Austin’s Moody Center Punches Above Its Weight in Opening Year 

This story is part of Billboard‘s The Year in Touring package — read more stories about the top acts, tours and venues of 2022 here.

Since opening in April, the Moody Center in Austin, has reshaped touring in central Texas, welcoming a bevy of star talent, including John Mayer, George Straight, Roger Waters, The Killers, and Boxscore record-breaker Harry Styles, to name a few. Over 36 shows, the building now tops Billboard’s year end Top Venues (10,0001-15,000 capacity) chart, grossing more than $62.7 million in the process according to figures reported to Billboard Boxscore. Averaging $1.7 million per show, the Oak View Group-owned arena took in more than $5 million more than its closest competitor, OVO Hydro in Glasgow, Scotland, which reported more than 110 concerts.  

Moody Center general manager Jeff Nickler says the arena’s success is, first and foremost, due to the city of Austin. Dubbed the live music capitol of the world, Austin was without a proper arena prior to Moody Center and Nickler says the growing population had tons of pent-up demand for big name acts. 

“A lot of major tours and artists were skipping the market due to the lack of a premiere venue. So, Oak View Group, Live Nation, [Live Nation-owned] C3 Presents, and [actor] Matthew McConaughey came into the market and we privately financed this building,” says Nickler. “We believed in the music in this market and that investment has paid off in a huge way.” 

Moody Center does not have a professional sports team tenant (though the Texas Longhorns basketball programs play there after the arena took over the space from their former home, the 45-year-old Frank Erwin Center on University of Texas’ campus) and has been able to fill its calendar with major artists, many of whom regularly fill larger venues. According to Nickler, the arena’s draw is an amalgam of factors. First, venue partner Live Nation (who has had a record-setting year in revenue and could see its biggest year yet in 2023) has incentive to route their big tours through the new building like Post Malone, Florence + The Machine and Kendrick Lamar. But Moody Center remains an open building, meaning it books tours with any and all promoters including Live Nation competitor AEG.  

“Then there is the Irving Azoff effect,” adds Nickler. Azoff is a co-owner of OVG and The Azoff Company manages acts including Styles, Eagles, and Lizzo – all of whom played the arena in 2022.  

Styles conducted a six-night run at Moody Center in September and October selling 86,000 tickets and grossing $19.2 million. The multi-night stint was one of many from big artists who could easily fill larger capacity venues in competing markets including Dallas and Houston.  

“We see this trend of continuing for artists to do multiple nights in the market,” says Nickler. George Strait and Willie Nelson, the Eagles, Styles and Mayer all did multiple night stints at the arena this year. There is an incentive for artists and promoters to play consecutive nights since it cuts down on bills from labor, marketing and more can cut a budget in half.  

Another major advantage to playing Moody Center comes from its floor space. Unlike most arenas designed for sports, Moody Center can hold up to 3,000 fans on its floor compared to an industry average of 2,200, according to Nickler. An artist can significantly boost their grosses with the roughly 800 extra premium seats.  

“Even though we have less seats, we can out punch our weight class because of the design of the building, the viability of the market and the ability to charge higher ticket prices,” says Nickler. “That’s a huge factor in why you see that giant number for those tour grosses.”  

Taylor Mims