Who are the touring superstars of tomorrow? One look at Billboard's list of Top 25 Tours of 2008 and it's easy to understand how someone could think we've been transported back to 1985. Topping the list is Bon Jovi, whose 99 shows were all sell outs, resulting in a staggering gross of more than $210 million. Bruce Springsteen is No. 2. Also in the Top 10 are Madonna, the Police, Neil Diamond and the Eagles. Paging the Way Back Machine...
One on hand, it's really gratifying that these acts, many of whom are simply unparalleled when it comes to putting on a great show (don't get me started on the five Springsteen shows I saw on the "Magic" tour) are still able to draw literally millions to come see them.
On the other hand-- and this is the one that concerns us most--there are very few new acts coming up through the ranks that can challenge the hegemony of these veterans, and of the ones that can, it is inconceivable that they'll still be topping charts 20 or more years from now.
Rascal Flatts are the only act in the Top 10 that released its debut album in the new millenium and they're already eight years old. Other relative "newcomers" in the Top 25 are Michael Buble at No. 13, Miley Cyrus at No. 14 and the Jonas Brothers at No. 16. Call us crazy, but it just seems downright wrong that the "American Idols Live" tour, the most prefabricated of all outings, came in at No. 24.
Now some of this is pure dollars and cents. Acts like Madonna charged more than $300 for their top ticket, whereas developing acts clearly can't demand that kind of coin (It's another conversation as to whether it's okay for an act to charge those prices just because they "can").
Acts like Coldplay had great years and great tours, but were locked out of the top 25 because their tour didn't hit any stadiums (that's where the big dollars really come in-- charge $100/ticket and draw 70,000 folks in one night--KA-CHING!).
This is a problem that has plagued the industry for years and is especially noticable in the summer when the amphitheaters fill their schedules with recession-proof veterans like James Taylor and Jimmy Buffett.
We don't expect anything to change anytime soon. As people tighten their purses, they're going to want more bang for their buck and that means going to a show where they are going to hear hit after hit after hit-- from some classic act that they've grown up with-instead of from some new act that has only a few hits to its name. There's a reason why Journey (fronted by a new singer who sang on NONE of the band's classic hits) came in at No. 20 on the Top 25: they're selling nostalgia and business is good.