The “Blinding Lights” singer postponed his After Hours tour from Winter 2022 to Summer 2022 to upgrade his shows from arenas to stadiums. Sidenote – this is one of my favorite music business topics. Venue selection is the perfect mix of economics, artistic preference, and risk tolerance.
The worthwhile shift. According to Billboard, The Weeknd has refunded $100 million worth of tickets. The bet is that most of those fans and more will buy up for the stadium tour, which could bring in $300 million of gross revenue.
The jump from arenas to stadiums is big. Stadiums are often 2-3x the size and cost to rent. Artists need to be sure they can sell enough seats to justify it. Here’s what I wrote in 2018 on Beyonce, who upgraded from arenas to stadiums for her 2016 Formation Tour and grossed $256 million in revenue from 49 shows in 5 months (compared to $230 million from 132 shows in 12 months for Mrs. Carter World Tour). She saved a lot of time in the process:
Had Beyoncé subjected herself to the same arenas for her past three tours, she would have needed to perform an additional 207 shows since 2014 to match the $565 million her concerts have grossed in revenue. It would have been impossible to do all those shows while pregnant with the twins, make Lemonade, and do all the other stuff Beyoncé does.
The slight caveat for The Weeknd though is the money he may have lost on deposits for the arenas he booked. But the overall number is still a net positive.
The loss of intimacy. Stadium concerts are economical for artists but can be less convenient for fans. They are often in NFL stadiums that are outside city limits. Personally, I’ve been to several shows in San Francisco and Oakland concerts on short notice. But it takes a LOT more effort to get down to Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. I’ve definitely sent my fair share of “Can’t make it but y’all enjoy!” texts when needed.
Stadiums also lack intimacy. Drake once said that was one of the reasons he doesn’t perform in stadiums. But that said, Drake did 8 arena shows in Madison Square Garden and Barclays Center combined! For someone like Drake, who has had multiple leg injuries at this point, stadiums would help him achieve less with more.
The right balance. It will be a great test for Abel, but also for hip-hop stars. There’s still skepticism that hip-hop fans will stream your music but they won’t show up for your concerts. If Abel’s stadium tour sells out across the board, it can continue to pave the way for other artists like him who have the numbers and proof points to maximize their live performance revenue.
Read more about this in Why Choosing the Right Concert Venue Matters.