“You haven’t won yet,” he joked, later telling the audience, “That is the closest you guys are going to get to a Jack Palance doing pushups moment.”
Presented by Billboard, the Touring Awards honors the industry’s top achievers in categories including Top Festival, Top Arena, Top Manager, and Top Comedy Tour. The winners are based on Billboard’s Boxscore chart data, which tracks gate receipts for concerts, comedy shows, and other live events.
Bob Seger, who has sold over 52 million albums and earned 13 platinum and seven multi-platinum RIAA-certified sales awards, was named the 2015 Legend of Live for his significant impact on the touring industry. Seger was clearly touched when he received the award, and used it as an opportunity to thank promoters and others that he said he otherwise never gets the chance to acknowledge.
“This is a wonderful chance to say thank you to people,” Seger tells Billboard of receiving the award. “Some of them are gone, like Bill Graham and Cecil Corbett, and all of these live things that I have been through... I really enjoyed it.”
Other honorees included Hugh Evans, CEO of the Global Poverty Project and co-founder of the Global Citizen Festival, who received the Humanitarian Award for his efforts to end extreme poverty, and Barbara Hubbard, who received the Golden Circle Award. Both received standing ovations.
Other winners included Coachella Music & Arts Festival for Top Festival; Imagine Dragons/Southwest Airlines for the Concert Marketing & Promotion Award, which highlights the year’s best tour/brand collaboration, and The Grateful Dead, who won for Top Boxscore for their Fare Thee Well dates at Chicago’s Soldiers Field July 3-5.
Accepting on behalf of The Grateful Dead, co-producer Peter Shapiro had a laugh with Holstein, who introduced the win by singing a few lines of the Dead classic, “Casey Jones.”
“What lyrics come next?” Shapiro cracked before telling a funny story of how when he was filming a documentary about the band and its fans, he never got access to the group for interviews. The solution, he said, was to “put on the show myself.”
Chesney won in the category for Top Package for his Big Revival Tour, his highest-grossing tour ever with $114 million. The shows featured Jake Owen, Chase Rice, Jason Aldean and Eric Church.
“2015 was an unbelievable summer full of fun, passion, love for the music and an unbelievable connection with our fans,” Chesney said in a recorded acceptance. “It was an amazing year. Looking forward to 2016, and hope I win another one!”
Sheeran appeared via pre-recorded video to accept his award for Breakthrough Artist in a competitive category that included 5 Seconds of Summer and Eric Church.
“Thank you so much for this award,” he said. “This is my first live award in America, which is a great honor.”
Kevin Hart, who won for Top Comedy Tour for his What Now? tour, accepted the award with a nod to his fans in a pre-recorded video.
“Wow! Thank you Billboard! This is amazing. You know what? I don’t get this award by myself, I got to give a major shout out to my fans, because I don’t get the highest grossing comedy tour of the year without the support I’ve gotten from you guys,” he said. “This is one I will remember for a long time. This is a special day for me.”
2015 Billboard Touring Conference & Awards winners:
Top Tour: One Direction, On the Road Again Tour
Top Draw: One Direction
Top Package: Kenny Chesney, the Big Revival Tour
Breakthrough: Ed Sheeran
Top Comedy Tour: Kevin Hart
Top Boxscore: Grateful Dead, Fare Thee Well at Soldier Field, July 3-5
Top Festival: Coachella Music & Arts Festival, Indio, Calif.
Top Arena: The 02 Arena, London
Top Venue – Under 10,000 seats: Radio City Music Hall, New York
Top Venue – Under 5,000 seats: The Colosseum at Caesars Palace, Las Vegas
Top Club (ranked by attendance): House of Blues, Boston
Top Amphitheater: The Gorge, George, Wash.
Top Manager: Modest! Management
Top Agency: Creative Artists Agency
Top Promoter: Live Nation Entertainment
Top Independent Promoter (U.S.): Another Planet Entertainment, San Francisco
Top Independent Promoter (International): Frontier Touring
Concert Marketing & Promotion Award: Imagine Dragons/Southwest Airlines
Humanitarian Award: Hugh Evans
Golden Circle Award: Barbara Hubbard
Legend of Live Award: Bob Seger