What's the formula for success in the rapidly shifting music business? Roll the dice, then stay put.
That combination put Celine Dion atop the ultimate edition of Calendar's annual Ultimate Top 10 list, a ranking that combines artists' album sales revenue with their take at the box office.
Dion earned the title of Ultimate Top 10 champ for the decade that recently ended, thanks in large part to the money she piled up from her five-year engagement at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, where audiences are used to paying big bucks for big stars. Her gamble to perform in one place for an extended period paid off big for the Canadian pop diva.
The Ultimate Top 10 isn't meant to be the final word on artists' finances. With merchandising, product endorsements, song placements in movies and TV shows, ring tones, website subscriptions and other income sources, musicians today have seemingly limitless ways to bring in money. But by combining two of the biggest revenue sources, the Ultimate Top 10 is a good indicator of which artists fans are spending the most money on.
The overall decade results suggest there's still considerable long-term value in allowing artists time to build extensive catalogs and encouraging them to support those recordings by touring regularly.
The Ultimate Top 10 of the Decade:
Dion pulled in $522.2 million in concert-ticket sales for the decade. Adding $225.7 million worth of album sales during those same 10 years, she trumped all comers.
Kenny Chesney, $742 million
Close behind Dion was this road warrior, who toured hard and promoted records the old-fashioned way year in and year out. His total includes $455.6 million in concert ticket sales and $286.4 million in album revenue.
Dave Matthews Band, $737.4 million
Matthews' decade concert total of $529.1 million put him first on the list of top North American live music attractions of the decade, as calculated by the concert-tracking publication Pollstar. The band posted $208.3 million in album sales.
4. The Beatles, $627.3 million. Although the quartet disbanded 30 years before the decade began, the Beatles still managed to generate $392.3 million from sales of 30.2 million albums (using an average of $13 per album). We folded in the individual box office figures racked up by ex-Beatle Paul McCartney ($221.4 million) and Ringo Starr ($13.6 million), given that their concert audiences consist in large part of Beatles fans. The Fab Four also logged the single bestselling album of the decade, the "1" hits collection, with 11.5 million copies. And counting.
5. U2, $609.7 million. The Irish quartet brought in $391 million at the box office and $218.7 million in album sales.
6. Toby Keith, $591.9 million. The second of three country acts in the Top 10, the Oklahoma singer-songwriter logged $273.8 million on the concert trail, $318.1 million from album sales.
7. Bruce Springsteen, $588.3 million. On the road, both with the E Street Band and his various non-E Street tours, the Boss brought in $444.3 million. His album take: $144 million.
8. The Rolling Stones, $569.6 million. The Stones also benefited heavily from touring, earning $426.9 million at the box office in addition to $142.7 million in album sales.
9. Tim McGraw, $550.7 million. Strictly as a solo act, the country singer-songwriter ranks No. 14 on the list. But he toured several times with his wife, Faith Hill, during the decade. California being a community property state, we are awarding him half the revenue those outings generated. So his total includes $322 million in album sales, $133.7 million from his own tours and $95 million for his half of the McGraw-Hill shows.
10. Britney Spears, $494.3 million. Despite a rocky decade personally and professionally, Spears pulled in $195.7 million at the box office and sold $298.6 million worth of albums for the 10-year period.
The decade's top album seller was Eminem, the rapper who posted $419 million from sales of 32.2 million albums, according to Nielsen SoundScan. But because he toured sporadically, he was able to add only $40.8 million to his Ultimate Top 10 total, which places him at No. 14; he is the sole hip-hop artist in the Top 20.
Looking at 2009 alone, the 14th annual Ultimate Top 10 title goes to U2. During the year, the band posted $137.3 million ($123 million box office, $14.3 million albums), a bit better than last year's winner, Madonna, who finished on top with $120.1 million. Springsteen follows U2 with $102 million ($94.5 million box office, $7.5 million in albums).
The year's biggest album seller finished at No. 3 overall: In the wake of his death, Michael Jackson posted total album sales of just under $100 million, without any revenue from the series of comeback concerts he was scheduled to give in London. (Those dates wouldn't have counted toward the Ultimate Top 10 since Pollstar data come from North American concert tour figures.)
Spears ended the year at No. 4, with $82.5 million in concert ticket sales and $7 million in album revenue. The Elton John/Billy Joel tour tallied $88 million at the box office, with no corresponding revenue from albums that finished among the year's top 200 sellers from the duo, placing the piano men at No. 5. John generated an additional $14.2 million during the year from solo performances.
The remainder of the 2009 Ultimate Top 10 shakes out as follows: No. 6: AC/DC with $83.8 million ($77.9 million in concert tickets, $5.9 million in album sales); No. 7: Taylor Swift with $83.2 million ($25.5 million at the box office, $57.7 million in album sales); No. 8: Chesney at $81 million ($71.1 million in concert, $9.9 million in album sales); No. 9: the Jonas Brothers with $77.9 million ($69.8 million in concert revenue, $8.1 million in album sales), and No. 10: the Dave Matthews Band with $69.8 million ($56.9 million in concert tickets, $12.9 million in album sales).