Talk of a Rolling Stones tour this year has heated up in the wake of details from former Live Nation Chairman Michael Cohl's lawsuit against the company hitting the Internet. But Billboard sticks by its assertion that if the Stones were to tour it would probably not be until next year, or late this year at the earliest -- the Stones themselves basically squelched chatter about the tour via a statement issued today, without ruling it out completely.
"In light of recent reports surrounding the 'Breach of Contract' Court Case in America between Live Nation Entertainment and former Live Nation chairman Michael Cohl, The Rolling Stones wish to clarify their position regarding representation and touring," the statement reads. "Following the end of the 2007 'A Bigger Bang' world tour, The Rolling Stones became free from any contractual arrangements or agreements with Michael Cohl. He is neither their representative nor their tour promoter. Also the Stones confirmed today they have no firm plans to tour at this time.
"The Rolling Stones have recently secured a worldwide merchandizing agreement with Bravado Inc. and in 2008 signed a new global record deal with Universal Music," it adds.
Any squabbles between Cohl and Live Nation as to who would produce such a tour may be moot, as ultimately it's the Stones' call as to who steers the ship -- if the tour sails at all. Cohl led the band to unprecedented tour grosses with his dice-rolling financing, creative deals and market-value ticket prices, beginning with the "Steel Wheels" trek in 1989. But all of Cohl's tour deals with the Rolling Stones, which have grossed some $2 billion in ticket sales alone since 1989, were cut on a tour-by-tour basis, even if they included multiple rights such as DVDs and merchandising that extended beyond those tours' conclusion. Cohl became the Stones' guy because he and his team got the job done on all levels.
And even if the contract surrounding Cohl's exit with Live Nation apparently gave him the right to bid on a Stones tour, it certainly does not obligate the Stones to work with him.
Cohl worked with Live Nation promoters in various markets on some of his tours with the Stones, but before Live Nation existed he was able to secure financing from a variety of sources that bankrolled the massive startup costs a Stones tour requires. So he could likely get the job done without Live Nation, and indeed Live Nation could get the job done without Cohl and perhaps emerge as the favorite. Live Nation has an ace in the hole in dealing with the Stones, as LN Global Touring Chairman Arthur Fogel was a key executive under Cohl at the latter's former companies CPI and TNA before they became part of Live Nation.
Fogel has in fact become the leading mega-tour producer in the world, having steered with his Toronto-based team four of the five highest-grossing tours of all time, including U2's ongoing "360" tour. That tour will surpass 'A Bigger Bang' tour in April to become the highest-grossing tour in history, according to Billboard Boxscore. By the time "360" wraps July 30 at the Magnetic Hill Music Festival in Moncton, New Brunswick, the gross will be a staggering $700 million.
Those types of numbers surely will catch the eyes of the Stones' Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, who, by the way, tend to at least take a stab at new material before launching a tour, and sources say no band meeting has been called as of yet.
The list of promoters that could take on a tour of this magnitude is a short one, but longer than it was even a few years ago. Sources say Cohl, Live Nation, Paul Dainty, and AEG Live would be in the running for the next Stones tour, but it seems all these names surface in hopes that the band will tour, not because the band is soliciting bids. Fogel has his recent track record and strong history with the Stones, and though today's statement does not bode well, Cohl should never be counted out.
Even if Cohl is completely immersed in the beast that is "Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark," he tells Billboard that if the Stones came calling, "I always have time for the Rolling Stones."