Concerts are bigger and more expensive than ever

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U2 had its 400-ton, 360-degree “Claw” stage that cost $30 million. Lady Gaga’s 2013 concert circuit involved a looming five-story Gothic castle. Taylor Swift’s ongoing Reputation stadium tour needs 52 semis and 30 flatbed trucks just to haul all the gear.

It isn’t fans’ imagination that music tours, particularly ones put on by the biggest artists, are getting more lavish by the year. For evidence in hard numbers, look no further than the mid-year report Pollstar released this week:

The concert company found that the live market’s 2018 mid-year gross is a record-setting $2.21 billion, up $240 million (12 percent) from the previous year, and that average ticket prices are at a record high of $96.31.

Fans are hungry for live shows, and they’re willing to splurge on them. “The precipitous rise speaks to the industry’s aggressive pricing strategy to better meet demand and exclude the secondary market,” Pollstar noted, as well.

But the soaring costs are also due to the fact that A-list concerts – which have been exploding in popularity as fans in the streaming era seek more interactive connections with their favorite musicians – are now regularly expected to be full-blown, Instagram-ready spectacles.

For a closer look at the future of major music tours, Rolling Stone spoke to Ray Winker, CEO and design director of Stufish Entertainment Architects, the firm that crafted the visual dreamscape for Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s current On the Run II tour. (The studio has also designed stages and sets for the likes of U2, Madonna, Pink Floyd, the London and Beijing Olympics and Cirque du Soleil.)

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