerking" enthusiasts. At the eye of that storm, however, were some of the biggest and best singles of the year. A veteran recording artist at the ripe old age of 21, Cyrus reinvented herself this year with the trap-happy party cut "We Can't Stop," which rode a Mike WiLL Made-It beat to No. 2 on the Hot 100 chart. Its follow-up, "Wrecking Ball," was even more inescapable, smashing the listener with a chorus as powerful as its titular object and giving Cyrus the first No. 1 single of the career (and about a million viral parodies to coincide with that achievement). Sure, Cyrus courted controversy throughout 2013, but her antics were bolstered by raw musical talent; consider her American Music Awards performance, which paired a context-free blinking cat with a moving performance of "Wrecking Ball." Cyrus was savvy enough to rule the headlines and the charts this year, making the "Bangerz" star the most enduring figure of 2013.
Digital Music Sales Fell For The First Time In The Itunes Era
(By Marc Hogan, Spin, January 3 2014)
The numbers are in, but they might be a little disappointing. Yes, Justin Timberlake's The 20/20 Experience (one of SPIN's 50 Best Albums of 2013) was last year's biggest selling album, as Billboard reports, using Nielsen SoundScan data. And sure, Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" (one of SPIN's 50 Best Songs of 2013) was the single-song champion. But those were the top sellers in a dwindling market. 20/20 was the only album with sales of more than two million this year. Its 2.4 million units shifted made it the lowest selling year-end leader of the SoundScan era, which began in 1991. Perhaps more significantly, digital download sales decreased for the first time. The possible role of streaming in all this is an open debate.
Overall, domestic album sales last year totaled 289.4 million, down 8 percent from almost 316 million in 2012. Sales of physical CDs dropped 14 percent. Digital album sales slipped to 117.6 million, a less than 1 percent decrease from their best-ever total of 117.7 million a year earlier. But that's still their first drop since SoundScan started keeping track in 2003. What's more, digital track sales were 1.3 billion units, down 5.7 percent, according to Billboard. Vinyl sales kept rising — to 6 million, up from 4.6 million a year ago. Timberlake's 20/20 displaces Lil Wayne's 2008 album, Tha Carter III, the previous lowest selling year-end champ with sales of almost 2.9 million. The two are the only full-year top-sellers since SoundScan that failed to crack the three million mark. For comparison, the biggest selling release of 2012 was Adele's 21, which moved 4.4 million copies in that 12-month frame. The year before that, the top-seller was ... also 21, which sold 5.8 million in 2011.
As for the rest of the top-selling albums: Eminem's The Marshall Mathers LP 2 is, as befits its title, No. 2 (1.73 million), marking his sixth time in the year-end top 10 — 2010's Recovery and 2002's The Eminem Show were their years' respective victors. Luke Bryan's Crash My Party ends in third (1.52 million), the best showing for a male country singer since the time of Billy Ray Cyrus and Garth Brooks. Next up were Imagine Dragons' Night Visions (No. 4, 1.4 million), Bruno Mars' Unorthodox Jukebox (No. 5, 1.4 million), and Florida Georgia Line's Here's to the Good Times (No. 6, 1.35 million), followed by Drake's Nothing Was the Same (No. 7, 1.34 million), Beyoncé's Beyoncé (No. 8, 1.3 million), and Blake Shelton's Based on a True Story (No. 9, 1.1 million). Jay Z's Magna Carta…Holy Grail closes out the top 10 (1.1 million), the first time a husband and wife have separately fared so well with SoundScan.
Among tracks, Thicke's Pharrell- and T.I.-assisted "Blurred Lines" sold almost 6.5 million copies. No. 2 was Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' "Thrift Shop" (6.1 million), followed by Imagine Dragons' "Radioactive" (5.5 million). In 2012, Gotye's "Somebody That I Used to Know" led the way (6.8 million). Rounding out the top 10: Florida Georgia Line's "Cruise" (No. 4, 4.7 million), Lorde's "Royals" (No. 5, 4.4 million), Katy Perry's "Roar" (No. 6, 4.4 million), Pink's "Just Give Me a Reason" (No. 7, 4.3 million), Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' "Can't Hold Us" (No. 8, 4.3 million), Bruno Mars' "When I Was Your Man" (No. 9, 3.9 million), and Rihanna's "Stay" (No. 10, 3.85 million). Incidentally, none of these can touch the Black Eyed Peas' "I Gotta Feeling," the best-selling digital track ever with 8.4 million.
The Year In Pop 2013: Miley Cyrus, Rihanna, Anna Kendrick Score Offbeat Hits
(By Jason Lipshutz, Billboard, December 13, 2013)
In 2012, the No. 1 Hot 100 song of the year was "Somebody That I Used To Know," the hushed, xylophone-led single from Australia-based artist Gotye, featuring New Zealand singer-songwriter Kimbra. "Somebody That I Used To Know" was Gotye's debut single on the Hot 100, and a song that few could have predicted would rule radio last year. Similarly, pop music in 2013 was composed of a multitude of songs that were rewarded for their brazen originality with millions of spins. From French robots busting disco moves to a New Zealand teen spitting bars against opulence, the most successful artists in 2013 were many things, but never generic.
This year found the biggest artists in pop music staying on top through risk-taking and innovation, with Miley Cyrus most assuredly leading the charge. Lest we forget after months of twerking and tongue-wagging that "We Can't Stop" -- a snapping, big-butt-praising club track with a wonky tempo and a Mike WiLL Made-It beat -- was a daring choice of a lead single, and a marked departure from the clean pop of Cyrus' "Party in the U.S.A." days. "We Can't Stop" was a hit, clocking in at No. 17 on Billboard's year-end Hot 100 chart and erasing the memories of Cyrus' lackluster "Can't Be Tamed" era. Similarly, Justin Timberlake returned from a seven-year album break not with more electronically charged bangers from his "FutureSex/LoveSounds" days, but instead with slick love songs delivered with blue-eyed sincerity; the approach paid off, as "Mirrors" became a Top 40 staple and finished at No. 6 on the year-end Hot 100.
Meanwhile, Rihanna's biggest hit of 2013 wasn't a breathless dance song like "We Found Love," but a somber ballad that showcased her vocal power: "Stay," featuring Mikky Ekko, was an incisive change-up, and a Top 5 hit with legs. And while Taylor Swift turned ever-so-slightly to the dubstep world for the enduring "Red" single "I Knew You Were Trouble," EDM maestro Avicii nodded to the country world with "Wake Me Up!," his Aloe Blacc-assisted single that proved to be the biggest of his career thus far. In 2013, superstars changed lanes without losing an ounce of their mojo.
As for the breakout artists of 2013, how exactly does one predict that a wacky thrift-shopping ode with the phrase "Damn, that's a cold-ass honky" included would become the No. 1 Hot 100 song of the year? Love it or hate it, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' "Thrift Shop" was undeniably singular, but the duo was hardly the only outlandish new act scoring No. 1 singles on the Hot 100 chart this year. The sparseness at the heart of Lorde's debut single, "Royals," made the song sound unlike anything else on radio -- one of the reasons why the anti-luxury anthem dominated so many formats, from Alternative to Top 40. Baauer unwittingly rode the viral phenomenon of "Harlem Shake" to a multi-week stay atop the Hot 100, despite the kinetic dance song's utter lack of anything resembling a hummable hook. Imagine Dragons' "Radioactive" possessed a refrain, but the chorus was coiled tightly around stuttering techno, soulful backing vocals and twinkling piano… making the song the biggest rock hit of the year.
Of course, there were some trends snaking around the oddball jams. 2013 was a huge year for sumptuous R&B, from Robin Thicke's inescapable summer single "Blurred Lines" to Timberlake's "Suit & Tie" to Daft Punk's pristine comeback single "Get Lucky." Also, songs like Zedd's "Clarity," Swedish House Mafia's "Don't You Worry Child" and Calvin Harris' "Sweet Nothing" demonstrated that the EDM explosion of the past half-decade is still causing serious ripples. If one were to squint, more dots can be connected between wrecking balls and holy grails, between diamonds and mirrors, between most of the biggest songs of 2013. But then again, how exactly does one try to lasso Anna Kendrick's "Cups (Pitch Perfect's When I'm Gone)" into a tidy category? Once a 76-second song in a throwaway scene in "Pitch Perfect," a film that did not top the box office upon its September 2012 release, Kendrick's elongated version of the song climbed into the Top 10 of the Hot 100 in its 28th week, and (rather amazingly) ranks at No. 21 on the year-end Hot 100 chart. If the rise of "Cups" demonstrates anything, it's that this enjoyably bizarre year in pop music was defined by the undefinable.
Justin Timberlake's '20/20' 2013's Best Selling Album, 'Blurred Lines' Top Song
(By Keith Caulfield, Billboard, 02 January 02, 2014)
Justin Timberlake's "The 20/20 Experience" and Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" finish 2013 as the year's top selling album and song in the United States, respectively, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Timberlake's "20/20," which was released on March 19, sold 2.43 million in 2013 and is the only album that sold more than 2 million copies this past year. The 2013 sales tracking year began on Dec. 31, 2012 ended on Dec. 29, 2013.
"20/20" is also the smallest-selling year-end No. 1 album since SoundScan began tracking music sales in 1991. Previously, the SoundScan-era low was set in 2008, when Lil Wayne's "Tha Carter III" was the top seller, with 2.87 million. ("20/20" and "Tha Carter III" are the only year-end SoundScan No. 1 albums to finish a year with less than 3 million.) A year ago, the top selling album of 2012 was Adele's "21," with 4.41 million sold in 2012. "21" also reigned in 2011 as the top selling release, with 5.82 million that year. 2013's second-biggest selling album is Eminem's "The Marshall Mathers LP 2," with 1.73 million. It's the sixth time Eminem has placed an album among a year's top 10 sellers. In 2010, he owned the No. 1 album of the year with "Recovery" (3.41 million), while he was also the champ of 2002 with "The Eminem Show" (7.61 million). He also finished among the top 10 in 2009 (No. 9 with "Relapse"), 2004 (No. 3 with "Encore") and 2000 (No. 2 with "The Marshall Mathers LP").
Luke Bryan's "Crash My Party" is 2013's third-biggest album, with 1.52 million sold. It's the highest-ranked year-end album by a male country artist since 1992, when Billy Ray Cyrus' "Some Gave All" and Garth Brooks' "Ropin' the Wind" finished as that year's Nos. 1 and 2 albums (4.83 million and 4.10 million, respectively).
"Crash My Party" was one of two No. 1 albums for Bryan in 2013 on the weekly Billboard 200 chart. It followed his compilation "Spring Break… Here to Party," which also debuted at No. 1 in March. It finishes 2013 as the No. 39 overall seller, with 543,000. Imagine Dragons' "Night Visions" is 2013's fourth-biggest album, with 1.4 million sold in the year. The set was released in 2012, and sold 417,000 that year (making it the No. 61 album of 2012). "Night Visions" is also the top selling rock album of 2013, while Timberlake's set is the best selling R&B/hip-hop set. "The Marshall Mathers LP 2" is naturally the biggest rap album of 2013, while Bryan's "Crash" is the year's best selling country release. "Night Visions" is also the highest-ranked album on the year-end best sellers list that did not hit No. 1 on the weekly Billboard 200 chart. It debuted and peaked at No. 2.
Bruno Mars' "Unorthodox Jukebox" is No. 5 on the year-end list, with just under 1.40 million, while Florida Georgia Line's "Here's to the Good Times" is No. 6 with 1.35 million. Both albums were released in 2012. Mars' set sold 480,000 in 2012 (making it the No. 47 album of that year) while "Here's to the Good Times" sold 181,000 in 2012. Drake's "Nothing Was the Same" is the No. 7 album of 2013, with 1.34 million, while Beyonce's self-titled album is ranked at No. 8 with 1.3 million. "Beyonce" is also the youngest title among the top 10 albums of 2013, having only been released on Dec. 14. "Beyonce" is also 2013's best-selling album by a woman. The next-highest ranked leading lady is Katy Perry, with "PRISM," at No. 14 for the year (969,000). Blake Shelton's "Based On a True Story" is the No. 9 seller of 2013 (1.11 million), while Beyonce's husband -- Jay Z -- is No. 10 with "Magna Carta…Holy Grail" (1.1 million). This is the first time in the SoundScan era that a husband and wife have both separately placed albums among the top 10 sellers in a calendar year.
During the 52 weeks that ended Dec. 29, overall album sales in the U.S. fell by 8% to 289.41 million from 315.96 million in 2012. Physical CD sales were down 14% in 2012 while digital album downloads were also down -- for the first time -- by less than 1% to 117.58 million. (2012 marked the best year for album downloads, with 117.68 million.) SoundScan began tracking digital sales in 2003. 41% of all albums sold in 2013 were downloads -- up from 37% in 2012 (and 31% in 2011). The top selling digital album of 2013 was "The 20/20 Experience," with 1.03 million. It is the only album sell a million downloads in 2013. For the sixth straight year, more vinyl albums were sold than in any other year since SoundScan launched in 1991. In 2013, 6.1 million vinyl LPs were sold -- up 33% compared to 2012's haul of 4.55 million. 64% of all vinyl albums sold in 2012 were purchased at an independent music store (3% less than compared to indie stores' share in 2012). Notably -- and not surprisingly -- 75% of all vinyl albums sold in 2013 were rock albums. The top selling vinyl album of 2013 was Daft Punk's "Random Access Memories," having sold 49,000 last year. Vampire Weekend's "Modern Vampires of the City" was in second place with 34,000. (A year ago, the top selling vinyl album was Jack White's "Blunderbuss" with 34,000 LPs sold.)
As for digital songs, 2013 was the first year that download sales declined. 1.26 billion songs were sold last year -- down 6% compared to the record of 1.34 billion sold in 2012. SoundScan began tracking song download sales in the summer of 2003, shortly after Apple's iTunes Music Store launched in April of that year. Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines," featuring Pharrell and T.I., was 2013's top selling song, with 6.5 million sold. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' "Thrift Shop," featuring Wanz, was the year's second-biggest song, with 6.15 million. They were the only two songs to sell more than 6 million in 2013, and are among the only 26 cuts to have moved more than 6 million in history. (The biggest selling digital song ever remains the Black Eyed Peas' "I Gotta Feeling," with 8.44 million.)
Imagine Dragons' "Radioactive" was the year's third biggest song (5.5 million), followed by Florida Georgia Line's "Cruise" (4.69 million) and Lorde's "Royals" (4.42 million). Katy Perry's "Roar" is No. 6 with 4.41 million, while P!nk's "Just Give Me a Reason," featuring Nate Ruess, is No. 7 with 4.32 million. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' "Can't Hold Us" finishes the year at No. 8 with 4.26 million, while Bruno Mars' "When I Was Your Man" is No. 9 with 3.93 million. Rihanna's "Stay," featuring Mikky Ekko, closes out the top 10 with 3.85 million. A total of 106 songs sold more than 1 million downloads in 2013 -- down from the 108 that did it in 2012 (and 112 in 2011). 38 moved 2 million in 2013 (vs. 41 in 2012 and 38 in 2011).
The Year In Touring 2013: Beyond The Numbers
(By Ray Waddell, Billboard, December 13, 2013)
For the touring industry, these are now —officially— the best of times. "The concert business is basically on fire," says veteran agent Dennis Arfa, president of Artists Group International (AGI). Anecdotal information from virtually every stakeholder in the live music business—including buyers, sellers, venues, vendors, ticketers and other ancillary providers—confirms the touring industry has been having a banner year since last spring. Now Billboard's own metric, the Boxscore chart, validates these boom times from a numbers standpoint, with the most positive and promising trends of this century. The dark days for the industry that marked the close of this millennium's first decade are not only firmly in the rear view, but now appear to be an anomaly, as 2013 Boxscore reports soared to a record level of $4.8 billion in gross ticket sales worldwide. That's up nearly 30% from last year and up 9% over the biggest Boxscore year ever—2009—the year before the touring bubble burst after a decade of growth.
In 2009, warning signs were plentiful as grosses outpaced attendance and a handful of mega-tours belied an industry with a distorted value proposition and disenfranchised fans. But, four years later, all signs point toward continued growth as the industry remains focused on providing value and customer service, international markets continue to open, new artists are developing solid foundations and selling tickets across several genres, and new-media marketing tools come to bear in quantifiable ways. Unlike Nielsen SoundScan figures, Boxscore numbers depend on the consistency and accuracy of reports from promoters, venues, agents and managers, and represent just a fraction of the overall value of the live business. Therefore, if Boxscore only shows us a slice of what's actually going on out there, the metric is still a useful barometer for gauging the overall health of the industry. If nothing else, Boxscore brings numeric context to what those in the trenches have been telling us all year—and those two metrics don't always run in parallel.
But this year, numerous indicators, including the Boxscore chart, point to a robust business that is still very much in growth mode. In fact, with all the non-reporting tours, concerts, events, soft-ticket shows, casinos, private concerts and international plays, the touring industry is surely at its highest level ever, with fans worldwide ponying up a conservative Billboard estimate of more than $15 billion annually for the in-the-moment experience that only live performance can offer. It is a rare situation for the news to be so positive in every aspect, with double-digit increases in many different metrics. Worldwide, concert attendance is up 26%, according to Boxscore, with the number of shows increasing by only 5.8%. Also from a global perspective, per-show gross is up 20% and per-show attendance is up 18.5%.
North America has had a remarkable resurgence for a business that not so long ago seemed to have lost its place in the public consciousness. The total gross is up 26% and total attendance up 23%, with the total number of shows up less than 5%. By contrast, in 2012, North American Boxscore grosses were up a modest 1.7% and attendance was down 6%. The North American numbers hold up on a per-show basis, with the average gross in North America up 17.4% and average attendance up 17.8%, the first time the latter has outpaced the former perhaps ever in the modern era, and a reflection of more conservative pricing overall. More important, the pricing doesn't skew downward due to deep discounting or fire sales, as the industry at large has moved away from price slashing and focused more on "right pricing" out of the gate.
What's true in North America for the overall business is also true for Live Nation, the world's largest promoter. In North America, Live Nation concert ticket sales are up 15% year-on-year to more than 20 million, with prices remaining relatively flat for the past several years, according to Live Nation North American Concerts co-president Bob Roux. "We're obviously ecstatic about the results this year," Roux says. He adds that Live Nation amphitheaters enjoyed their best year ever, which flies in the face of any concerns that the burgeoning festival business might be negatively affecting sheds during the summer months. And the North American numbers aren't skewed by a red-hot Canadian market, as has been the case in the past. In that most mature concert marketplace of all, the United States, gross ticket sales are up 30% and attendance is up 27%, with the number of shows increasing just 6.6%.
These are just numbers to crunch. But no one would argue that 2013 hasn't been a fortuitous year, and by far the most robust one for the live industry since the Great Slump of 2010, a year marked by cancellations, postponements, sudden "illnesses" and widespread industry finger-pointing. In the end, the tailspin of 2010 led to a large-scale cessation in Boxscore reporting that still hasn't resumed previous levels. For example, midway through 2010, as the downturn started hammering summer tours, Live Nation, the world's largest promoter, stopped reporting all shows as a matter of course, although it still does frequently report certain top-end tours upon request and all shows from its Global Touring division. Live Nation claims to present some 20,000 shows annually, and this year only reported 2,623 to Boxscore. But, in perhaps yet another positive indicator of the business' health, Live Nation reported 54% more shows this year than last.
WHAT'S DRIVING THE NUMBER?
Touring is, as ever, a cyclical business, and mega-tours by U2, the Rolling Stones or Madonna tend to skew the numbers upward due to higher ticket prices, larger venues and global footprints. But this year's strong numbers came in a year short on such mega-tours, with even the Stones playing a comparatively paltry 23 shows. This year's top 25 tours, while populated with acknowledged superstars, featured artists with more conservative ticket prices. This was a "meat and potatoes" kind of touring year, yet one where fans turned out to see a wide range of acts, in varied stages of their career arc, from diverse genres, all of which bodes well for the overall popularity of live music. "I've never seen so many superstars in so many genres," AGI's Arfa says, pointing out that the fragmentation once considered a bane of the industry is now a bonus as multiple genres are fielding solid acts capable of selling lots of tickets. "There's something for everybody. There's a lot of population out there, and most people are bored to death. So going to a show is a big event for most people," Arfa says. "And you don't need the same audience for every show. If a fan goes to a few shows a year, that's all we need, whereas we used to need them to go to 10 or 12. My generation, we had to get everybody to go."
Getting people to go depends on the industry presenting acts that fans want to see at prices they're willing to pay. But first the fans have to know about the show. One primary reason why more tickets are selling today is because of the extremely targeted and efficient marketing opportunities afforded by new media and strategic use of mobile, social, email, channel marketing and digital sales channels. Many in the business would agree that this is the year the industry at large significantly moved the needle in using data analytics to sell more tickets and tackle one of touring's great obstacles: lack of awareness.
As far as fielding compelling tours and pricing them correctly, 2013 was a year where the stake-holders got it right. "I hate comparing years, but as an overall theme  was one of the most intelligently booked, promoted and embraced concert years in my recent memory," Creative Artists Agency managing partner/head of music Rob Light says. "The packaging was smart, the scaling was smart, ticket pricing was smart, the way shows were put on sale was smart, across everybody. People really went at it with a very intelligent, fan-friendly point of view for the most part."
With a $3 billion annual talent budget, the touring business depends on a healthy Live Nation, the industry's only public company, which posted record earnings in 2013. Among the tours and concerts that Live Nation promoted in 2013 were Justin Timberlake/Jay Z, P!nk, Beyoncé, Rihanna, One Direction, Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean, Tim McGraw, Swedish House Mafia, Bruno Mars, Maroon 5, Roger Waters, Kid Rock, Mumford & Sons, Fleetwood Mac, the Eagles and Imagine Dragons. Live Nation also increased its presence in the EDM festival space, with record attendance at Electric Daisy Carnival, HARD, Paridiso and Digital Dreams, "and we also had record attendance in our festival, amphitheater, arena, and clubs and theater divisions," Live Nation Entertainment CEO Michael Rapino says. "On a global basis, live music is exploding," Rapino said at the sold-out Billboard Touring Conference (yet another positive indicator). "Artists are pricing better, there is great fan demand, [and] it's the best place to spend two hours for the price. We're seeing a great supply of artists filling the venues, [and] when you add globalization to that, we think that the live business is booming and has a long growth period ahead of it."
AEG Live, the second-largest promoter, put up record numbers in 2013, as predicted by former CEO Randy Phillips a year ago. With tours by such acts as Bon Jovi, the Rolling Stones, Taylor Swift, Kenny Chesney and George Strait (the latter three with the Messina Group), along with a busy global network of regional offices, AEG Live reported grosses of more than $1 billion for the first time in its history, up a staggering 97% from 2012. AEG Live’s Goldenvoice division also produced the Coachella and Stagecoach festivals in Indio, Calif., with the former producing the highest boxscore in history at $67.2 million.
The boom times extend to independent pro- moters like Phoenix-based Danny Zelisko, who says his Danny Zelisko Presents promoted more than 150 shows this year primarily in Phoenix, Las Vegas and Albuquerque, N.M. "The top acts that toured in 2013 did better than ever before. The public's thirst for their favorite stars seems to be unquenchable," Zelisko says. “Very few empty seats is music to my ears." Austin-based C3 Presents' reported boxscores increased by more than 57% in 2013, with involvement in more than 800 shows that generated $124.3 million in box office. C3 remains a force in the booming festival business, with Lollapalooza in Chicago selling out in advance and the Austin City Limits Music Festival success- fully expanding to two weekends. "The festival business was stronger than ever this year," C3 partner Charlie Walker says, "and in talking to our peers, it seemed like that was true for most of the promoters."
That seems to be true in San Francisco, where Another Planet Entertainment enjoyed "our best year ever," according to Gregg Perloff, president of APE, co-producer of the Outside Lands festival with Superfly Presents. "We took on a new festival, Life Is Beautiful in Las Vegas. The Fox Theatre in Oakland [Calif.] continues to be the hottest venue I've ever been involved in. We were up in Tahoe, we were up at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley—sales were very strong. It was a spectacular year. I've got no complaints."
APE, which Perloff says presented about 700 shows in 2013, thrives on diversity, presenting acts ranging from Placido Domingo to a five-night run by Swedish House Mafia that sold 42,000 tickets at the 8,500-capacity Bill Graham Civic Center in San Francisco. "I'm in the middle of a market that's on fire with the tech industries. We have a very young and active audience that has disposable income," he says. "I wish I could tell you it's all of us, but we're very fortunate we do business here."
BOOM TIMES CONTINUE
One would be hard-pressed to find a year where so much optimism prevails for the coming year. "Next year will continue the same run," Light says. "The packages will continue to be really smart, the whole marketing of tours is smart — although it's happening much further in advance. When I look at everything we've got on the road, international is going to be bigger than ever. The major tours are going to be enormous. I feel really good about next year. I don't think this was a blip. I believe we —the business— really got it right this year on so many levels, and we're going to continue. I'm very, very bullish."
If there's a potential speed bump, it's a familiar one. "The only pitfall I see is when, as an industry, we get greedy, start to push the ticket pricing, stop packaging, oversaturate markets, push artists too fast in their growth process," Light says. "But as an industry, we're just much more aware of how we put tickets out there. Generationally, where we are now, I don't see people making the mistakes of the past." Perloff does see one area where the business is potentially breaking bad. "Some producers are putting shows on sale way too early," he ays. "It's good to get up and on sale, but when you're 180 days away from a date, they're hurting acts and the business. There's an appropriate length of time when you should go on sale. When the greed factor takes over and you just want to bank money, that's a mistake. This is people's hard-earned money- why should you be holding their money for 180 days on just a regular show?"
Not only do some shows that go up months in advance lose their sense of urgency, Perloff believes that when fans buy way out, they might not be able to afford a ticket to a show that's happen- ing sooner. "As an industry, if you really want to do the right thing for an artist, you've got to be careful about when you put a show on sale," he says. But, in general, Light feels the industry will continue to "grow upon what we're learning," he says. "If there's one thing that will be interesting over the next year or two years, it is how labels approach the whole process of putting out records, because I'm just not sure that a 12-song CD is critical anymore to the process. That will be the most interesting thing for me to watch: how artists release music as it relates to their touring, and how we both use it to promote tours and how we use tours to promote album releases." Today, touring is "the gold mine of the music business. That is what this is," Arfa says. "It's a great time to be a successful live act."
The Top 25 Tours Of 2013 Compiled From Billboard Boxscores
(Reported from Nov. 14, 2012, to Nov. 12, 2013)
Total Gross: $205,158,370
Total Attendance: 2,178,170
Total Capacity: 2,178,170
No. of Shows: 90
No. of Sellouts: 90
2 : Michael Jackson The Immortal World Tour, By Cirque Du Soleil
Total Gross: $157,299,100
Total Attendance: 1,425,442
Total Capacity: 1,853,022
No. of Shows: 205
No. of Sellouts: 0
3 : P!nk
Total Gross: $147,947,543
Total Attendance: 1,581,939
Total Capacity: 1,583,801
No. of Shows: 114
No. of Sellouts: 111
4 : Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band
Total Gross: $147,608,938
Total Attendance: 1,389,778
Total Capacity: 1,454,499
No. of Shows: 53
No. of Sellouts: 36
Total Attendance: 1,389,778
Total Capacity: 1,454,499
No. of Shows: 53
No. of Sellouts: 36
5 : Rihanna
Total Gross: $137,982,530
Total Attendance: 1,595,161
Total Capacity: 1,600,851
No. of Shows: 87
No. of Sellouts: 84
6 : The Rolling Stones
Total Gross: $126,182,391
Total Attendance: 326,998
Total Capacity: 326,998
No. of Shows: 23
No. of Sellouts: 23
7 : Taylor Swift
Total Gross: $115,379,331
Total Attendance: 1,363,510
Total Capacity: 1,363,510
No. of Shows: 66
No. of Sellouts: 66
8 : Beyoncé
Total Gross: $104,358,899
Total Attendance: 883,062
Total Capacity: 934,021
No. of Shows: 59
No. of Sellouts: 40
9 : Depeche Mode
Total Gross: $99,972,733
Total Attendance: 1,390,141
Total Capacity: 1,400,298
No. of Shows: 54
No. of Sellouts: 51
10 : Kenny Chesney
Total Gross: $90,932,957
Total Attendance: 1,186,925
Total Capacity: 1,214,694
No. of Shows: 44
No. of Sellouts: 31
11 : Rogers Waters
Total Gross: $81,305,650
Total Attendance: 830,123
Total Capacity: 915,081
No. of Shows: 27
No. of Sellouts: 0
Total Attendance: 830,123
Total Capacity: 915,081
No. of Shows: 27
No. of Sellouts: 0
12 : One Direction
Total Gross: $78,311,383
Total Attendance: 1,223,144
Total Capacity: 1,236,308
No. of Shows: 81
No. of Sellouts: 43
13: Justin Bieber
Total Gross: $77,423,264
Total Attendance: 959,886
Total Capacity: 982,523
No. of Shows: 65
No. of Sellouts: 55
14 : Madonna
Total Gross: $76,752,277
Total Attendance: 577,169
Total Capacity: 577,169
No. of Shows: 16
No. of Sellouts: 16
15 : Jay Z & Justin Timberlake
Total Gross: $69,753,905
Total Attendance: 622,559
Total Capacity: 622,559
No. of Shows: 14
No. of Sellouts: 14
16 : Paul McCartney
Total Gross: $69,584,403
Total Attendance: 565,705
Total Capacity: 566,696
No. of Shows: 21
No. of Sellouts: 15
17 : Fleetwood Mac
Total Gross: $61,899,473
Total Attendance: 554,548
Total Capacity: 579,480
No. of Shows: 45
No. of Sellouts: 13
18 : Maroon 5
Total Gross: $54,354,974
Total Attendance: 930,953
Total Capacity: 933,867
No. of Shows: 60
No. of Sellouts: 57
19 : Dave Matthews Band
Total Gross: $52,960,667
Total Attendance: 882,287
Total Capacity: 1,152,025
No. of Shows: 61
No. of Sellouts: 17
20 : André Rieu
Total Gross: $49,983,266
Total Attendance: 484,599
Total Capacity: 558,467
No. of Shows: 70
No. of Sellouts: 5
21 : Jason Aldean
Total Gross: $47,814,095
Total Attendance: 1,004,303
Total Capacity: 1,043,158
No. of Shows: 62
No. of Sellouts: 42
22 : Lady Gaga
Total Gross: $46,957,070
Total Attendance: 544,333
Total Capacity: 550,122
No. of Shows: 23
No. of Sellouts: 22
23 : Bruno Mars
Total Gross: $46,417,795
Total Attendance: 666,926
Total Capacity: 668,110
No. of Shows: 48
No. of Sellouts: 44
24 : Luke Bryan
Total Gross: $45,558,589
Total Attendance: 1,143,727
Total Capacity: 1,153,536
No. of Shows: 75
No. of Sellouts: 65
25 : Iron Maiden
Total Gross: $44,980,749
Total Attendance: 684,200
Total Capacity: 764,186
No. of Shows: 34
No. of Sellouts: 13