Bon Jovi: Billboard's Top Touring Act of the Year

"Next time" isn't here yet, as "this time" continues. Bon Jovi is still selling thousands of tickets around the globe as the Circle tour morphs into a trek in support of the "Greatest Hits" album. Bon Jovi will be touring through July 31, 2011, with the same innovative production and basically the same tour. The band still has Japan, New Zealand, Australia, a return to North America, possibly South Africa, another European stadium run and the Middle East to add to its total, which should be plenty to rank the current tour among the all-time top 10.

The band's arena production boasts 10 LED screens, and the tour unveiled Roboscreen technology: five custom-made, digitally programmed robotic arms that each hold a high-definition video screen. The robots are programmed to move in accordance with the show and even flip over to become giant stairs that Jon Bon Jovi uses to dramatic effect. For the stadium shows, the production includes a massive stage set with an 800,000-watt sound system and a 4,300-square-foot, high-def video screen, touted as the largest of its kind.

Of course, touring with such production isn't cheap. "Any and all revenue, ancillary or otherwise, is important," Korzilius says. "The cost of touring at the level of Bon Jovi has not gone down."

Beyond basic ticket sales, sponsors like American Express, merchandise sales, premium and VIP ticketing all contribute to the pot. "A sponsor is always welcome, but they are harder to locate in this climate," Korzilius says. "Selling merchandise that looks great and is of good quality is how you maintain that business, and the people at Brothers Merchandising always deliver on design and quality."

Korzilius says VIP ticketing programs are another way of "superserving" fans. "Our [VIP] customer surveys are very positive, and 89% say they would purchase again," he says, pointing out that various price points are important. "Team Bon Jovi is always inventive and always open-minded [regarding ticket price scaling], and it is not just the high end. We have an arena house with five to seven price points so that everyone can enjoy the show."

(A portion of the sale of VIP packages for North American dates in 2011 will be donated to the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation, which fights poverty and homelessness.)

Production bells and whistles, marketing, promotion and digital outreach mean little if the band doesn't deliver the goods onstage. Jon Bon Jovi is constantly aware of that. So even as the tour grinds on, the singer and band never let the rigors of the road show.

"I may sound a little raspy today, but I was there right to the deadline, two-and-a-half [hours] last night, two-and-a-half the night before," he says, adding, "and there ain't no drum solos."

HAVING A NICE DECADE

The Circle/Greatest Hits tour caps a remarkably successful decade for the group and a rare elevation in a lengthy career arc. "I always envisioned the arc, but it only went to 2000," Bon Jovi says. "At that point, when I began and looked that far, I figured I'd be 38, maybe I'd have a family, perhaps I'd still have a career, but I didn't know at this kind of a scale, because nobody I knew had a career with this kind of a scale."

Bon Jovi understands that these things don't just happen. "You can show up, but that doesn't mean the people are going to go, and that doesn't mean they're going to come the next time and the next time," he says. "When you think about it objectively, we've had five albums in this decade, we've toured every one, and people came back every time. It says something for the band and the production and the performance that people feel they're getting their money's worth, especially in this economic downturn. People really don't have that disposable income, so they make choices and this is one of them. This is a luxury for them, and we don't take that for granted."

Even with this decade of success, Phillips isn't sure the band gets its due from the music industry. "People always underestimate this band, the power of their fan base and how great their live show is, how charismatic Jon is as a frontman," he says. "They have these big hits and a rabid fan base, and they still make contemporary records. They haven't stopped getting airplay or selling records. Yet people take them for granted in the industry."

Asked if he feels that's the case, Bon Jovi replies, "It would be pretty hard not to" respect this band, industry-wise. "History speaks for itself," he says. "Numbers don't lie."

And more tour dates await, so at the moment, Jon Bon Jovi isn't ready to assess this tour. "The year's not over yet. I need to make it to July 31 and then look back," he says. "If it were over right now, I'd look back on the Circle run and happily say, 'Wow, it was a good year. I was unbelievably healthy, we did great business, we got along.' But it's not over. It's just the beginning of the third quarter, we've just taken the field. So I won't look back until we get to the end zone."