2023 Colorado music concert preview: From Red Rocks to local fests

What does 2023 hold for Denver’s concert scene? That’s the question we posed to promoters, industry experts, and nonprofit organizers as a litany of new shows are being announced for the 2023 summer concert season.

The answers we received were both heartening and disappointing but ultimately helpful in preparing for this year’s packed music calendar. Here’s what we found.


Taylor Swift and Bruce Springsteen fans complained loudly, and justifiably, of the online chaos during pre-sales for Swift and Springsteen’s 2023 tours in November. Fan-club codes, early access through credit cards, and other legs-up fell resoundingly flat on Ticketmaster as millions flooded the system and got shut out in the process. (Read 10 Must-See Denver Concerts for more on Swift and Springsteen’s shows.)

On top of that, Ticketmaster prices have more than tripled since the mid-’90s, according to an investigation from “Last Week Tonight,” and the company often withholds about 90% of tickets for the secondary market, which then upsells them up to 7,000%.

That’s why promoters tend to distance themselves from such concerns, despite the business entanglement of companies like AEG Presents and AXS — the latter being AEG’s ticketing spin-off — or Live Nation and its wholly owned Ticketmaster. In November, the Justice Department opened an antitrust investigation into Live Nation and whether it’s abused its power over the multibillion-dollar live music industry, The New York Times reported. But don’t expect big shifts on this front.

“Nothing is going to change that dramatically in the short term,” said Don Strasburg, co-president and senior talent buyer for AEG Presents Rocky Mountains. “Every day we’re trying to figure out how we can put tickets at the price the artist wanted into the hands of people who want to buy them.”

Rising demand for concerts at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Ball Arena, Fiddler’s Green and other large venues will keep prices for big shows stubbornly high, experts said, and likely drive them higher than in 2022. So will the cost of doing business at these venues, and the need for artists and promoters to recoup what they say are massive, pandemic-era losses.

“Denver still has a pretty competitive average ticket price,” said Storm Gloor, an associate professor of music at University of Colorado Denver. “It only went up last year 7% vs. other markets,” or to about $70 per ticket.

If that seems steep, consider that some small club shows are $10 per ticket, while huge shows from the likes of Elton John, who played Ball Arena last year, regularly break $1,000 for top-tier seats. Red Rocks tickets for 2019 cost an average of $50.64 per ticket, and each ticket generated an average of $13.60 in fees, according to KDVR. Fees can add up to 25% or 30% for a show at Red Rocks, which means saving up for more than just the face value.

“People are going to spend money on what they want to see no matter what, so prices aren’t going to go down,” said independent Denver promoter Ru Johnson. “But there’s a great opportunity here for promoters to offer cost-accessible tickets.”

Johnson’s talking about free tickets, which Levitt Pavilion has been offering for years under its nonprofit model. Johnson sits on the board of Levitt, but she also works with Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom, where fans can trade time and effort promoting jam-band and hip hop shows for concert tickets. For Cervantes’ 20th anniversary celebration this weekend, the club encourages people to text CERVANTES to 888-445-1343 “for special offers, discount codes and free tickets.”

Bots, third-party sellers and other unscrupulous players will also continue to ruin the fun for the rest of us. Buy early, and if you can’t, set your expectations low.


Denver’s rabid music consumers and strategic tour routing — or hosting of national tours that must pass through I-70 and I-25 corridors in order to make money in this region — will only continue, experts said. But given that the city ranks among the top global markets for per-capita ticket sales, according to industry experts, promoters everywhere are increasingly paying attention.

“We’ve got some of the most iconic venues on the planet,” said Scott Kanov, Denver-based vice president of marketing for Live Nation Entertainment. “But we’ve also got the infrastructure that’s perfectly (attractive) to artists and their fans, and we hope to put on 1,000 shows in the region this year.”

The infrastructure includes not only venues but recording studios, management companies and promoters like Live Nation, which books the majority of shows at Ball Arena and owns the Fillmore Auditorium.

“It’s a good and a bad thing thing for a local musicians, because people here are serious about live music and we have extremely high expectations,” said Strasburg, whose AEG Presents books most of the 150-plus shows at Red Rocks each year. “If you can get to that level where you carry the weight of (Boulder-based songwriter) Gregory Alan Isakov, who sold out Red Rocks and Dillon Amphitheater in one day, or (Denver’s) Lumineers or Nathaniel Rateliff, that’s setting a high bar.”

“We’re going to see more shows at newer venues,” said promoter Johnson, who noted Levitt Pavilion, Meow Wolf and Mission Ballroom as recent, purpose-built spots ramping up their summer calendars. “If we’re going to risk leaving the house, for whatever reason, you need to make it count. I want to see that disco ball when I walk into Mission. Every time!”


After the success of August’s Vortex Festival at The Junkyard — a new outdoor venue in Sun Valley, owned by Live Nation — expect to see more “immersive” experiences that throw multimedia art and unusual merch, food and drinks at music fans.

“Denver has a festival that’s here to stay,” Live Nation’s Kanov said of Vortex. “We’re committed to that just as we’re committed to festivals like Color Field at Levitt Pavilion.”

The three-day Color Field brought headliners Shpongle, Tycho and Opiuo, among others, to Levitt for a free, three-day, all-ages event last June. This year, AEG Presents also will host more concerts and festivals at Civic Center park in downtown Denver, which last year featured free and ticketed shows from Khruangbin, Tennis and Busta Rhymes.

AEG has multiple shows planned for the historic park that will be announced in the coming month, said AEG Presents talent buyer Scott Campbell. He hinted at an Earth Day event, an alt-country concert, and confirmed the return of the City Gates festival, which last year featured Hippo Campus, Goth Babe and Still Woozy.

“Civic Center park is a great marriage of green-field outdoor space and pretty much the most iconic location Denver could offer,” Strasburg said. “We’re really proud to be a part of helping the Civic Center Conservancy bring focus and investment to that wonderful space.”

Independent festivals are also evolving to offer more artist support in the form of mental health and addiction treatment, which in turn translates to better performances, they say. The nonprofit Youth on Record last year joined Denver’s UMS to help marginalized musicians, and apps and online support groups such as Denver-based Phoenix Music are connecting sober artists and music fans.

“Festivals like the Underground Music Showcase are exciting right now because they’re getting better for crowds, but also for the development of artists,” Gloor said.


The number of concerts at massive outdoor venues such as Coors Field and Empower Field at Mile High is set to rise slightly, promoters said. That includes a Mile High stadium concert from Denver’s own Illenium — one of the biggest headlining shows ever for a Colorado-based act — on June 17.

“It’s amazing and wonderful to see how these younger artists are maturing into these venues,” said Strasburg, noting a raucous Odesza show at the 18,000-capacity Fiddler’s Green last year. “It’s not just for heritage rock acts or big country acts.”

Few bands are big enough to justify a date at CU Boulder’s Folsom Field, as Dead & Co. will on its farewell tour July 1-3. But Taylor Swift (July 14-15) and Ed Sheeran (Aug. 19) are expected to pack Empower Field, while Coors Field will likely host another 3 or 4 concerts on par with its acclaimed Lumineers booking last year.

“Fandoms are dictating what these shows are looking like, because the demographics are drastically different than they used to be,” Johnson said. “I mean, where else would you put Illenium right now?”

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