It’s official: Madonna tops Calendar’s Ultimate Top 10, our annual survey combining sales of concert tickets, albums and digital downloads to measure which acts were most popular with the broadest swath of music lovers.
Madonna was the No. 1 concert attraction in North America during the year, according to Pollstar, the concert-tracking magazine, and she enjoyed album sales to the tune of $12.5 million in addition to downloads of $2.3 million.
For the year, there’s also a total split between Nielsen SoundScan’s ranking of the 10 biggest-selling performers of 2008 and Pollstar’s Top 10 highest-grossing North American concert tours.
In recent years the Pollstar and SoundScan rosters have veered away from one another. Typically, classic-rock acts that appeal to well-heeled baby boomers rake in the most money at box offices, while hot but still developing pop, R&B; and hip-hop artists sell more albums.
The highest any Top 10 SoundScan act finished in Pollstar’s 2008 ranking was No. 13, where the Jonas Brothers (No. 7 among album sellers) landed after playing to 1.3 million fans last year.
Concert revenue hit $4.2 billion in 2008, according to Pollstar, a 7% rise over the previous year, even though the number of tickets sold was down. An 8.4% increase in average ticket prices was behind the rise, figures that are “astounding considering the economic environment in which they were generated,” Pollstar Editor Gary Bongiovanni said.
The road is still where artists tend to make the most money. Only three of the Nielsen SoundScan biggest-selling artists of 2008 -- AC/DC, Coldplay and the Jonas Brothers -- make the Ultimate Top 10, even folding in their revenue from digital track sales, which we began including in the Ultimate Top 10 ranking last year.
The best example? Taylor Swift sold more albums than any other act last year: 4 million, giving her $52 million in revenue from album sales using $13 as the average price of a CD. But she placed No. 12 in the Ultimate Top 10 calculations because she played only a handful of concerts as a headliner. She spent most of the year as a supporting act on Rascal Flatts’ tour.
That leaves the upper reaches of the Ultimate Top 10 to the veterans, and no one outperformed Madonna, whose combined income of $120 million is a drop from the previous year’s winner, the Police, which logged $140.7 million.
In fact, Madonna’s total is the lowest for a No. 1 since the Ultimate Top 10 began in 1997, when the Rolling Stones posted $100 million on concert ticket and album sales. The record belongs to ‘N Sync, which earned $212.9 million in 2000 at the height of teen pop.
Presenting the 2008 Ultimate Top 10
1. Madonna ($120.1 million). The Material Girl took in $105.3 million from touring, in addition to $14.8 million from music sales. It’s hard to decide what’s more impressive. The average gross at her shows, mostly in stadiums, was an eye-popping $5.5 million, and she drew about 36,000 people per show. Additionally, the average ticket price was $153.88, easily the highest among Pollstar’s Top 50 grossing tours. Worldwide, according to Pollstar, she amassed $281.6 million.
2. Celine Dion ($106.8 million). Dion has been a regular in the Ultimate Top 10, and she posted her highest finish in a decade after ditching her residency at the Colosseum in Las Vegas for an old-fashioned, if high-tech, tour. She grossed $94 million, added $11.4 million in album sales and $1.3 million in digital tracks. Average ticket price: $119. Dion finished at No. 8 last year.
3. Kenny Chesney ($95.7 million). This favorite son of Luttrell, Tenn., again proved the most popular country music act on the road last year, pulling in $72.2 million, and was the only artist to sell more than 1 million tickets in North America. Chesney sold $20.8 million worth of albums and $2.7 million in digital tracks. Average ticket price: $71.24. He’s up from No. 4 on last year’s list.
4. Eagles ($90.7 million). The group might have taken the long road out of Eden, but it was pretty near paradise on the concert trail with the band’s take of $73.4 million. CD sales added $15.6 million and the veteran act notched $1.7 million worth of downloads. Average ticket price: $128.82.
5. AC/DC ($82 million). The new “Black Ice” album took the veteran Australian hard rock band back to the top of the charts and also made its concert tour one of the year’s hot tickets. The band’s Ultimate Top 10 tally was almost evenly divided, with $37.5 million coming at the concert box office and $44.5 million from album sales. Like Kid Rock, AC/DC doesn’t do digital tracks. Average ticket price: $99.73.
6. Coldplay ($81.6 million). Although finishing sixth, Coldplay is in the enviable position of balancing its power in concert and at retail. About $40.8 million worth of concert tickets were bolstered with $35 million in CD sales and a solid $5.8 million worth of 99-cent track downloads. Average ticket price: $79.87.
7. Bon Jovi ($81.4 million). The New Jersey band posted another good year, with $70.4 million from 45 shows in 31 cities, plus $8.6 million in CD sales and $2.4 million in digital tracks. Average ticket price: $95.39.
8. Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band ($79 million). It’s been five years since the Boss topped the Ultimate Top 10 with a take of $132.8 million. Last year, he and the E Streeters pulled in $69.3 million on the road and, without a new album, added $7.9 million in catalog sales and $1.8 million in digital tracks. Average ticket price: $94.17.
9. Jonas Brothers ($77.9 million). The newest act to join the Ultimate Top 10 did almost equally well at the box office as at retail: $41.5 million worth of tickets, $30.4 million in albums and $6 million digitally. An average ticket price of $43.69 made theirs the least expensive ticket among Top 10 finishers.
10. Rascal Flatts ($77.1 million). It might be down three slots from its No. 7 finish in 2007, but this good-time country trio is becoming a concert juggernaut. This is the group’s third consecutive year in the Ultimate Top 10, thanks to $55.8 million on the road, $18.2 million in album sales and $3.1 million digitally in 2008. Average ticket price: $59.47.
Filling out the Top 20: Neil Diamond ($70.5 million), Taylor Swift ($62.2 million), Michael Buble ($59.5 million), Metallica ($56.4 million), Carrie Underwood ($54.9 million), Dave Matthews Band ($51.6 million), the Police ($51 million), Lil Wayne ($50.8 million), Tom Petty ($50.5 million) and Kid Rock ($50. 2 million).