Dave Matthews Band rocks to the top in concert revenue

How much do rock fans love the Dave Matthews Band?
Pollstar has counted the ways, and it’s more than half a billion dollars’ worth, enough to land the relentlessly touring group at the top of the concert industry tracking publication’s ranking of the decade’s highest-grossing North American concert tours.
It’s a textbook example of sure and steady triumphing in the end.
“Dave Matthews has never had the No. 1 tour of the year,” Pollstar editor Gary Bongiovanni told The Times on Friday. “It’s always been Madonna or Prince or [Bruce] Springsteen or [Paul] McCartney or U2 or the Rolling Stones. Consistency definitely mattered.”
The Dave Matthews Band not only ended up with the highest cumulative concert gross from 2000 through 2009 -- at $529.1 million -- but the group also sold significantly more tickets during that period than any other act.
Country star Kenny Chesney, who ranked No. 1 in terms of number of tickets sold several times in the last 10 years -- a feat helped by the relatively low average ticket price for his shows -- sold 8.6 million tickets over the decade, while Matthews’ total came in significantly ahead, with 11.7 million tickets.

Consistency also factored into the runner-up on Pollstar’s tally, a performer who spent half the decade anchored in one city: Celine Dion grossed $522.2 million, and a large portion of that sum came from her five-year run at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace, where average ticket prices far exceed those of most conventional pop concert tours.

“That was from working a lot of nights a week,” Bongiovanni said. “So even though it was a fairly small venue, the tickets were fairly expensive.”


Dion’s total box office gross came in right behind Matthews, even though she played to slightly more than a third the number of people, 4 million.

Behind the Dave Matthews Band and Dion in the top five of Pollstar’s listing, which will be published in its Dec. 28 issue, are, in order: Chesney ($455.6 million at the box office from 8.6 million tickets sold), Springsteen ($444.3 million, 5.7 million tickets) and the Rolling Stones ($426.9 million, 3.2 million tickets).

Rounding out the top 10: U2 ($391 million, 4.4 million tickets), Madonna ($325.3 million, 2.1 million tickets), the Eagles ($313.4 million, 2.8 million tickets), Elton John ($286.4 million, 2.5 million tickets) and Jimmy Buffett ($285.8 million, 4.5 million tickets).

John is one of three acts whose name shows up in the top 50 twice. His joint tours with Billy Joel put the pair at No. 13 on the list, having grossed $261.6 million through sales of 2.3 million tickets. Joel on his own placed No. 47, grossing $123.4 million with 1.4 million tickets sold.

Country heartthrob Tim McGraw made the list on his own as well as in tandem with his wife, Faith Hill. McGraw-Hill dates brought in $189.9 million, and accounted for 2.7 million tickets, enough to land them at No. 22, while McGraw as a solo act finished at No. 42, with a gross of $133.7 million and another 2.7 million tickets.

“If you look at the number of country music acts that made the top 50, you’ll see that country music had a pretty amazing decade,” Bongiovanni said.

Eight of the top spots, or nine if you count the Eagles as country rather than classic rock, are in the top 50. Toby Keith just missed finishing in the top 10, following Buffett at No. 11 and posting total revenue of $273.8 million and 6.4 million tickets.

Dion and Chesney might take special satisfaction in their high rankings, being the only acts in the top 10 to have launched their careers within the last 20 years.

But even though classic rock acts from the 1960s and ‘70s dominate the list -- causing some concern in the concert business considering that McCartney and members of the Stones will be in their 70s in a few short years -- Bongiovanni noted a solid showing by acts that launched their careers comparatively recently.

Metallica finished at No. 15 (with a $225.5 million gross), with country trio Rascal Flatts right behind at No. 16 ($222.4 million), ‘N Sync (No. 18, $196.4 million), Britney Spears (No. 19, $195.7 million) and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra (No. 20, $194.9 million).

“‘N Sync exploded,” Bongiovanni said, “and then crashed and died, but still ended up at No. 18. And look at Phish: They spent most of the decade broken up, but still managed to generate enough revenue to make the list.”

The jam band snagged the No. 49 position, with $116.7 million and 2.6 million tickets sold.

One of the newest additions to the concert industry talent pool, the “American Idols Live” tour, has sold 3 million tickets and grossed $156.8 million since the television reality show started putting its 10 finalists on the road in 2002.

Pollstar will include the decade’s top 50 list along with results from the 2009 year on the concert trail, for which final numbers are still being tabulated.