Sydney’s Qudos Bank Arena topped our Australia/New Zealand Top Stops chart with 633,451 total tickets sold. (Dean Hammer)

In Australia, diversity of markets helps to drive the live business

It’s not surprising that this issue of VenuesNow shows Australian stadiums performing with such buoyancy. The country’s economy is healthy, Australians are longtime enthusiastic supporters of live music, and the strength of the greenback to the Aussie dollar has seen a consistent flood of visiting artists, from superstars to emerging acts. 

Promoters say their options are wide because each capital city has its own strength. Sydney is particularly strong for urban and pop, Perth for heritage rock and British music, Brisbane the country music capital and Melbourne for rock. At the same time, comedy and esports are rapidly growing sectors.

Live performance across all genres draws more than the combined attendance of the six major varieties of football. Figures from trade association Live Performance Australia’s report Ticket Attendance and Revenue 2018, covering the 2017 calendar year, showed ticket sales up 23% to 23 million (Australia’s current population: 25 million) and revenue up 32% to 1.88 billion Australian dollars ($1.34 billion). 

The best performing venue, Sydney’s Qudos Bank Arena, had its biggest year in 2018, said Tim Worton, group director of arenas for AEG Ogden, which operates the building. “We had over 1.2 million people through the venue and a box office of over AU$100 million,” he said. The venue, with a maximum seating capacity of 21,000, opened November 1999 in time for the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Its highlights through the year included multiple shows from Bruno Mars, Céline Dion, Sam Smith and Katy Perry, but Pink’s Beautiful Trauma tour stole the show, Worton said. “She smashed the arena’s ticket sales records at 142,970 across nine spectacular shows, and her performances and production were amazing,” he said.

Pink, whose tours are among the biggest sellers of all time Down Under, almost set an attendance record at the 13,601-capacity Brisbane Entertainment Centre, another AEG Ogden facility. Her seven-show run “resulted in 90,292 tickets sold, which is phenomenal given that Brisbane’s population is a bit over 2 million,” Worton said. “Only a limited run of shows prevented her breaking her own record at the BEC.”  

The singer and working mother was vocally appreciative of how venue management laid out backstage a full-on playground with strawberry and tomato patch and then repurposed all the equipment to a shelter for underprivileged women.

AEG Ogden’s success streak continued at the 15,500-seat, AU$550 million RAC Arena in Perth, which opened in 2012 as Perth Arena. “It is a great building, we have a fabulous team in place, and it is the venue that Western Australia needed to be able to attract the cream of the international touring scene,” Worton said. “While it’s the most remote capital city on the planet, we have the majority of tours playing the arena. Western Australians have certainly embraced it.”

Highlights for Brisbane’s 52,500-capacity Suncorp Stadium, another AEG Ogden venue, included two sold-out shows for Ed Sheeran at 103,744 tickets and multiple shows for André Rieu and Jim Jefferies.

Smaller regional venues continue to face challenges posed by short itineraries and large productions, but the Newcastle Entertainment Centre, a two-hour drive from Sydney, had a strong run over a few weeks of Bob Dylan, Queens of the Stone Age and Cher, which “showed that the NEC can deliver great results,” Worton said.

In the meantime, venue operator VenuesLive continued its success at the 82,500-capacity ANZ Stadium in Sydney as well as the 60,000-seat Optus Stadium in Perth, which in its first year drew 2 million patrons to 43 major events. Eminem was its biggest recent music act, with draws of 70,691 and 50,000 for shows in February.  

On April 22, VenuesLive officially launched the 30,000-capacity rectangular Bankwest Stadium in the booming industrial corridor of Western Sydney. Its CEO, Daryl Kerry, said the AU$360 million complex — owned by Venues NSW on behalf of the New South Wales government — was designed with event experience predominantly in mind, with the steepest seating in Australia, bringing fans closer to the action for sports and concerts.

“More than 30 sport and entertainment events are already confirmed, with more to be announced,” Kerry said. “We will host hundreds of additional meetings and special events, and anticipate more than 600,000 people will walk through the gates of Bankwest Stadium in its first nine months of operation.” The Western Sydney Business Chamber estimated that visitors to the venue will inject over AU$176 million into the local economy in its first two years.

In the meantime, a number of Sydney’s stadiums are set to be part of a AU$2.2 billion redevelopment in the next few years. The ambitious stadiums plan was unveiled two years ago by the New South Wales government but met with resistance from the major opposition Labor party and sections of the community for being extravagant when schools and hospitals needed funding. It was a fiercely debated issue in the run-up to the March 23 state election. However, the Liberal Nationals Coalition remained in control, and is expected to, in coming weeks, officially green-light budgets including AU$810 million for revitalization of ANZ Stadium and the AU$730 million rebuild of 44,000-seat Allianz Stadium.