The 2004 Rock Rich List
The Stones top the annual list of music's biggest moneymakers
By Robert LaFranco
(February 25, 2004)
1. The Rolling Stones
In 2002, when the Forty Licks tour began, the Stones were at Number Two on our list.What put them at Number One this year? The same thing that landed Mick Jagger and Keith Richards on the cover of Fortune: a tour that sold $212 million in tickets, catalog sales in the millions, an exclusive deal with Best Buy for their Forty Licks DVDs and a live HBO special worth $5 million. Three million fans saw them, and each spent an average of eleven dollars on merchandise. "There are things we could do better, more efficiently," says tour promoter Michael Cohl, who has worked with the band since 1989's Steel Wheels tour. "Some of the guys on the road with us are in their fifties, and they hit the road with us every time -- and that costs money. But we choose to be smart in other places."
2. Bruce Springsteen
Most rock bands hire a promoter, take a nightly guarantee and then split the profits after the show is done, taking seventy to ninety-five percent of the profits before the promoter gets his share. Not Springsteen. His deal was the best in the business: He reportedly received a guarantee of seventy percent of the potential gross -- that is, if every ticket were sold in every corner of the arena. In many cases, sources say, promoters were hired for a mere $10,000 fee, saving millions in road costs. Profit margins are good when you go on tour without all the usual explosions, giant helium-filled props and revolving stages -- just the band and a black curtain. Fans also spent heavily on merchandise, especially during a ten-day stand in New Jersey, where they coughed up almost twenty dollars per head, the highest average in the business.
3. The Eagles
Last year, the eagles were demanding a $750,000 guarantee per concert. This year, it was more than $1 million, and ticket prices were up almost twenty dollars. Sources say the Eagles also garnered $10 million in advance payments for their latest greatest-hits package, which earned Warner its money back long before the year was out. And the Eagles, like Springsteen, don't hit the road with massive lighting and rigging and production costs. The Eagles also score big on their publishing rights, which easily earn them more than $5 million a year in royalties.
4. Dixie Chicks
After singer Natalie Maines criticized President Bush while on tour in England, there were calls for a boycott of the Chicks' U.S. tour and rumors that Lipton, a tour sponsor, might pull out. In the end, it was nothing but hot air. Each of their sixty-five U.S. dates grossed more than $1 million, according to Pollstar. Also adding to the riches: The Chicks sued Sony Music in 2002 for underpayment on the 20 million albums they had already sold. They began to cash in on their new royalty rate this year, with 6 million copies sold of their latest, Home. Publishing is the Chicks' one weak spot: If they wrote more of their own material, they'd make even more.
Metallica rank with the beatles in the top five catalog sellers of the year, with 1.6 million copies of their old albums moving in the U.S. The band's new album, St. Anger, did all right, too, selling more than 1.5 million in the U.S. With catalog sales so strong, their label, Elektra, has no chance to drive down royalty payments with the usual record-company charge-backs for marketing and unsold units. When their deal came up for renewal, Metallica negotiated a royalty rate well above two dollars a unit. The Summer Sanitarium Tour grossed close to $50 million in the U.S.; gigs at big European festivals earned the band close to $1 million a night.
6. Toby Keith
Keith, the king of country, topped the charts with the jingoistic and unfortunately named Shock N' Y'all. He grossed $44 million on the road last year while charging nearly twenty dollars less per seat than his nemeses the Dixie Chicks. And he does it all on the cheap, sources say, keeping cost percentages as low as the ticket prices. He sleeps on the bus with the boys on the road but flies home to his family on his private jet at the end of the touring week. Keith, already on a strong royalty deal from his label, DreamWorks, and a co-producer on all his albums, nets about two dollars per record. Last year he moved about 4 million units.
7. Bon Jovi
$36.1 million With support from sponsors Duracell and Best Buy, Bon Jovi grossed about $30 million on tour in the U.S. last year. The average ticket price was sixty dollars a seat, and the band took in an average of $560,000 a night. But Bon Jovi really rule overseas: They played the Amsterdam Arena in June, grossing more than $2 million; a stadium gig in Scotland made about as much.
8. Shania Twain
Twain's 2002 double cd, Up!, has been a slow but steady seller, and a DVD of a show taped in Chicago made Billboard's top music-video sales chart. More than 600,000 people plunked down an average of sixty dollars at the live show as it made its way across the country, for a gross of $40 million.
9. Simon and Garfunkel
"Two guys downstage center on a 360-degree platform," one venue owner says. "What's expensive about that?" Simon and Garfunkel had one of the lowest production costs of the year -- and some of the biggest grosses. They charged almost 500,000 people close to $140 each (Phish were lucky to get $50). The duo split nightly guarantees of $550,000 between them. Paul Simon pocketed the lion's share of the total take of their 600,000 album sales, because he fully owns his publishing catalog.
Cher's farewell tour has stretched on for well more than a year now, revisiting cities she has already said goodbye to. Her show is still a spectacular, but she slimmed it down a bit, hitting the road with a scant ten trucks and buses. No worries: The multiple costume changes remained. Her latest hits package, The Very Best of Cher, topped the charts, and she played 102 U.S. gigs, with an average ticket price of sixty-five dollars.
11. Celine Dion
Nearly 600,000 fans pulled up in Vegas and unloaded an average of $140 to see Dion, winning her the second spot on the Pollstar tally of top-concert grosses for the year with $80 million. Dion's deal with Caesars Palace included her own $95 million stage and arena, and guaranteed her $65 million for three years ('03 was the first). The majority of expenses normally incurred on the road, such as lighting, sound, security, truck drivers and riggers, are eliminated.
12. Fleetwood Mac
Fleetwood Mac drew a reported $750,000 a night guarantee for their 2003 tour. But after weak ticket sales in some markets, the band reportedly gave promoter Artist Entertainment Group twenty more dates than it had planned to do, to help the company make up any lost profits. Fleetwood Mac ended up playing to more than 800,000 people and grossing $69 million in the U.S. alone.
13. Robbie Williams
Still a myth in America, Williams continues to maintain his phenomenon status in Europe and Asia. Williams played stadiums to the tune of more than $50 million last year, and, in Europe alone, he went platinum six times over with albums such as Escapology and Live at Knebworth.