Veteran pop star Elton John had the highest grossing U.S. tour of 1998, according to
tour-industry trade magazine, Pollstar. The Dave Matthews Band, which played more shows than
John but charged less for tickets, came in second on the trade magazine's list of the
year's 20 top moneymaking tours.
This is the first time in John's three-decade career that he's topped the Pollstar
list, according to editor Gary Bongiovanni. The piano man grossed $46.2 million in 63
"I was surprised until I looked at the data," Bongiovanni said. "When you think of the big
tours, you think Celine Dion, the Rolling Stones and Janet Jackson. But Elton worked
enough dates at a high ticket price to end up grossing the most."
Jam rockers the Dave Matthews Band grabbed the #2 slot with more shows and lower
ticket prices; in all, they grossed $40.1 million in 85 shows. Bongiovanni said a string of
stadium dates helped catapult the hard-touring band to #2. "That's a bright spot," he said,
"because we have a new act that has continued to build momentum and proven to be a
top-drawer headliner. That bodes well for the future."
Other rockers who made the touring top 10 were guitar legend Eric Clapton, who
grossed $33.6 million to hit #6, and veterans the Rolling Stones, whose $31.8 million in
grosses was good enough for #10. Jimmy Buffett, with $30.9 million, came in at #11.
Worldwide, the Stones were #1 in 1998, with nearly $200 million in concert grosses,
according to another industry trade magazine, Amusement Business. The Stones'
recent shows are documented on the live album No Security, which includes such
nuggets as "Memory Motel"
(RealAudio excerpt of live version).
The rest of the U.S. top 10 was peppered with a variety of superstars. "Titanic" diva
Celine Dion took the #3 slot with $38.1 million; New-Ager Yanni was #4 with $37.4
million; and R&B superstar Janet Jackson came in at #8 with $33.1 million. Country tours
rounded out the top 10: Garth Brooks (#5, $37.2 million), Shania Twain (#7, $33.5
million) and the George Strait Country Music Festival (#9, $33.0 million).
Overall, the U.S. concert industry took in $1.3 billion in 1998, about the same as it made
in 1997, according to Pollstar. It was, according to Bongiovanni, an
"By and large it was not a year where concert promoters were crowing about how great
business was," he said. "But they also weren't whining about how bad it was."
Bongiovanni said rising ticket prices made up for the fact that fewer people went to
shows this year. Prices for John and other veterans, including #13 grosser Billy Joel
($26.6 million) and #18 Rod Stewart ($21.6 million), often climbed to well above $50 a
Ray Waddell, touring and talent editor of Amusement Business, painted the year
in rosier terms. "We saw about a 32 percent increase in dollars and only about a 15
percent increase in the number of shows," Waddell said. "That points to a pretty healthy
Seattle rockers Pearl Jam made a triumphant comeback on the touring chart. They
sneaked into the #19 spot with $21.3 million in grosses for a 44-date spring/summer
outing that was their first full-scale tour in nearly four years. A live album from the tour,
Live on Two Legs, was released in November, and features renditions of such
recent Pearl Jam fare as "Do the Evolution" (RealAudio
excerpt of live version).
Package tours played a big part in the 1998 touring landscape, although, because of
their brevity, they weren't strongly represented in the overall sales figures.
The mother of all alterna-rock festivals, Lollapalooza, took a vacation (organizers say it
will be back in 1999), but new package tours sprung up to fill the void. The inaugural
Family Values tour featured funk-metal band Korn, thrash-rockers Limp Bizkit and Orgy,
German industrial group Rammstein and gangsta rapper Ice Cube.
"That was really unique," said Matt Case, talent buyer at Universal Concerts in Seattle. "I
think you're going to see a lot more of that -- the Limp Bizkits, the Orgys, the Korns. And
the rock-rap thing is really [relevant] to the kids out there. It strikes a chord with them."
The Sarah McLachlan-led Lilith Fair posted the biggest numbers of any of the package
tours. Lilith grossed $28.3 million, good enough for 12th place on the list. The inaugural
Lilith Fair, in 1997, grossed $16.4 million.
Also in the top 20 were Aerosmith (#14, $25.8 million), Page and Plant (#15, $24.9
million), Metallica (#16, $24.7 million), Phish (#17, $23.3 million) and the Spice Girls
(#20, $20.9 million).
Bongiovanni said 1999 will be highlighted by several mega-tours, including a reunion
tour by blue-collar rocker Bruce Springsteen and his E Street Band, yet another swing by
the Stones -- this time in arenas -- and a possible tour by dance diva Madonna.
Other eagerly awaited tours include the first-ever solo dates by Fugees singer and solo
star Lauryn Hill, the 1999 edition of Lollapalooza and a possible tour by rocker Tom
(Contributing Editor Teri vanHorn contributed to this report.)