The concert touring industry had a record year in 1994, with a $1.4 billion gross that topped the previous high, 1990's $1.1 billion. According to Pollstar, a trade publication for the concert industry, the Top 50 tours of 1994 made more money -- $1.02 billion -- than last year's total tally of all tours, which was $900 million.
Six of the 10 all-time highest-grossing tours took place last year; two of those bettered the previous all-time record of $98 million, set by the Rolling Stones in 1989. Each of those six bested 1993's highest-grossing tour. Of course, that may have had something to do with the high ticket prices some acts got in 1994.
The venerable Rolling Stones broke their own mark with the 60-show "Voodoo Lounge" tour, which grossed $121.2 million. Also breaking the old record: Pink Floyd, grossing $103.5 million from 59 shows. The Eagles, who hadn't toured since the late '70s, came in third with a gross of $79.4 million. Had the Eagles' "Hell Freezes Over" tour not been interrupted by Glenn Frey's intestinal illness, that band's gross would have broken the $100 million mark as well. The Eagles are expected to go back on the road later this year.
Barbra Streisand, who had not toured since the late '60s, managed to snag the No. 4 spot with a gross of $58.9 million. Remarkably, Streisand achieved that by playing only 22 shows in six cities. She performed in arenas, but with a $350 top ticket, her per-show gross of $10 million per city was nearly triple that of the other top acts. Streisand's seven-night stand at Madison Square Garden produced the biggest gross in concert industry history with its $16.5 million take.
In 1993, the Grateful Dead were Pollstar's top-grossing act with $45.6 million; last year the perennial road warriors had their best-ever gross of $52.4 million, which was only enough to place them in the No. 5 spot.
A tour headlined by Elton John and Billy Joel grossed $47.7 million from 22 stadium shows, placing them at No. 6; aside from his marriage, Joel had a pretty good year, earning another $23.2 million as a solo act. John and Joel earned nearly $15 million for their five-night stand at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., which would have been the biggest gross in history -- if not for Streisand's Garden run.
There was a drop of $20 million to the No. 7 act, Aerosmith, which grossed $26.9 million. Rounding out the Top 10: the fourth Lollapalooza tour ($26.7 million); Phil Collins ($26 million); and Reba McEntire ($24.3 million). McEntire was the lone country act in the Top 10, but other country acts in the Top 50 included Brooks & Dunn ($17.3 million), Alan Jackson ($17.1 million), George Strait ($13.7 million), Vince Gill ($12.1 million), Travis Tritt ($7.5 million), Wynonna Judd ($6.3 million) and Garth Brooks ($5.8 million). Of course, Brooks did that with only 10 shows; his average gross of $585,600 suggests that he could do a lot better if he worked more and charged higher ticket prices.
Only three black acts made the Top 50: Janet Jackson (No. 16, $18.1 million); Whitney Houston (No. 30, $10.5 million); and the double bill of Salt-N-Pepa and R. Kelly (No. 45, $5.9 million).
The most veteran act to make the Top 50 was touring when most of today's biggest names were still in diapers: Frank Sinatra earned $10.2 million, placing him at No. 32, right between Phish's $10.3 million and Nine Inch Nails' $9.9 million. The Top 50 list included only a few other "breakthrough" artists, notably Melissa Etheridge (No. 27, $11.8 million), Stone Temple Pilots (No. 42, $6.2 million) and Spin Doctors (No. 43, $6.1 million). The concert industry should probably be worried that so few new acts are showing the earning power of the veterans.
"We are fueled by Jurassic rockers, and sooner or later, those acts will be physically unable to climb the stairs up to the stage," notes Pollstar editor Gary Bongiovanni in a year-end overview. "New blood has to be nurtured and more Off spring need to be developed."
One major change last year involved ticket pricing. Of the Top 200 concerts, only 35 (mostly Grateful Dead and Garth Brooks shows) used the single-price system (the same price for all seats) that has long been the norm. The Stones had a three-tier system, but the emerging trend is the "Golden Circle": The Eagles got $100 a ticket from those who wanted to sit as close to the stage as possible; Elton John and Billy Joel got $85; and Pink Floyd, $75. For acts appealing to a younger, presumably poorer demographic, it was a different story. Green Day kept its prices at $10 -- which may be why the group didn't make the Top 50.
Some local concert grosses were astounding: Streisand earned $4,688,200 for her two nights at USAir Arena. Two-nighters at RFK Stadium provided major paydays for the Rolling Stones ($3,990.985), the Grateful Dead ($3,638,588) and Pink Floyd ($3,313,377). One-night stands at RFK were lucrative for Elton John and Billy Joel ($2,250,520) and the Eagles ($2,045,890). And the Lollapalooza date in Charles Town, W.Va., earned $1,240,000.
What About 1995?
With most of those Jurassic rockers having cleaned up last year, it's unlikely 1995 will match its predecessor, though Jimmy Page and Robert Plant have slated next Wednesday -- the day before Led Zeppelin is inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame -- to announce dates for a de facto Zeppelin reunion tour following its recent "Unleded" album.
Pearl Jam, still battling Ticketmaster, is hoping to play some shows beyond the Jan. 14-15 Voters for Choice benefits at Constitution Hall; promoters all over the country are looking for alternative sites -- preferably outdoors -- in an effort to sidestep Ticketmaster's hold on the large venues in many major cities. R.E.M.'s first tour in five years comes stateside for spring and summer dates at arenas and outdoor theaters (look for announcements this month).
Rock fans can expect tours by Tom Petty, Van Halen, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Ministry, Bon Jovi and Metallica (now that its legal battle with Elektra Records has been settled out of court). And there will be a fifth Lollapalooza, rumored to be headlined by Neil Young, the Cranberries and Stone Roses.
Boyz II Men's joint outing with Babyface, at USAir Arena on Jan. 12, will not be the end of the road: The Boyz will continue a world tour on their own. Stevie Wonder has already started a tour to support his upcoming "Conversation Peace" album (he's at Constitution Hall tomorrow night), and Anita Baker returns to the stage after a long maternity break. As for (we'll call him) Prince, he's also reported to be gearing up for a tour, as is Madonna.
While a Streisand sequel doesn't seem to be in the works, there's already talk of John/Joel II, hitting cities they missed in 1994 (when they played on the East Coast only). There are also rumors that Michael Jackson may tour to coincide with his upcoming "Greatest Hits" package, though there is surely some concern over how much his appeal has been damaged by child molestation charges.
CAPTION:Mick Jagger, above, and the Rolling Stones grossed $121.2 million, while Barbra Streisand garnered $58.9 million on her first tour since the late '60s.