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This was another solid year for country music touring, as the genre continues to be among the leading genres for both developing and sustaining talent. Representing the latter is the top country tour of the year: "Brothers of the Sun," featuring Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw, Grace Potter & the Nocturnals and Jake Owen. "BOTS" played only stadiums, with just 23 shows generating a Boxscore gross of $96.5 million and attendance of more than 1 million -- Chesney's ninth consecutive tour to top that attendance mark. Chesney and McGraw played more stadium dates in North America than any other tour this year.
The shared history of Chesney and McGraw, the synergistic star power and the value for fans made "BOTS" "a promoter's dream," says Louis Messina, president of tour producer TMG/AEG Live. "All the artists had their game faces on every night. The response from the audience was phenomenal. And we sold a shit-load of tickets."
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Several other country acts graced the top 25, including the newest member of the country stadium club, Jason Aldean, booked by Buddy Lee Attractions and managed by Spalding Entertainment ($40 million, 984,229 attendance); Lady Antebellum, booked by CAA and managed by Borman Entertainment ($38.4 million, 860,065), winner of the Breakthrough Award at the Billboard Touring Awards; and WME clients Brad Paisley, managed by Fitzgerald-Hartley ($34 million, 734,784), and Rascal Flatts, managed by Spalding ($26 million, 612,243). The tail end of Taylor Swift's "Fearless" tour was enough to break the top 25 ($26.3 million; 285,715, from 21 sellouts) as she plots another tour in support of the new Red.
"Country is, in a lot of ways, the new rock," Geiger says. "The growth is overindexing, the market is overindexing, and there are a lot of reasons for it. It's penetration of mainstream television, mainstream managers, international markets, different acceptance. These guys are rock stars."
Country's popularity notwithstanding, the real rock stars made plenty of noise in 2012, with a wide range of styles from artists of varying longevity taking their place among the top 25. While it came to a close on a somewhat sour note by ending prematurely, Van Halen's tour in support of the band's new album with singer David Lee Roth did serious business in 2012, grossing $54.4 million with attendance of 522,296 to just 46 shows.
And touring powerhouse Dave Matthews Band, booked by Paradigm Talent and managed by Coran Capshaw at Red Light Management, drew 757,629 to just 41 shows that grossed $41.4 million, and that's before a winter run of arena dates were added to the mix.
Other rock acts that showed admirable consistency were Nickelback, booked by the Agency Group ($34 million, 492,492), and Red Hot Chili Peppers ($34 million, 549,028), booked by WME.
"We talk about the Peppers . . . as hitting almost that lane where people used to refer to the Who or other classic rock artists that become real, permanent fixtures," Geiger says. The Peppers' success is "very gratifying to see," he adds. "God knows they've worked hard enough and long enough."
Rock also continues to make a statement in the holiday season, as Trans-Siberian Orchestra always makes the current year's list for work done the previous year due to Boxscore time parameters. That said, TSO, booked by WME, had another sterling year with $33.4 million in gross and 673,575 in attendance from 99 shows performed by the act's combined units, and Geiger says this year's numbers are outpacing 2011.
TSO's enduring popularity "defies all logic -- for people who haven't seen the show," Geiger says, calling TSO one of the "best-managed" tours with which he's ever worked. "They're incredibly smart about their project. They look after fans first, they manage price -- everything is about the long term with them, and it shows."
Billboard's 2012 Legend of Live honoree Neil Diamond lived up to that status with yet another strong touring year in 2012, with $30 million in gross and 317,824 in attendance to 30 shows reported to Boxscore. Elton John and Rod Stewart each topped $30 million in gross and 200,000 in attendance with less than 40 shows each, and Barbra Streisand's 12 sellouts grossed $40.6 million with 154,287 tickets sold.
Pop and urban music weren't shut out of the top 25 in 2012. The ambitious, creative "Watch the Throne" tour featuring Jay-Z and Kanye West grossed $47 million with attendance of 371,777 to 31 shows, booked by Cara Lewis in her first year as a CAA agent. Fellow CAA act Justin Bieber was just hitting his stride on his second arena headlining tour, with the first 29 shows taking in $30.6 million and moving 402,710 tickets in a tour produced by AEG Live.