Even with triple-digit ticket prices and the Beatles legacy, Paul McCartney couldn’t match Eminem in Calendar’s sixth-annual Ultimate Top 10 competition, which combines concert gross and album sales to show which acts U.S. pop fans spent the most money on during 2002.
According to figures supplied by Pollstar, a concert trade publication, and Nielsen SoundScan, which monitors U.S. record sales, Eminem grossed $158.3 million during the last 12 months while McCartney took in $113.7 million.
The interesting sidelight is that Eminem’s figure came almost exclusively from albums, while McCartney’s was almost totally from concerts, a sign of the growing gap between the concert and record businesses.
Despite a strong correlation between album sales and concert drawing power during most of the rock era, the concert business now depends chiefly on veteran acts, while the record business relies on younger ones.
One way to dramatize the difference is to imagine the reaction among record executives and concert promoters to an imaginary headline: “McCartney, Rolling Stones and Cher retire.”
The news would send shock waves through the concert business, but record execs would yawn.
That’s because the Pollstar list of 2002’s Top 100 tours is dominated by artists eligible to join AARP. McCartney, the Rolling Stones, Cher, the team of Billy Joel and Elton John, Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, Aerosmith, Neil Diamond and the Eagles took eight of the top 10 spots. The highest any of those acts finished among the Top 200 album sellers during 2002 was No. 26, held by Springsteen’s “The Rising.”
On the album side, the top sellers were led by rappers Eminem and Nelly, young singers Avril Lavigne, Pink and Ashanti and country stars the Dixie Chicks, Alan Jackson and Shania Twain. Finishing highest of these acts on Pollstar’s list was Jackson, at No. 24.
While the beleaguered record business saw album sales drop 9% during 2002, concert revenues rose almost 20% to $2.1 billion last year. But Gary Bongiovanni, editor of Pollstar, says promoters are nervous because so much of that income depends on a few veteran acts.
The good news for the promoters is that the veterans keep hitting the road. Look for more shows this year from the Rolling Stones, Springsteen, Joel and John, Cher and the Eagles, as well as Fleetwood Mac and Led Zeppelin.
Here’s the 2002 Ultimate Top 10:
1. Eminem, $158.3 million. The colorful rapper, who finished third on the Ultimate Top 10 list in 2000, took over the top spot in ’02 thanks to phenomenal record sales. He placed three albums in the Top 200: “The Eminem Show” at No. 1 (7.6 million), “8 Mile” at No. 5 (3.5 million) and 2000’s “The Marshall Mathers LP,” at No. 182 (455,000). Based on an average sale price of $13 per album, that generated $150.8 million.
He also gets credit for $7.5 million as headliner of the Anger Management Tour. Average ticket price: $34. This gives Eminem the fourth-highest total in Ultimate Top 10 history, behind ‘N Sync, which grossed $212.9 million in 2000; the Backstreet Boys, $187 million in 1999, and Garth Brooks, $181 million in 1998. He would have topped them all if the box-office receipts from “8 Mile,” the hit film in which he starred, were included, but the list is limited to album and concert funds.
2. Paul McCartney, $113.7 million. It’s frightening to think how much money McCartney could pull in if he decided to really hit the road. He grossed $103 million in just 53 nights, which means he was picking up almost $2 million a show. The arena dates were seen by almost 800,000 people at an average ticket price of $130. The rest of his 2002 gross came chiefly from his live album.
3. The Rolling Stones, $107.4 million. The Stones generated “only” $87.9 million on a tour that was divided chiefly between stadiums and arenas, but it was done in just 34 dates. Their average ticket price was $119. The Stones’ “Forty Licks” album, a career retrospective, finished No. 34 among the year’s sellers.
4. Dave Matthews Band, $87.4 million. Matthews doesn’t excite critics, but his distinctive, almost trance-like brand of pop-rock certainly has a strong fan base. This makes his fourth appearance in the Ultimate Top 10 in five years. Most of the money ($60 million) was generated by touring, with the band drawing 1.5 million fans for 77 shows. The average ticket price: a more modest $40.
5. Cher, $80.1 million. Concert producers are certainly hoping Cher keeps drawing out this farewell tour. She grossed $73 million in 93 dates. Average ticket price: $72.
6. Creed, $76.9 million. In this age of MTV exposure burnout, rock isn’t producing many bands that are consistent arena draws. But Creed is a ‘90s band that is showing some staying power. Unlike the veteran acts, Creed’s 2002 gross came almost 50-50 from touring and album sales. Average ticket price: $41.
7. Nelly, $74.9 million. This party-minded St. Louis rapper hit the road during 2002, grossing $11 million from 46 dates, but his real heat was in the record stores, where “Nellyville” sold $64 million, making it the second-biggest album of the year. Average ticket price: $32.
8. Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, $66 million. “The Rising” got glowing reviews and generated $23 million at cash registers, but Springsteen’s main clout was at the box office, where he grossed $42.6 million from 39 shows. Average ticket price: $72.
9. Alan Jackson, $65.9 million. Here’s a country star who worked hard for his money. He grossed $20 million in 72 shows, but picked up most of his 2002 gross ($40 million) from the “Drive” album. Average ticket price: $37.
10. Billy Joel and Elton John, $65.5 million. These piano men continue to delight audiences, who paid an average of $108 a ticket to see them in 34 shows.
Robert Hilburn, The Times pop music critic, can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org