A reunited Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band and the Rolling Stones
were the two top-grossing touring acts of 1999, with more than $50 million each, according to two rival tour-industry trade magazines.
"We knew Bruce and the E Street Band were going to be monsters this year,"
Amusement Business staff member Ray Waddell said. "And anytime
the Stones go out, they are going to be the top act out there."
But it's unclear at this point whether the top-grosser was Springsteen
— making a triumphant return to form with his E Street Band for the
first time in a decade — or the Stones, the top-grossing act of '97
and '98, on their first North American arena tour in 20 years.
Pollstar puts Springsteen at #1, taking in $72 million, and pegs
the Stones at #2, with $64.7 million. But Amusement Business counts the Stones as the top act with $89.2 million in reported grosses versus Springsteen's $53 million, according to Waddell.
Pollstar, which counts only North American dates, has not finished tabulating 1999 numbers, according to editor Gary Bongiovanni. The figures compiled by Amusement Business include a number of overseas dates — with the Stones' grosses inflated by an 11-date European stadium tour, Waddell said. Neither magazine had complete grosses for all of the top touring acts of the year.
The highest-grossing single concert, according to Waddell, was the July
23–25 Woodstock '99 event in Rome, N.Y., which took in a reported
$28.9 million. The event, which ended in fiery rioting and reportedly
included a number of sexual assaults, featured sets from such rock and
rap acts as Kid Rock, DMX, Alanis Morissette, Metallica and Limp Bizkit,
whose performance of "Show Me What You Got" (RealAudio
excerpt) was chronicled on the live Woodstock 99 two-CD
set released in mid-October.
With his unprecedented string of 15 sold-out shows at the Continental
Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, N.J., grossing more than $19 million,
Waddell said, Springsteen set a record for an artist at a single venue.
The 15 sold-out shows took place July 15 through Aug. 12.
What both magazines agree on is that it was a healthy year for the North
American tour industry, with the third straight season of grosses exceeding
$1 billion. Both credit the strong season to massive outings by such
rockers as Dave Matthews and Springsteen and emerging touring pop acts,
including Latin-pop singer Ricky Martin and boy bands 'N Sync and the Backstreet Boys.
More troubling, according to both, is that the numbers also expose an ugly truth of the industry.
"Ticket prices have gone up dramatically," Bongiovanni said. "Grosses are up, but that doesn't necessarily translate into higher attendance." Bongiovanni said his magazine's numbers for the first half of 1999 — through June 30 — show that the average ticket price has gone up $5, what he categorized as a "very big jump," even before some of the high-profile summer tours that charged steep admission prices.
As proof, the pair cited the Cher and Martin tours as both offering premium tickets in the $50 to $100 range, a top price that previously only superstar acts, such as the Stones and Elton John, could charge. "Just about every act, except those targeting a teenage audience, have adopted premium pricing for tickets," Bongiovanni said.
Pollstar's midyear analysis, which appeared in the magazine's July 5 issue, showed that the average price of a ticket among the top 50 most successful tours from January to June was $38.56, up 50 percent from 1996's figure of $25.82.
Waddell said his magazine's top 10 for 1999 — measured from November 1998 to November 1999 — contains good news for veteran acts as well as for some emerging stars.
Topping the Amusement Business list are the Stones, whose $89.2 million came from 45 shows, 42 of which were sold out. The band played 34 U.S. dates.
The Stones charged a whopping average of $109.62 for their tickets, Pollstar reported in July. The U.S. tour lasted from January to April.
Springsteen landed in second place in Amusement Business rankings, with a reported gross of $53 million for 45 shows, 43 of which sold out, Waddell said, adding that Springsteen's grosses also include a number of European dates. Springsteen played 36 European dates between April 19 and June 27. Waddell did not break down how many of the 45 dates were European or North American.
Neither man could account for the discrepancy in their reported grosses for the Springsteen tour, derived from numbers supplied by venues and promoters.
Next up was an artist Waddell and Bongiovanni said is one of the few hopes for the future as a stadium-filling contemporary rock act, the Dave Matthews Band. The folk-rock group, one of the most successful touring acts of the decade, reported grosses of $44.5 million for 61 shows, 46 of which sold out.
Boy band 'N Sync took the #4 spot with $44.3 million in reported grosses, with nearly all of their 107 dates in North America.
"They toured like bandits," Waddell said. "They played each market two or three times, and they're huge. They were working it like a baby rock band in the '70s, coming back to some markets a number of times and playing a bigger venue each time."
Country star Shania Twain continued the winning ways of her debut tour,
coming in at #5 with reported grosses of $36.6 million with 64 shows and
48 sellouts, mostly in the U.S.
Fellow country giant George Strait — who mounted the only all-stadium tour of the year — racked up another success with his second annual George Strait Country Music Festival, which featured Strait, Tim McGraw and the Dixie Chicks. The festival grossed a reported $32.4 million on 17 North American shows, all sellouts.
Resurgent glitter queen Cher — who had one of the biggest hits of her career in 1999 with the dance anthem "Believe" (RealAudio excerpt) — sold out a little more than half of her 45 North American dates for a reported take of $31.5 million. Pop crooner Neil Diamond followed closely behind with $31.3 million in reported grosses, including some international dates.
Waddell said a breakdown of international versus domestic dates was not available at press time.
Titanic-lunged diva Celine Dion charted next with $26.8 million in reported grosses on 31 mostly North American dates, including 27 sellouts. Rounding out the top 10 were multiplatinum "Larger Than Life" (RealAudio excerpt) boy band the Backstreet Boys, who raked in a reported $24.5 million on the 35 dates they've completed on their current 53-date tour.
"They can sell whatever they put up," Waddell said. "They're as hot as anybody else right now."
The second annual Family Values arena tour, headlined by Limp Bizkit and featuring Filter, nearly doubled the take of the inaugural 1998 tour, grossing a reported $10.6 million on 27 shows, while the Jay-Z-led Hard Knock Life outing posted the best numbers ever for a hip-hop tour, Waddell said. The outing featured sets by Jay-Z, DMX, and Method Man and Redman and grossed a reported $13.7 million in 50 dates.