"By the way, which one's Pink?" inquires the label executive caricature on the Pink Floyd album cut "Have a Cigar" from the 1975 album "Wish You Were Here." The band did very little to promote individual members on its '70s albums. Only the most devout fans knew that, of Nick Mason, Rick Wright, David Gilmour and Roger Waters, bassist Waters was the lyrical genius and driving creative force behind the band's most successful albums, "The Dark Side of the Moon," "Animals" and "The Wall."
The anonymity of individual members served the Floyd brand well after Waters left in the early '80s. Following a legal struggle over the use of the name (Waters wanted it retired), Pink Floyd embarked on mega-tours under the leadership of guitarist Gilmour, performing songs mostly conceived and written by Waters, while Waters himself was relegated to weak-selling solo albums and smaller venues.
Longtime Waters booking agent/tour director Andrew Zweck of Sensible Events (a Live Nation company) says that in the late '80s, when Waters was touring for his "Radio K.A.O.S." album and Pink Floyd was touring for "A Momentary Lapse of Reason," the latter was selling 50,000 tickets per night in stadiums and Waters was struggling to sell 5,000 at cut-down arenas.
"It was character-forming for him when the fans followed the brand name," Zweck says. "But when he came back live again in 1999, he delivered the show, invested in his production, and he stood his audience up."
That's all coming to fruition now, and it hasn't hurt that it has been 18 years since the Gilmour-led Floyd has toured. "There's a thirst in the market, and Roger is fulfilling it," Zweck says. "Roger is getting the acknowledgement and recognition that he was the main writer, and he's out there cleaning up now."
His tour of "The Dark Side of the Moon" grossed more than $70 million and sold 836,238 tickets in 2006-08, and The Wall Live, promoted in North America and other territories by Live Nation (though not exclusively), is destined to go down as one of the most successful tours in history as it edges toward the $350 million mark and tops 3 million in attendance, according to Billboard Boxscore.
Fans know they're getting a Floyd-level tour in The Wall Live, from the man who built it. That's one major reason why this tour performed very well when the touring industry at large took a hit in 2010, and The Wall Live has gained momentum around the world as dates have been added. Zweck points out that the first North American tour in October-December 2010 played 56 shows and sold 686,788 tickets for a gross of $89.3 million. Less than 18 months later, a second North American run of only 40 shows has already sold more than 675,000 tickets for a gross exceeding $77 million, with many dates left on the docket.
As is nearly always the case with the most successful tours, positive word-of-mouth is adding to the momentum.
"Ticketmaster tells me there is only approximately 15% of repeat purchasers, so this means that in North America we've found over 575,000 new customers who didn't see the show 18 months ago," Zweck says. "We also doubled our business on our return to Mexico. In December 2010, we sold 45,000 tickets, and then 16 months later, in April 2012, we sold 90,000."
The Wall Live tapped into an über-hot Latin American concert market, having played 15 stadium shows in the territory to more than 750,000 people. The nine sellouts at River Plate Stadium in Buenos Aires is the fifth-highest Boxscore of all time at nearly $38 million, with attendance of 430,678, according to Boxscore. That makes the Buenos Aires run the most successful stand to date this year by a single artist (topped only by the two weekends of Coachella at $47 million). When The Wall Live wraps at Quebec City's Plains of Abraham on July 21, it will most likely end up as the fifth-highest moneymaker ever. And that's under Waters' name, not Pink Floyd's.-RW