The ‘funflation’ economy is dying as a consumer attitude of ‘hard pass’ takes over and major artists cancel concert tours

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For the past few years, live music has enjoyed an explosive post-pandemic revival, as ‘revenge spending’ fans itching to get back into concert venues paid top dollar for massive stadium tours such as Taylor Swift’s “Eras” tour and Beyoncé’s “Renaissance.”

But a recent spate of tour cancellations and changes by well-known artists indicate that consumers’ appetite for  live music may be slowing. 

On Friday, Live Nation announced that Jennifer Lopez was canceling her “This Is Me . . . Live” tour to spend more time with her family, a week after the Black Keys said they were scrapping an arena tour scheduled for this fall in favor of smaller venues, even after the single from their new album topped Billboard’s Alternative Airplay chart in March. 

The announcements are the most recent signs that at least one facet of the “funflation” or economy that emerged in the wake of pandemic — where consumers eager to make up for lost experiences boosted demand for things like flights and concert tickets — isn’t as strong as it was last year. 

Jarred Arfa, head of global music at the touring agency Independent Artist Group, said he believes the current concert environment is less of a slowdown than a return to a pre-pandemic atmosphere, where “there’s a lot of winners, but not everything is winning.”

“The traffic is catching up to itself a little bit, where you still have so many artists on the road, and people have seen them already,” Arfa told Fortune. “Some of that novelty factor post-COVID is no longer there.”

One obvious factor is consumer fatigue with inflated costs. Since the world emerged from pandemic lockdowns, the price of concert tickets has soared. According to the music trade publication Pollstar, the average ticket price of a top 100 music tour between 2019 and 2023 increased at a rate that well outpaced inflation, jumping from $91.18 to $122.84. 

“The days where there was enough demand to sell out arenas at top dollar just isn’t there in this live events economy,” Dave Clark, editor of the entertainment-industry tracker Ticket News, said in an interview with NBC News

“People are seeing some of the prices they’re asking and just saying, ‘Hard pass.’” 

Arfa also said there are more artists touring now than in the past — and not just because of time off during lockdown. A big part of it is the streaming era, in which touring generates much better returns for artists than what they make from streams. But since fans’ time—and wallets—are finite, that ultimately translates to a smaller slice of the pie for some performers.

“You have people who normally might have spaced out their tours . . . who are now jumping back in,” Arfa said. “Maybe they would have taken a couple years off but they got those COVID years off.”

“The traffic is still probably a little bit higher than it normally would be,” he added.

It isn’t just tours that are settling down. The first weekend for Coachella, the highest-grossing festival in North America, didn’t sell out for almost a month. That’s far longer than in 2023 or 2022, when both weekends sold out in around 40 minutes following a two-year pandemic hiatus. On the day the 2024 festival opened, Billboard reported that approximately 80% of the 250,000 tickets had been sold. 

Ticketmaster was among the biggest beneficiaries of the “revenge spending” phenomenon. Its parent, Live Nation, reported its biggest year ever in 2023 before the DOJ sued the company in May, alleging it had violated antitrust laws. Following last year’s Taylor Swift and Beyoncé megatours, the ticketing giant reported a $10 billion increase in total revenue, while concert attendance was up 20%. 

But there are early signs that growth might slow down in 2024. Last week, Axios reported that resale prices for summer concert tickets are down about 17% (or an average of $45 per ticket) from last year, citing  data from SeatGeek. In May, the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics reported that April prices for movie and concert tickets climbed 3.4% from last year, the lowest increase since 2021.

What’s more, in addition to the DOJ lawsuit, concert cancellations, and popular discontent, Ticketmaster is also dealing with a data breach affecting millions of customers.

For the biggest artists on tour this summer — Olivia Rodrigo, Morgan Wallen, and Zach Bryan — there’s still plenty of demand. The average resale price on SeatGeek for Rodgrigo’s “Guts” tour is $571, according to Axios. But even that is a far cry from the astronomical resale prices posted for the “Eras” tour last summer, which reached into the thousands. 

“On the megatour level, I think there may be a few less of them this year,” Arfa said. “Some artists just automatically go out every couple of years and think they’re bulletproof. And that’s not the case. Not everyone can be Taylor and Beyoncé.”

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