Lady Gaga Tour Cancellation: A Look at the Damage

Lady Gaga performs on the 1st night of her Born This Way Ball at the Staples Center on January 21, 2013 in Los Angeles, CA

GoldenEye/London Entertainment/Splash News

When doctor’s orders led to the cancellation of Lady Gaga's “Born This Way Ball” tour yesterday, producers Live Nation Global Touring immediately began the formidable task of shutting down one of the most successful pop tours ever.

The tour ended prematurely due to Lady Gaga's hip injury, which will require surgery and significant time to heal, with the final date taking place this past Monday in Montreal, 13 shows into a North American leg that began Jan. 11 in Vancouver.

In total, 22 shows were cancelled, forcing the refund of roughly 200,000 tickets worth approximately $25 million in gross ticket sales, Billboard estimates.

Through Jan. 17, the “BTWB” tour had grossed $168.2 million and moved 1.6 million tickets to 85 shows, according to Billboard Boxscore, with Asia, Europe, and South American legs already completed in 2012. The North American leg, which was to wrap the tour and was almost completely sold out, would have likely put the tour at more than $200 million gross, easily in the top 20 tours of all time and probably in the top 15. As it stands, Gaga finished sixth among all touring artists in 2012, with a gross of $125 million and attendance of more than 1.1 million, according to Boxscore.

But, when the best-laid plans meet physiology, touring professionals must begin a complicated, multi-faceted decompression process. Buildings are notified, press releases prepared, and the massive production shuts down, with the complex logistics of getting about 130 cast and crew, along with mountains of staging and production gear, all back to their respective homes now well underway.

Live Nation Global Touring chairman Arthur Fogel calls the cancellation “a tremendous disappointment for her, for her fans, for all of the people in the touring party— the crew, the staff, the band, the performers, the dancers— and for my team.”

Remarkably nonplussed in the face of the task at hand for the Live Nation Global Touring team (which is also promoting tours by Rihanna and Beyonce this year, among others), Fogel calls the cancellation a situation where “the entertainment business intersects with the realities of life, and the glamorous perception of what touring is like is replaced by the reality that it’s tough,” he tells Billboard.biz. “It’s tough for anybody, but [for] the more physical performer—and she certainly is one—it’s that much tougher. I feel terrible for her; it’s a difficult situation. But it’s just one of those things that can’t be controlled, and we just deal with what we have to deal with.”

The cancellation of Gaga's tour is not a situation with which Fogel is unfamiliar. A similar unfortunate scenario arose during the record-setting U2 “360” tour in 2010 when Bono’s back surgery forced the postponement of 16 stadium shows, with 1 million tickets worth about $100 million already sold. Ultimately, the dates were rescheduled for the following year, 97% of tickets were held onto by fans, the rest were moved quickly, and 360 went on to become the highest grossing tour in history at more than $736 million, according to Boxscore.

But “360” was a postponement and Gaga's situation is a cancellation. That said, the cancellation is far from a financial disaster. Fogel declined to discuss specifics of “BTWB,” but in a typical situation, as an industry standard, a major tour such as this would be covered by various levels of insurance, including such things as the significant out-of-pocket expenses to shut the tour down, advertising costs, and lost revenues for both performer and promoter.
 
In the end, it looks like North American Little Monsters who have waited almost a year to see this show will have to wait for her next tour. A new Gaga album is expected sometime this year, and perhaps a new album project will afford Gaga the opportunity to align a album and tour -- and their respective marketing juice -- at a more synergistic level than she has in the past.  

Fogel takes a philosophical view that is essentially optimistic. “It’s not really for me to say,” he says regarding Gaga’s next move, “but for anybody, you would have to assess what it all means, the time necessary for [the artist] to get back to 100%, and then address what comes next.”

Meanwhile, at least one building is making an effort to help the Little Monsters get their Gaga fix. For those who were looking forward to seeing Gaga perform at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia at two sold out shows next week, XFinity Live! Philadelphia, the dining and entertainment district located next to the Wells Fargo Center, will host a free screening of a pre-recorded Lady Gaga full-concert performance on a 32-foot, high-definition screen on February 19. Admission is free and open to the public.