U2 finished 2001 on a high note, with the veteran rockers becoming the top-grossing concert act of the year with their Elevation Tour, according to year-end figures from the industry trade Pollstar.
Touring behind their critically acclaimed All That You Can't Leave Behind, Bono and the boys eschewed the glitz of their previous Pop Mart and Zooropa outings in favor of a stripped-down show that sold out arenas throughout the U.S. and Canada.
All told, the Dubliners bagged a stellar $109.7 million in North American concert receipts, making the Elevation Tour the second biggest ever, behind only the Rolling Stones' 1994 Voodoo Lounge trek, which took in $121.2 million.
In something of a shocker, Pollstar says the top 100 acts generated a record $1.75 billion in total gross revenues for North America in 2001, the third straight year the live music biz has seen an uptick in revenue--this, despite the recession and the September 11 attacks.
"We had record revenues for the industry and that was a surprise that we didn't expect to see when we crunched the numbers," says Pollstar editor Gary Bongiovanni. "It comes down to higher ticket prices."
Although the top 100 acts sold fewer tickets than last year (about 34.4 million, down 7 percent from 2000's 37.1 million), the average ticket price was way up. Last year, an ordinary show would set you back $40.74; this year, the average was up more than three bucks to $43.86--and that's not even counting Ticketmaster's so-called "convenience" charges.
Ticket prices for a U2 show ranged from $45 to upwards of $200 with an average price of $77.64. The highest average ticket price was charged by blind Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli, at $116.45; Poison averaged the lowest, at $16.32.
While audiences were willing to empty their pocketbooks for the big acts, Bongiovanni says the concert business could see a sharp downturn if the trend toward higher ticket prices continues.
"Everybody's moaning about the fact that we're overpricing our product, but the problem is each act sets its own price and they often vary them from market to market," says Bongiovanni. "But there is some sensitivity to [higher ticket prices], and we'll probably see some acts that do moderate their price."
The rest of the top 10 road warriors consisted mostly of young popsters and veteran rockers.
'N Sync edged out the Backstreet Boys for the number two slot, grossing a healthy $86.8 million during their heavily hyped stadium blitz. But the 'N Syncers sold out just nine of 43 dates, perhaps a sign of oversaturation (the band always seems to be on the road) or simply overcharge (the average ticket price was a whopping $52.22, a bit pricey for prepubescents).
The Backstreeters, who earned $89.8 million touring arenas, were forced to play twice as many gigs to keep pace.
The Dave Matthews Band crashed into fourth place, earning an estimated $60.5 million in ticket sales.
In fifth place was yet another pairing of Piano Man Billy Joel with Rocket Man Elton John. Their Face to Face Tour took in more than $57.2 million from 31 dates. Madonna's Drowned Tour, her first official North American trek since 1993's The Girlie Show, was close behind in sixth place, hauling in $54.7 million from half as many shows.
Aerosmith's Just Push Play tour was seventh with $49.3 million. Despite having to cancel several shows for health and logistic reasons, Janet Jackson still managed to land in eighth with $42.1 million.
Eric Clapton, who says he is now through with touring, went out with a bang, earning $38.8 million in ninth place, one spot ahead of the ever-popular Neil Diamond ($35.4 million).
The biggest-grossing single concert of the year turned out to be one that nobody expected and one in which all the money went to charity: Paul McCartney's The Concert for New York City. According to the concert tracker Amusement Business, the all-star event, which took place October 20 at Madison Square Garden, raked in more than $12 million from ticket sales alone, easily topping Michael Jackson's 30th anniversary self-tribute, which also took place at Madison Square Garden and pulled in about $10 million.
Here is Pollstar's list of the top 20 tours of 2001, based on ticket sales:
1. U2, $109.7 million
2. 'N Sync, $86.8 million
3. Backstreet Boys, $82.1 million
4. Dave Matthews Band, $60.5 million
5. Elton John and Billy Joel, $57.2 million
6. Madonna, $54.7 million
7. Aerosmith, $49.3 million
8. Janet Jackson, $42.1 million
9. Eric Clapton, $38.8 million
10. Neil Diamond, $35.4 million
11. Matchbox Twenty, $28.4 million
12. Rod Stewart, $27.2 million
13. Jimmy Buffett, $26.9 million
14. Andrea Bocelli, $26.8 million
15. Ozzfest 2001, $26.4 million
16. Sade, $26.2 million
17. Tim McGraw, $24.9 million
18. Britney Spears, $23.7 million
19. James Taylor, $23 million
20. Tool, $20.4 million