Ticketmaster parent Live Nation Entertainment (NYSE:LYV) reported first-quarter results early Thursday morning. The ticket distribution and live events arrangement specialist posted 17% sales growth in a seasonally challenging quarter, raising prices and growing audiences at the same time. Here's a closer look at Live Nation's results.

Live Nation's first-quarter results: The raw numbers

Metric

Q1 2019

Q1 2018

Year-Over-Year Change

Revenue

$1.73 billion

$1.48 billion

17%

Net income (loss) attributable to common shareholders

($52.4 million)

($33.9 million)

(55%)

GAAP earnings (loss) per share

($0.31)

($0.24)

(29%)

Data source: Live Nation.

What happened with Live Nation this quarter?

  • Ticketmaster's global gross transaction value, or GTV, fell 10% year over year to $7.6 billion. Live Nation pinned this decline on promotional activity pulling some of this quarter's expected sales into the previous period instead, as fans stocked up on tickets ahead of time. At the same time, those trends reversed by the middle of March, and Ticketmaster had sold 4 million more tickets by mid-April than in the comparable span a year earlier.
  • Live Nation reported $115 million in adjusted operating income (AOI), including $100 million from ticketing operations and $5.4 million from concert events. This was the first time in company history that the concerts segment posted positive AOI profits in the seasonally challenging first quarter.
  • The number of concerts managed during the quarter rose 12% year over year to 8,068, with 15% growth in North America and a 6% increase internationally. The average event hosted 1,843 fans, an 8% increase over the 1,706 fans per event in the first quarter of 2018.
Cropped shot of two young female friends dancing at a music festival.

Image source: Getty Images.

What management had to say

On the earnings call, CEO Michael Rapino explained how his company is able to raise ticket prices without damaging its audience growth.

"We have continued shifting to market-based pricing, growing the use of platinum tickets. Looking at our front-of-house tickets, amphitheater pricing is up double digits this year, and both amphitheaters and arenas have seen an increase in pricing of over 30% across the past two years," Rapino said. "Even with this improved pricing, we're not seeing any pullback in demand for concerts as sell-through rates continue to be strong globally, across arenas, amphitheaters and stadiums, and from the best seats in the front to the lawn seats at our amphitheaters."

Looking ahead

Live Nation is not known for issuing detailed financial guidance, but management did underscore their earlier projections for the full fiscal year.

The concerts division is now expected to deliver "double-digit growth" in adjusted operating income this year. It's hard to say whether that's an acceleration or a dampening of the old projection, which called for "strong growth" in that metric. More specifically, the company now expects accelerated growth in the second and third quarters of this year as Live Nation's recent investments in improved concert-arranging infrastructure start to pay off. This impact was always planned to coincide with the strongest seasonal growth periods on Live Nation's annual calendar.

For the ticketing segment, AOI should rise by mid-single-digit percentages in 2019. Live Nation had not provided a target for this division alongside the fourth-quarter update.

Sponsorship and advertising AOI was aimed at "double-digit" percentage growth three months ago, and that language didn't change at all.