The hits just keep coming for Garth Brooks, who has now broken his own North American ticket sales record for a single city, moving more than 188,000 tickets sold from 11 shows at the Target Center in Minneapolis between Nov. 6 and 15.
The personal best Brooks just beat was from his Chicago stand last month (Sept.), which opened his first tour in 16 years. At the United Center in Chicago, Brooks sold 183,535 tickets, with an estimated gross of more than $12 million from 13 shows (Sept. 4, 5, 6, 11, 12, 13, 14) at Allstate Arena (where he played two shows in one day four times).
Target Center in Minneapolis seemed a likely candidate for big business from Brooks. Prior to the current tour, Brooks’ record came from the Minneapolis stand on his last tour in 1998, where the artist sold 163,791 tickets and grossed $3.5 million from nine sellouts Oct. 6-14 of that year, according to Billboard Boxscore.
Despite his long absence from the market -- or, perhaps, because of it -- some insiders believe Brooks is a serious threat to overtake U2’s all-time tour attendance record of 7.3 million, and could even make a run at the highest gross mark of $750 million, both achieved on the U2’s record-shattering 360 tour of 2009-’11.
Based on the numbers Brooks is already putting up, recognizing that most of the biggest markets in North America (and the world) are yet to come, the all-time attendance record seems attainable. If Brooks can average 150,000 tickets sold across 100 markets, he would more than double U2s attendance record. And, if he can average $8 million per market (he already did $12 million in Chicago and should top that in Minneapolis) in those same 100 cities, the all-time gross record is also Garth’s going away.
U2, largely regarded as the biggest band in the world, played only stadiums on 360, in a configuration that boosted capacity by as much as 20%. Next in line for attendance is The Rolling Stones’ Voodoo Lounge tour of 1994-'95 at 6.6 million attendance, according to Boxscore. Brooks is third for a three-year run in the late 1990s that did about 5.5 million in attendance, but a move up a rung now seems inevitable if he stays on the road for three years, and many believe he will.
Beyond the sheer demand, the difference maker in Brooks remarkable ticket volume per market is the scheduling of two shows in one day, common for country acts of yore, but nearly unheard of among contemporary stars. “You know how he’s going to get to U2?” rhetorically asks one agent, who wishes to remain anononymous. “Add matinees. If you add in 100 matinee shows that didn’t exist, all of a sudden here’s an extra $100 million on matinees alone.”
Huge markets await a visit from Brooks, including Philadelphia, Washington D.C., New York, Boston, as well as traditional strongholds like Nashville, all of Texas, the West Coast, and the Pacific Northwest. Brooks needs robust population bases to draw more than 100,000 fans, but could conceivably do week-long runs in both Staples Center and the Forum in L.A., and Barclays Center and the Garden in New York. Then, Brooks could head to secondary markets with big buildings after all the majors have been played. This tour has already proven it can add dates in a hurry, and buildings from Fargo to Biloxi are aggressively pitching dates.
But the scope of this tour extends beyond these shores. Sources say there will be both European and Australian legs to the tour next summer, and possibly a run into South America. The ill-fated five Croke Park shows originally meant to start this cycle could have been worth $100 million in total gross, and Brooks will surely make a huge play in Ireland before all is said and done.
“I think this is a calculated, well-thought-out plan about how he would become the biggest touring act of all time,” says another well-known Nashville touring executive, who also asked for anonymity. Brooks is booked in-house, managed by Bob Doyle & Assoc., and his tour is promoted by Ben Farrell, president of Lon Varnell Enterprises, a Nashville-based independent promoter.