Elton John, Dave Matthews Made Most Money On Road In '98

U.S. tours by Eric Clapton, Rolling Stones, Celine Dion also pulled in big bucks this year.

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

shows.

"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

"unspectacular" year.

"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

ticket.

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

year."

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

Petty.

(Contributing Editor Teri vanHorn contributed to this report.)