Ongoing chatter that the Madonna tour, and by extension her multi-rights deal with Live Nation, are underperforming is "baseless," according to sales figures provided by tour producer Arthur Fogel, chairman of Live Nation Global Touring.
The precipitous drop of MDNA in its second week, while certainly not something an artist would want (though the nature of the beast when pricing strategies are geared toward impressive first-week sales), actually has little to do with the performance of Live Nation's 10-year, $120 million multi-rights deal with Madonna. The days of tours supporting records are long gone; for some time now, touring drives record sales, not the reverse, and the Madonna touring business is more than solid.
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As for the multi-rights deal, while MDNA is the first album under the 360, the upcoming trek is not the first tour. That would be "Sticky and Sweet" of 2008-2009, which grossed $408 million, according to Billboard Boxscore, the third-highest gross all-time and the highest ever notched by a solo artist. Merchandising is also a component of this tour and in Madonna's case is a significant revenue producer. Finally, given that the entire 360 deal is, at its core, performance-based and assuredly tour-driven in its concept, Madonna is delivering.
According to Fogel -- the guy who would know -- these are the facts: 76 Madonna shows at arenas and stadiums are on sale in North America and Europe combined. More than 1.4 million tickets have been sold, banking about $214 million for an average in the $2.7 million per show in a mix of stadiums and arenas. And the tour doesn't even begin until May 29 in Tel Aviv, first hitting America in Philadelphia Aug. 28.
Fogel's not sure what to make of the detractors. "This tour is completely on track to end up in the top 10 tours of all time, especially considering we haven't put South America or Australia on sale," he tells Billboard.biz. "To say this tour is not performing is so off base I don't even know what to say. When this tour is said and done, combined with 'Sticky and Sweet,' you're talking $750 million in gross ticket sales. That sounds pretty impressive to me."
If tickets are still available for certain shows, that by no means spells disaster. "One of the things some people don't get is, I don't necessarily want to be sold out at this point; I keep trying to find tickets to sell," says Fogel. "Every day our people are trying to fine-tune the site lines and production kills. That's my job. It's great when you can say 'sold out,' but right now I want to keep finding tickets to sell. That's the game."
European dates, which are mostly in stadiums, have come under particular scrutiny. Fogel says the $214 million gross banked so far is spread "pretty evenly" between North America and Europe, and there are 43 shows on sale in North America versus 33 in Europe. "You can do the math," Fogel says, reeling off sales figures. "46,000 in Istanbul, 44,000 in Milan, 39,000 in Florence. We sold out two arenas in Barcelona, two in Berlin, two in Amsterdam, we sold 42,000 in Edinburgh, 40,000 in Helsinki, 51,000 in Paris. If that's trouble, give me more."
Fogel concedes Europe didn't blow up the way North America did, but cites buying patterns for stadium general admission tickets in Europe, and the huge promotional boost of the Super Bowl performance in America as key factors in that disparity.
"She's at the top of her game and she ain't goin' away," he concludes.