BLACKPINK, Karol G & More Are Diversifying Stadium Stages — and Boxscore Charts

Music

From K-pop to Latin and beyond, Billboard’s Boxscore charts are undergoing a facelift, spotlighted by a diverse crop of artists crowding the 2023 year-end report. While pop and rock have long dominated the touring space, the two central genres’ combined market share has dropped from 69% in 2019, to 59% in 2022, and now to 48% in 2023.

Traditionally, the common threshold for a stadium tour is that the artist in question should be generally ubiquitous: recognizable by face and name, with a handful-plus of sing-along hooks, and accessible across generations, genres and cultures. That explains the sustained success of veteran acts such as Elton John, Madonna and The Rolling Stones.

But even without discographies that date back to the 20th century, contemporary acts have infiltrated the stadium space while still operating as current hitmakers. Beyoncé, Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift have broken ground with record-breaking global tours that eschew past notions that underestimated young audiences. Those acts, though still building their own legendary discographies, pass the various tests mentioned above, with widespread recognition and iconic hits.

In the post-pandemic era, the goal posts have shifted once again. Beyond the slew of mainstream stars that fit the established mold – generally from mainland U.S., Canada or the U.K., performing in English, and catering to pop or an adjacent radio format – stadium stages, and therefore the upper reaches of the year-end Boxscore charts, have some fresh faces.

Rounding out the top 10 of the 2023 Top Tours chart, BLACKPINK grossed $148.3 million and sold 703,000 tickets from 29 reported shows in the eligibility window. Next, Karol G is No. 11 with $146.9 million and 843,000 tickets sold from just 19 dates. Side by side, they lead genre rankings for K-pop and Latin, respectively.

Next to artists such as The Weeknd, P!nk and Luke Combs, BLACKPINK and Karol G stand out as stadium stars and Boxscore chart-toppers. The nine acts that ranked higher on Top Tours have, on average, 12 top 10 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 songs chart. BLACKPINK and Karol G, on the other hand, have spent a combined total of one week in the top 10, when Karol G’s “TQG,” with Shakira, hit No. 7 earlier this year.

This puts both acts at odds with the presumed criteria for stadium acts. Neither artist has conquered the Hot 100, nor have they been nominated for a general-field Grammy award, hosted Saturday Night Live, or made hyped-up cameos or supporting turns in a major film or television series. To boot, their careers are young. Karol G released her first album in 2017 and BLACKPINK did so in 2020. Depeche Mode – the only other act in the top 10 without a No. 1 hit on the Hot 100 – has been building its fan base for more than 40 years.

Both BLACKPINK and Karol G have, however, reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart, perhaps signifying a deep, passionate fan base ready to pay top-dollar for concert tickets, even without the wider-spread recognition that often accompanies hit singles.

Notably, neither are the first of their respective genres to hit the jackpot. Bad Bunny broke ground for Latin artists last year when he ruled the 2022 year-end chart. In doing so, he broke BTS’ record for the highest year-end finish for an act that primarily performs in a non-English language, after the K-pop boy band finished 2019 at No. 3.

If there’s a constant with non-English-language acts playing stadiums, it’s that with the minor exceptions of Bad Bunny and BTS, they’ve been outliers with vast fan bases that sometimes aren’t represented in the mainstream. Initially, Karol G’s team booked six stadiums in “safe” markets. Those dates quickly blossomed to nine when Los Angeles, Miami and New York shows sold out and second dates were added. When all was said and done, she played 19 shows in 16 cities.

“She was the one who insisted on playing the stadium, not a 360 arena,” says her sister, Jessica Giraldo, who oversees Karol G’s businesses. “She was the one who wanted to do a stadium tour. She said, ‘Believe in my vision.’”

When reflecting on the growth of regional Mexican music in 2023 at Billboard’s Latin Music Week, Live Nation’s Jorge Garcia noted, “These are the same people that are buying Drake tickets. They’re also the fans buying the Fuerza Regida ticket.” Once impenetrable lines that divided artists by genre and culture are fading away, quickly.

The 2023 achievements by BLACKPINK and Karol G do a few things. For one, their collective triumph means that Bad Bunny and BTS’ banner years were not anomalies. More than that, both genres have deeper benches than ever. K-pop girl-group TWICE also played U.S. stadiums, while BTS member SUGA conquered arenas as a soloist. Both grossed more than $50 million this year.

Further, 14 artists who primarily perform in Spanish find themselves among the year-end top 100, representing a mix of legacy acts and newcomers; reggaeton, pop and regional Mexican; and artists from Colombia, Mexico, Puerto Rico and more. Latin music’s share of the top 100’s total gross dipped from 12.1% in 2022 to 11.5%, but considering the absence of Bad Bunny’s $373.5 million gross from last year, Latin’s steady hold points toward more growth over the coming years.

The Boxscore arrival of BLACKPINK and Karol G is also a win for gender representation. Women doubled their share of the top 100 tours from last year. Of just 12 woman-identifying acts in the top 100, the genres of K-pop and Latin claim four (TWICE and Ana Gabriel, in addition to BLACKPINK and Karol G).

They’re also skewing the Boxscore charts younger. The members of BLACKPNIK range from 26 to 28 years old, and Karol G is 32, all well below the top 100’s average of 46.6. The two youngest acts in the top 100 are both K-pop groups (ENHYPEN averages 20 and TOMORROW X TOGETHER averages 22). The next youngest are Latin acts (the group Fuerza Regida averages 23 and soloist Peso Pluma is 24). Members of Grupo Firme, SEVENTEEN and Bad Bunny himself are all in their 20s, among others from both genres.

In all, genre diversity helps make 2023 one of the youngest years in Boxscore history. It’s the youngest top 100 since 2014, when One Direction (average age of 21 at the time) was No. 1, and the youngest top 10 since 2001, when *NSYNC and the Backstreet Boys paired up in the top five.

Legacy acts from pop, rock and R&B continue to do stellar business at the box office, proven by the presence of Rod Stewart, Lionel Richie and Journey, among many others. But the push of younger artists from diverse genres only points to the touring industry, and specifically the slate of artists capable of selling out stadiums, being able to replenish itself with fresh faces well into the next decade.

With K-pop and Latin genres leading the charge, the reshaping of the U.S. touring circuit continues. Late last year, Belgium’s Stromae — mixing French-language pop, rap and electronic — played a brief North American tour, including two nights at New York’s Madison Square Garden. Hailing from Nigeria, Asake sold out the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Sept. 8, while Burna Boy launched a full North American arena tour in early November. If Bad Bunny and BTS blew the door open, then BLACKPINK, Karol G and a growing list of international artists are breaking down the wall.

Click here to see the full year-end 2023 Boxscore charts.

Dating back almost 40 years, all Boxscore rankings are based on figures reported to Billboard. Data is reported from a variety of official industry sources, from artist managers and agents to promoters and venue executives.

All reported shows, worldwide, between Nov. 1, 2022 – Sept. 30, 2023, are eligible for year-end 2023 consideration.