One Direction heads to top of list in concert ticket sales in 2014

Liam Payne of One Direction performs at the Rose Bowl in September 2014.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

It’s official: Boy bands — and the men who used to be in them — are big business again.

Concert tours by One Direction and Justin Timberlake made more money than all other road shows in 2014, according to the industry publication Pollstar, which this week released its annual list of top earners.

One Direction, the five-piece British group assembled in 2010 on the U.K. edition of “The X Factor,” raked in $282.2 million to come in at No. 1, while Timberlake — who rose to fame as a member of ‘N Sync before going solo — finished at No. 2 on ticket sales of $184.7 million.

And behind the teen idols? Those onetime dreamboats in the Rolling Stones, who earned $165.1 million.

“There are definitely some cyclic powers at work here,” said Pollstar editor Gary Bongiovanni.


Other acts placing high on Pollstar’s list include Katy Perry at No. 4 (with $153.3 million) and the married duo of Beyoncé and Jay Z at No. 5 ($109.7 million). Robbie Williams, another boy-band alum, ranked at No. 12, ahead of Fleetwood Mac, Cher and Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band.

Bon Jovi, which topped last year’s tally, didn’t tour in 2014.

One Direction’s strong showing — the first time a non-veteran act has led the list, Pollstar said — follows its No. 10 finish in 2013, a boost attributable to the group’s move from arenas to stadiums, such as the Rose Bowl, where One Direction played three concerts in September. The giant Pasadena venue also hosted two dates on Beyoncé and Jay Z’s joint tour in August.

Indeed, though One Direction’s average ticket price was among the lowest on the list (at $82.05), the average number of tickets sold for each of its 69 gigs was by far the highest: 78,172.

The Rolling Stones, in contrast, played only 25 shows, with an average ticket price of $191.42, easily the highest on the list.

The aging rockers “set a new mark” in terms of pricing, said Bongiovanni, who added that the band’s “strategy was to maximize the money they could make from each individual date.”

Overall, concert attendance was down in 2014, according to the music industry publication Billboard. In North America, the drop was 1.5% compared with 2013, when attendance rose 23%.

Yet domestic grosses were up 3.4%, Billboard said, thanks to generally higher ticket prices.

Among the artists charging top dollar, according to Pollstar, were the Eagles (with an average ticket price of $138.34), Paul McCartney ($133.91) and Billy Joel ($101.61).

A ticket to see Timberlake, whose lengthy tour behind his album “The 20/20 Experience” stopped a half-dozen times in Southern California alone, averaged $117.54.

Those sales contributed to a global touring business that Billboard estimated is worth nearly $20 billion, a new high for a music industry in which tickets are increasingly relied on to make up for sliding record sales.

Looking ahead to 2015, Bongiovanni said he expected festivals to continue becoming a bigger part of the live-music landscape.

“We started out with only a handful on the level of Coachella,” he said, referring to the three-day event that takes place each spring at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, Calif. “Now there are more and more of them,” such as Bonnaroo in Tennessee and Governors Ball in New York.

Billboard predicted growth too, an outcome that seems likely given upcoming tours by superstar acts including U2, which topped Pollstar’s list in 2011, and Taylor Swift, whose “1989" passed the soundtrack of “Frozen” this week to become the biggest-selling album of 2014.

Also scheduled to hit the road again: One Direction. The lads’ latest world tour is to launch a North American leg on July 9 with a concert at San Diego’s Qualcomm Stadium.

Twitter: @mikaelwood