The Year In Touring
The Year In Touring

U2

Surprising no one, the final leg of U2's record-shattering 360 tour was enough to make U2 the top touring act of 2011, with $293.3 million in box office and nearly 3 million in ticket sales generated in the time frame of Nov. 1, 2010-Nov. 8, 2011, according to Billboard Boxscore.

The final 360 tally is $736,421,586 with attendance of more than 7 million, according to Boxscore, both all-time touring industry records. The tour wrapped July 30 in Moncton, New Brunswick, with 110 stadium sellouts.

The significance of the tour is finally sinking in for Live Nation Global Touring chairman Arthur Fogel, worldwide producer of the epic trek. "As time moves on and we get further away from it, it actually seems more impressive than when you're actually in the middle of it," says Fogel. "When you can capture the attention and imagination and enjoyment of 7 million people, that's what this business is all about."

Second among all touring acts for the year is Bon Jovi, who reported more than $193 million in box office from their The Circle world tour. The total for that tour, including 2010 numbers, is $265 million, making it the biggest tour in the band's career.

The list of the top tours of 2011 is made up of a healthy mix of genres and generations. Most of the names on the list are familiar on a worldwide basis, but one group-reunited British pop sensations Take That-surprised many observers by ringing up box office to the tune of $185 million, with attendance of 1.8 million. Those numbers were primarily driven by shows in the group's home base in the U.K. and across Europe, among them was a new all-time Boxscore record. Take That's July stand at Wembley Stadium in London grossed $61.7 million, topping Bruce Springsteen's previous record from 10 sellouts at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., of $38.7 million in 2003.

Other tours in the top 10 are Roger Waters' ongoing presentation of The Wall ($150 million), Taylor Swift ($97.3 million), Kenny Chesney ($84.6 million), Usher $75 million), Lady GaGa ($72 million), Andre Rieu ($67 million), and Sade ($50 million).

Overall, 2011 was a rebound year for the touring industry, which experienced double digit declines in gross and attendance in 2010. a year where 20% fewer shows were reported worldwide still managed to notch an increase of 15% in gross ticket sales and 1.2% in attendance. Though not back up to the record $4.4 billion worldwide reported in 2009, at $4 billion, business is getting within sniffing distance of those levels.

In North America, 22% fewer shows reported still generated a 7% increase in total gross and only a 3% decrease in attendance. IT's fair to say that the decline in shows reported to Boxscore reflects a decline in reporting following last year's meltdown, but touring traffic likely decreased somewhat due to extensive packaging this year and more caution overall in mounting tours. When analyzed by the more telling barometer of per-show averages, the numbers look even better. Worldwide, the average gross per show was up a whopping 45%, and the average attendance was up 27.3%, reflecting both the growth in international touring markets the global nature of megatours by the likes of U2, Bon Jovi, Waters, and others. In North America, the per-show breakdown is also very positive. Average gross per show is up 36.7%, and average attendance is up 24.2%, according to Boxscore. Part of this is surely due to the most successful tours being more likely to be reported to Boxscore, but the general consensus across the industry is that 2011 was a healthy year for touring, with large North American festivals being particularly robust.

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