Tuesday, June 10, 2014


Origin of this post's title

In its May 31, 2014 issue, Billboard did a story called "Never Too Old To Rock 'N' Roll," showing the top touring acts over the last twenty-four years.

The list was not a huge surprise, as most of the artists topping it had been in the news for their extravagant tours.

I'm a CPA by background, so I can't get enough of the numbers. And while the Billboard article listed the tours in the order of the gross dollars, I think looking at the numbers a little differently is interesting as well.

Sure, The Rolling Stones made the most money. We get it-U2 is popular. And Bruce is the Boss.

But what if you did a couple of calculations and looked at the list a different way?

For example, here is the list based on average revenue per show.

This puts some of the artists in a different light. Madonna rises to the top-she was able to generate $75K more per show than Mick and the boys. Plus she was up in the top five anyway, but worked 156 fewer nights than they did.

You go, Material Girl!

And looking at the list per show brings Sir McCartney up to number four (from #13), which puts him right there with the Stones (you're welcome, Beatles die-hards).

Another way to look at this is by average amount per attendee (I do not not want to say average ticket price because the article was not clear if the revenue reported was just from ticket sales).

This view still has Madonna at the top, but brings Celine Dion to number two, and Roget Waters to number three.

The Stones drop to seventh place and the Boss to eighth. U2 falls out of the top ten. 

The only thing I do not like about this chart is that it makes the average ticket price look reasonable, but most acts rape the audience in the first ten rows and have dirt cheap seats in the nosebleeds to get the average price down so they do not look greedy and so Bruce can keep up that "hero of the working man image" while he enriches his unborn great-grandchildren.

All three charts demonstrate that the concert industry grosses more than many third world countries, and solve the mystery of what happened to the baby boomers' retirement funds.



  1. I'm kind of surprised Dylan isn't on that list anywhere, seeing as how he has been almost non-stop touring for the last 25 or 30 years.

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'

    1. Good point, Stephen-I guess he's just playing smaller venues with lower ticket prices (we saw him at the AZ State Fair and many of those seats were free with fair admission).

      But you'd think volume might make up for it.

      I wondered if this post read too much like an accounting problem....


  2. I'm so not an accountant, but I know how easy it is to manipulate and massage numbers to build a convincing case for whatever your story is. I've worked in banking and real estate. It was great meeting you on Robin's blog yesterday.

    1. Good to meet you as well, Carol.

      Even for a non-financial person, though-aren't these numbers staggering?

      I would love to see the cost side-it would be interesting to know how much these artists pocket.

      I only saw U2 once, but they had a pretty elaborate stage. I've seen Bruce many a time, and he has a pretty simplistic stage (although a much bigger touring ensemble).

      I'd love to see more details nf these tours...but no matter how you slice it, there's a lotta cabbage in the concert biz.

  3. I thought this was interesting... and I am not a big fan of accounting.

    Another way to look at the last chart is that the top grossers (since they made the chart) on the bottom of the chart care *just a little bit* more about the average working person and adjusted their ticket prices accordingly.

    Just because you can command $1,000.00 or more per ticket doesn't mean you SHOULD. You can raise or lower that number to whatever you deem realistic given the numbers.

    For instance, I seem to recall (my memory is not what it was) that Kid Rock performed at some huge venues (i.e. stadiums) free of charge or maybe $25/person. I honestly cannot recall. But, when I heard that I remember thinking "Good for him." It is always nice when someone who claims to be a champion of the "common man" actually walks the walk and doesn't just talk the talk. Am I saying he has never been guilty of overcharging for tix? Nope. I don't have that information. But, maybe he learned some things as he came along.

    And now I just thought of something for you for Thursday.... and, no, it isn't Kid Rock. But it is a song... I usually don't give hints... :D

    1. Wow-no one likes accounting!

      I remember that about Kid Rock, too, and think I read it after his AZ show or I might have gone just to support that notion.

      In my response to Carol, I mention the associated costs (we're looking at the revenue only), and someone with a more elaborate production might need to charge more (if what Madonna did at the Super Bowl is representative of her stage show, that's gonna require a higher ticket price), but I agree with you....just because you CAN does not mean that you SHOULD.

      We're a capitalist country, and I guess if it sells, that's capitalism.

      But there's also a saying about everyone loving a pig and nobody loving a hog.

      What the Stones were charging on their tour was just WRONG. And the argument that scalpers get those prices is a cop out-a lot of bands have figured out ways to thwart scalpers...but I believe EVERY fan should have a chance to sit in the front row, and charging $1K for those seats prohibits a lot of fans from doing so (myself included).

      Be sure to check out my Thursday post...you were the inspiration!


  4. Ha, ha, ha! This list pretty much covers the over 50 crowd if rockers. Those would be the same folks you posted about a few days ago who were complaining about lost revenue from downloads.

    It's all about what the traffic will bear and what people will pay to relive their youth. Comparing these guys to the 'common man' seems a little silly. They are after all 'Rock Stars'.

    1. It's funny. Rock music used to be about everything but profits, what the market would bear, etc.

      Now you have to have become what rock and roll used to stand against to be able to afford to go see a rock and roll concert...

    2. Sorry to jump in on this comment thread, but something funny occurred to me.

      Rocker: Let's sock it to the man.
      Rocker's Agent: You are the man.
      Rocker: Oh. ::scratches head::

    3. I guess money really is the root of all evil...

  5. It's amazing that geriatrics like the Stones are still out there touring and raking in the riches.

    The thing that catches my attention about this list is that all the acts are fairly old and established. Even the youngest acts have been around for at least 20 years. I think this adds a certain amount of credence to your post the other day about the newer generation in regard to music. I doubt whether many "kids" attending the concerts on the list. Another interesting set of demographics would be the average age of attendees, their yearly incomes, and what kinds of jobs they have.

    I wonder how long we will continue to see stats this high for concert tours? What are the comparisons between other entertainment forms such as sporting events, movie going, amusement parks, and so on?

    And more curiously to me is where the hell do people get all this disposable income? Is it the same people or is this dispersed among a very broad population? When I was a young concert goer I was paying on the average of $5 per concert. With recent prices even when I was working I couldn't have afforded regular concert going at current prices. Maybe I've always been poorer than I realized.

    Interesting stats.

    Tossing It Out

    1. I'm with you, Lee-most shows I got to have far lower ticket prices because a hundred bucks is a lot to shell out for an hour or two worth of entertainment.

      I saw James Taylor last night (free ticket for me-a friend got their company's box tickets)....the same friend had asked me to go when tickets went on sale, and my (almost) immediate reply was "Im not a big enough fan of his to spend $100 to see him."

      I have most of his music, but a hundred bucks is simply a lot of money.

      He did play a long show, and it was entertaining, but in an environment where all you hear about is the poor economy, how do these shows all sell out?

      For the record, Taylor did not sell any seats on the upper levels...he did have a large touring band (it included Blue Lou Marini-I was impressed). He sold out two arena shows in LA according to an article I read.

      I guess the one percent is a lot of people, and they are the right demographic for most of the big ticket acts.

      Maybe pricing was not so different (adjusted for inflation) for our parent's generation wanting to see Sinatra.