BootLeg Betty

BetteBack January 8, 1995: Older Bands, High Ticket Prices Mark Record Year for Concerts

Chicago Sun-Times
January 8, 1995 | ADAM SANDLER

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HOLLYWOOD Jurassic rockers and gold cards mixed to created a record year for the concert touring industry in 1994, as tour grosses exceeded $1.4 billion and a pair of tours eclipsed the vaunted $100 million mark.
The 1994 numbers topped both last year’s tally of $900 million and the industry’s record breaking $1.1 billion gross set by the 1990 season.

In fact, the top 50 tours of 1994 made more money – $1.02 billion – than all the acts on the road in 1993, when the grosses totaled just $634 million. The previous top-50 record was 1990’s $748 million.

In addition, most of the industry’s top 10 tours of all time were launched in 1994, proving that there was apparently little consumer resistance to higher priced ducats.

According to year-end results compiled by Pollstar Magazine, a trade publication that tracks the tour industry, the Top 10 grossing tours were dominated by high-profile superstars, with the Top 50 list sporting only a handful of breakthrough artists.

The Rolling Stones’ Voodoo Lounge Tour grossed an impressive $121.2 million and bested the group’s 1989 record of $98 million set during the Steel Wheels outing. Industry observers expect that the band’s record gross will stand unmatched for some time.

Hell did more than freeze over for the Eagles, as it was also a repository for the band’s record gross of $79.4 million, which was enough to earn it the No. 3 spot on the Top 10 list. Pollstar estimates that had the Eagles tour not been interrupted by Glenn Frey’s intestinal illness, the band’s gross would have broken the $100 million mark.

Not to be outdone by its contemporaries, Aerosmith grossed $26.9 million and landed the No. 7 spot.

But with only six cities hosting Barbra Streisand’s much-anticipated return to live performances, the songstress racked up a stellar $58.9 million gross, earning her the No. 4 spot of the year’s Top 10 tours.

But her per-show gross was nearly triple that of the other top acts, as the singer averaged nearly $10 million per city. Although the beefed up per-night gross was in part because of her higher than average ticket prices, the numbers are impressive nonetheless.

Streisand set other records as well, as her seven-night stand at Madison Square Garden produced the biggest gross in concert industry history with its $16.5 million take.

The Grateful Dead, a perennial on the tour circuit and a band that usually scores near the top of the list of the year’s best tours, fell victim to the superstar heavy list.

Although it closed the year with its best ever gross of $52.4 million, the gross only qualified it for the No. 5 spot. Its previous best gross was last year’s $45.6 million.

The co-headlining stadium tour by Elton John and Billy Joel, which hit venues in the East only, posted substantial numbers. The duo’s tour earned almost $15 million for its five-night stand at Giants Stadium, which would have been the record holder if not for Streisand’s Madison Square Garden run. The pair instead can lay claim to having the second biggest total in concert industry history.

Reba McEntire was the lone country act in the Top 10, landing a $24.3 million gross, which qualified her for the No. 10 spot, just above Bette Midler (11) and Billy Joel as a solo act (12).

Not to be entirely overshadowed by the big-gun tours, several upstart artists pulled in impressive numbers, and the musical smorgasbord dubbed “Lollapalooza,” with its $26.7 million gross and No. 8 ranking, proved to be a tour season franchise in its fourth year.

Alternative rockers Phish, with 99 shows under its belt, grossed a respectable $10.3 million, earning it the No. 31 spot on the Top 50 list; Nine Inch Nails stormed across the nation and in the process scored a $9.9 million gross on just 83 shows, landing the No. 33 spot on the list.

The R&B genre was represented by just one tour: the double bill of Salt-N-Pepa and R. Kelly, which grossed $5.9 million and earned the No. 45 spot.

Melissa Etheridge grossed an impressive $11.8 million as she stepped up to larger venues this year, helped by a higher profile due to an appearance at Woodstock II, a pair of radio staple singles and various TV appearances.

Touring stalwarts such as Crosby, Stills and Nash landed the No. 40 spot on the list with a $6.7 million gross despite having to cut short their tour when David Crosby underwent a liver transplant. The Moody Blues checked in with $13.4 million, enough to be ranked No. 24.

Frank Sinatra crooned his way to a $10.2 million gross on just 48 shows, but the tally could have been higher had the chairman of the board not cancelled several dates.

But the grosses of most acts were goosed from ticket prices that increased with proximity to the stage.

Of the Top 200 grossing tours, only 35 used a single price system, with the lion’s share belonging to the Grateful Dead and Garth Brooks shows.

The Rolling Stones’ three-tier system of ducats priced from $25 to $50 helped the band’s grosses, while the Eagles proved the Golden Circle concept was alive and well at venues throught the country. Pink Floyd demonstrated that their fans were willing to pay $75 for a ticket, while the Billy Joel/Elton John outing easily scored the top price at $85.

Expectations for 1995 are enthusiastic, although industry observers doubt the numbers of 1994 will be duplicated or surpassed. Tours from Pearl Jam and R.E.M are anticipated to post good numbers, as are roadshows from Van Halen and the continuation of the Eagles gigs.

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