| (From left) Cher, Mick Jagger and Paul McCartney
Los Angeles, Jan. 6 (Reuters): Veteran pop stars such as Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones and Cher helped drive North American concert ticket sales to a record $2.1 billion last year, thanks to fans who forked out up to $350 each for the privilege of seeing their idols.
According to data collated by concert trade publication Pollstar, sales hit a record for the fourth consecutive year, and rose about 20 per cent from 2001’s tally of $1.75 billion.
Ticket prices for the top 100 acts averaged $46.56, a six per cent increase over 2001's $43.86 average. (US inflation rose 2.2 percent in the year to November 2002.)
But the major acts charged sky-high prices. McCartney, on tour for the first time in nine years, was the top grosser with $103.3 million, Pollstar said. The former Beatle charged an average of $129.92 per ticket at his 53 shows, but his top price was about $250.
McCartney now ranks number four on the all-time North American concert charts, behind the Rolling Stones ($121 million, 1994), U2 ($109.7 million, 2001) and Pink Floyd ($103.5 million, 1994).
The Rolling Stones, who were the number two earners in 2002 with $87.9 million, averaged $119.20 per ticket. But tickets in the major cities cost as much as $350. On the other hand, fans in the front rows paid much less, about $90 each.
Pollstar editor Gary Bongiovanni said greedy rock stars were crippling the industry by demanding hefty guarantees from promoters, which results in high ticket prices and many empty seats.
“It would be difficult to find an industry insider who could pronounce overall business as healthy,” he said. The gross figures do not include merchandising sales, where rock stars earn a mint from such costly souvenirs as $35 T-shirts and $10 flashing buttons. Pop diva Cher’s supposed farewell tour was number three on the list with total sales of $73.6 million, and an average ticket price of $71.89. Her maximum was about $80.
The ever-popular pairing of Billy Joel and Elton John grossed $65.5 million. Their average ticket cost $107.88, but fans could shell out up to $175.
The Dave Matthews Band was fifth with $60.1 million. Their average ticket was a relative bargain at just $39.84. The group was also the most popular in terms of number of tickets sold, with more than 1.5 million fans paying to see their 77 shows.
By that measure, Cher was number two with 1.1 million fans at 93 shows, and rock band Creed third with 953,000 fans at 83 shows, but number eight on the grosses list with $39.2 million.
For the first time, a Rolling Stones tour did not top the year-end charts. But the band played only 34 concerts, of which five were small theatre gigs where tickets went for just $68.
They resume their North American tour on Wednesday in Montreal. Other major acts lined up for 2003 include 1970s veterans Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles. There are also unconfirmed reports of a reunion by the three surviving members of English rock group Led Zeppelin, which broke up after the 1980 death of drummer John Bonham.