(Photo: Getty Images for Coachella)
Though The Wall came out in 1980, there was very little touring by Pink Floyd in support of the project. "It is very rare to have had one of the biggest and most important albums of all time never to have been played in the marketplace. There was pent-up demand like no tomorrow -- it was stratospheric," WME head of music Marc Geiger says, adding that presenting "The Wall Live" in arenas first and then adding stadiums to the mix proved to be a savvy move in staging the hugely expensive, elaborate production.
Had he lived and resurrected his touring career as was hoped, Michael Jackson might well have been among the top 25 tours this year. Ironically, he is, in a way, as his songs, persona and ongoing popularity provided the fuel for the fourth-highest-grossing tour of the year, "Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour" by Cirque du Soleil, which garnered $147.3 million in box office and 1.4 million tickets sold to 183 shows for the period.
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The tour taps into the global appeal of both Jackson and Cirque du Soleil, and received the Creative Content Award at the Billboard Touring Awards in November. "'Immortal's extraordinary success is proof of the enduring popularity of Michael's music," said John Branca, who put together the production with Cirque du Soleil and serves with John McClain as both executive producer and co-executor of Jackson's estate, in acknowledging the award. "The creative team was guided by Michael's genius, indomitable spirit and his ability to inspire everyone throughout."
Finishing slightly behind the Jackson show in total gross for the year, and second only to Springsteen in attendance, was Coldplay's world tour in support of 2011's Mylo Xyloto. After strategically teeing up the release of the hugely anticipated album with select festival appearances in 2011, Coldplay hit the global touring trail in earnest this year, putting up its best numbers to date in what has become an elite headlining career. For the period, the band reported grosses totaling $147.2 million with 1.8 million in attendance to 67 shows.
Coldplay manager Dave Holmes was still setting up the tour when interviewed by Billboard in 2011 around Mylo Xyloto's release, but the band's conservative posture about ticket prices indeed came to bear, which played a role in Coldplay's attendance ranking several notches higher than its gross.
"We could easily go with a $125 ticket, and I don't think our fans would be too offended by it," Holmes said at the time. "But there's something that happens when you go into that place -- you become one of 'those acts.' And I won't. It's not about the money. It's about, 'We want to be around in 20 years and still doing this.'" The ticket range in North America was $30-$100 in most markets.
Lady Gaga has yet to play to North American fans on her "Born This Way Ball" tour, but international audiences drove Gaga's gross to $124.9 million, with 1.1 million in attendance to 65 shows. The run is produced by Live Nation Global Touring, and Gaga is managed by Troy Carter and booked by WME's Geiger.
"The strategy on this run was to use this album cycle to go into marketplaces she left untapped in the first cycle, [knowing] she was a huge cultural force in those places," Geiger says. "We really tried, as part of this plan, to 'crop rotate,' and it has worked, because you have to lay down roots if you're going to be a global superstar everywhere."
Gaga added stadiums to the mix internationally, but will play primarily arenas in North America next year, which could be considered an underplay. "We look at it as, 'We have a real artist here' -- we always did -- and this is just part of artist development," Geiger says of the strategy. "Her measurement of success is, I believe, to be a brilliant, interesting artist for 25-30 years, or longer. The Stones and Madonna have shown you can do this for a long time and do it well, and we're still in the early stages [with Gaga].
"You have to manage every step carefully," he adds. "You've got to look at it like school: There's no grade you'd throw away for your child."