By Christine Paluf
The reports for the first half of 2006 are out, with a solid showing from veteran rockers such as The Rolling Stones still leading the list. Pollstar reports that though the Stones only played 42 shows in 2005, their average ticket price was much higher than their competitors such as U2, who played 78 concerts.
Pollstar’s results from the first half of 2006 show The Stones right behind Madonna in total gross, but they still sold many more tickets. Madonna was just able to get higher prices per ticket this year, as the tour just debuted in 2006.
Green Day made a solid showing in 2005, rolling in at No. 12 and grossing $34.8 million. But they played 68 dates, averaging $38 a ticket. In comparison, the Stones averaged $133.98 per ticket, Pollstar reports. This shows the difference in the money an artist that’s been around for a while can command.
A couple of factors contributed to the Stones’ success. First of all, their audience is full of baby-boomers, who at this point in their life have the money to drop on a band that they could have seen for $10 when they first started out. Sometimes, experience brings the higher ticket prices.
Newer bands rely on college students or even teenagers to fill the audience, who usually can’t pony up more than about $50 a ticket. That lesson was in full effect in 2004 when pop stars Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera both ended up canceling tours due to fans balking over their high-priced tickets. The older/wealthier your fan base, the better your chance of success. Look at Barry Manilow, he led the pack in average price per ticket at $154.
A second success factor for the Stones is that they are able to fill major stadiums with the fans they’ve picked up over all the years of playing. They played in huge stadiums, whereas U2 chose smaller arenas this time around, marking the main difference between the Stones taking the top slot last year and U2 slipping to second.
Springsteen is adept at this sort of thing. His ranking at No. 15 for last year may be in part to his diverse audience. He’s been able to branch out into different styles over the years, bringing new fans into the fold. Those that may not have been too crazy about his earlier work could find something that appealed to them as his style broadened.
Another aspect of Springsteen’s style that adds to his success is his strategic five to six year wait between albums. Building hype and making audiences wait can work to your favor.
But the Stones haven’t done either of those things. Their first studio release since 1998, “A Bigger Bang” in 2005 had fueled this tour. But they may have been able to roll simply from their original music, like Jimmy Buffett is still doing. He hasn’t changed his style either over the years, but it’s still working.
A top selling tour, Buffett was No. 10 in 2005, getting $76 a ticket. The artist has been around the concert circuit every year it seems, and still brings in the fans. He’s selling the experience, a Buffett concert has its cult-following. Buffett has bred his own sea-side sub-culture.
There are other bands that rely on touring for their main source of support, the Grateful Dead may have started the trend that many jam bands these days have been able to capitalize on. With a low (or zero) number of top 10 hits and not-so-hot record sales, bands such as Bela Fleck, Phish, String Cheese Incident and Dave Matthews Band have been able to stay afloat by staying on the tour bus. Especially in today’s climate of music sharing and falling CD sales due to CD burners and free downloads.
Dave Matthews is a pro at this tactic, in 2005 he was able to grab the No. 8 spot, even though his average ticket price was $47. Quantity can be an easy answer for income.
Touring itself can bring income, but for Celine Dion, in 2005, staying in one Las Vegas spot won her the No. 3 spot, commanding more per ticket than the Stones at $136 a pop.
But the Stones, along with the other aging bands that top these lists, have another thing going for them: Their age. The chance that this may be their final tour comes up every time they hit the stage. Hinting at it, but never actually saying so, is a back-pocket trick that only works for legendary artists. Especially with Keith Richards recent brain surgery due to a random accident, the “what if” may be working to propel this band to the heights.