A year ago, many were predicting a downturn -- if not disaster -- for the music touring industry in 2009 based on a gloomy economic forecast, particularly in North America.
A look at the top tours of the year shows that there were plenty of acts people wanted to see. A dozen of the top 25 tours topped 1 million in attendance, and Madonna and U2 reported 2.1 million and 3 million tickets sold, respectively. The numbers are based on data reported to Billboard Boxscore fro the print magazine issues dated December 6, 2008, through November 21, 2009.
In terms of grosses, five tours exceeded $100 million at the box office, and 18 were at $50 million-plus. Leading everyone is U2 with its groundbreaking 360 tour, which reported a staggering $311.6 million in grosses and 3 million in attendance from 44 sellouts. And that's just the first leg. U2's strategy of boosting capacities by staging a first-ever mobile 360-degree configuration clearly paid off. The band averaged more than $7 million in revenue and attendance of nearly 70,000 per show, surely the highest averages ever reported to Billboard Boxscore.
Not only is the Irish band's production fiscally sound, but it's also a crowd-pleaser. Word-of-mouth is driving ticket sales well into 2010.
With around 50 stadium shows scheduled for next year, compared with 44 in 2009, U2 is on a pace to top $600 million total, which will make it the highest-grossing tour ever, surpassing the Rolling Stones' Bigger Bang tour of 2005-07.
MADONNA HAS MUSCLE
The second leg of Madonna's Sticky & Sweet tour finished second for the year, coming in at $222 million, on her way to the top-grossing solo tour ever. Madonna's numbers are also among the highest per-show averages ever, taking in an average $4.8 million in sales and 47,565 in attendance per show.
Bruce Springsteen continued his marathon with his E Street Band in 2009, morphing the Magic tour into the Working on a Dream tour without missing a beat. Springsteen's take for the year was $156.3 million from 72 shows and attendance of 1.7 million. The total take for the two tours, since October 2007, is $388 million and 4.1 million in attendance from 171 shows. Among them: the final shows of Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., and the Spectrum in Philadelphia.
AC/DC's return to the road after an eight-year absence continued in 2009, with the Aussie rock act grossing $135.3 million with attendance of 1.6 million in an international run that included stadiums and arenas.
If there's a surprise among the upper echelon of tours in 2009, it would have to be pop singer-songwriter Pink, who put up superstar numbers on an international scale. Pink's $102.9 million gross and 1.5 million in attendance is enough to rank her fifth among all tours and puts the artist on the map as one of the top earners in the world.
Dutch violinist/composer Andre Rieu staged the sixth top-selling tour of year, playing 112 shows to 834,992 fans for a gross of $95.8 million.
Coldplay's second year of touring in support of the band's Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends album was strong, grossing more than $84 million with worldwide attendance of 1.2 million.
Jonas Brothers proved that their career is still on the upswing, reporting $73.3 million and more than 1 million in attendance from 62 shows. This is the band's second straight appearance in the top 25.
Country superstar Kenny Chesney managed his seventh consecutive year with more than 1 million in attendance, as his Sun City Carnival tour drew 1,034,021 and grossed $71 million.
Seventies hitmaker Fleetwood Mac returned to the road in 2009 and quietly put up big numbers, grossing $62.6 million and selling 640,201 tickets to 59 shows.
And it was another year, another top-ranked tour from Dave Matthews Band, which in 2009 had the added juice of touring on a new record, Big Whiskey & the GrooGrux King. DMB grossed $52 million and drew almost 1 million in attendance.
The best news in the year-end chart is that there's a real infusion of new headliners into touring's elite. A shift in the trend toward veterans is evident, with two of the top 25 tours by acts that broke in the '60s, four from the '70s, five in the '80s and four from the '90s. Britney Spears, Coldplay and Brad Paisley (No. 24 on the recap) all released debut albums in 1999, but they're really development stories of this decade, along with fellow Top 25 Tour acts Jonas Brothers, Il Divo, Lil Wayne (the only hip-hop artist in the top 25 tours for 2009), Rascal Flatts, Pink and Nickelback. For a music business that many feel has struggled in the artist development arena, this is encouraging news.