Summer's Hottest Tours -- From Beyonce to Adele and Beyond

Clockwise from top: Adele, Zac Brown and Beyoncé are among the summer’s top headliners.

Clockwise from top: Adele, Zac Brown and Beyoncé are among the summer’s top headliners.

From A(dele) To Z(ac Brown) In theaters, arenas and stadiums, top superstars are driving a $1 billion season for live music.

In just 15 weeks of the summer, between Memorial Day and Labor Day, the live music business in North America earns almost half of its gross ticket revenue for the entire year.

Summer concerts in 2015 accounted for $1.2 billion in sales of tickets, which were snapped up by 16.2 million fans, according to reports to Billboard Boxscore from promoters, venues, booking agents and artists managers.

That’s 44 percent of the $2.7 billion gross in North American ticket sales for the past chart year (the 12 months ending Nov. 9, 2015), with 37.9 million fans flocking to shows during that period.

This summer promises to match 2015 with multi-artist events contributing to the summer tallies. The Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival, taking place Aug. 5-7 in San Francisco, ranked highest among the 2015 summer festivals, grossing $24.3 million.

Beyonce Pays Tribute to Prince, Dedicates 'Halo' to Jay Z as 'Formation World Tour' Kicks Off in Miami

But tours headlined by individual artists, especially stadium concerts, are the season’s real moneymakers/ In 2015, stadium dates by The Grateful Dead, Taylor Swift and Kenny Chesney ranked among the most lucrative bookings.

This year brings the excitement of stadium tours across genres -- in pop (Beyonce), rock (Coldplay) and country (Chesney, once again) -- to dominate the summer season and make turnstiles spin.

ADELE
Label: XL/Columbia
Promoters: Live Nation, AEG Live (for most U.S. Dates)
Agencies: International Talent Booking (Europe), William Morris Endeavor (North America)

Never before has an artist toured after selling 3.4 million albums in one week -- the tally for Adele’s record-setting debut of 25, sales of which now total 8.6 million, according to Nielsen Music. Her European tour, which opened Feb. 29 in Belfast, Northern Ireland, has brought viral moments -- selfies with a lookalike fan in Birmingham, England, and tongue-in-cheek twerking at London’s 02 Arena. “She has never sounded better vocally, and her personality is as large a force as ever,” says Kirk Sommer, partner and co-head of music at William Morris Endeavor, which booked the North American tour, opening July 5 in St. Paul, Minn.

 

BEYONCÉ
Label: Parkwood/Columbia
Promoter: Live Nation
Agency: Creative Artists Agency

Some 111.9 million viewers watched Super Bowl 50 on Feb. 7, according to Nielsen, with its halftime show featuring Coldplay, Bruno Mars and the electrifying Beyonce. So it was no surprise that when tickets for Bey’s North American tour went on sale in late February, almost every date sold out -- despite the superstar is playing only stadium shows. “It’s a great accomplishment,” says Arthur Fogel, president of Live Nation Global Touring and chairman of Live Nation Global Music, of the singer’s solid sweep of stadium shows, supporting new album Lemonade. Following North America, Beyonce then will play Europe through late July.

 

JUSTIN BIEBER
Label:Schoolboy/Raymond Braun/Def Jam
Promoter: AEG Live
Agency: CAA

Compared to the shows that Justin Bieber played to ­promote 2012's Believe album, his fan base for his current Purpose World Tour "has grown ­dramatically," says Rob Light, CAA ­partner, ­managing director and head of music. "On the last tour, you could argue that 90 ­percent of the ­audience was teenage girls. Now it's an ­unbelievable mix: teenagers, girls in their 20s, women in their 30s, men; it's a true cross-section rock ­audience." Stage effects -- a rising ­transparent cage, a ­trampoline, indoor rain -- are highlights of the North America arena run, which will wrap July 18 and 19 at New York's Madison Square Garden.

 

COLDPLAY
Label: Parlophone/Atlantic/AG
Promoters: SJM Concerts (United kingdom), Live Nation (rest of the world)
Agencies: Paradigm Talent Agency (United states), X-Ray Touring (rest of the world)

For the first time in its two-decade career, Coldplay will perform mostly in stadiums in North America. "On this tour, I knew we were ready to do stadiums in America," says manager Dave Holmes. "To be honest, we were ready on the last tour, but I have to be 100 percent we can sell every last ticket in every building we play. This band doesn't like to see empty seats." After sweeping across Europe, Coldplay's A Head Full of Dreams Tour opens its North American leg July 16 and 17 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., just outside New York.

 

SELENA GOMEZ
Label: Interscope/IGA
Promoters: Live Nation, AEG Live, Beaver Productions, C3 Presents
Agency: WME

For Selena Gomez's North American tour, ­opening May 6 in Las Vegas, "an entirely new creative team is onboard, including Baz Halpin, who is one of the top tour ­directors, lighting designers and set ­designers in the ­business," says WME partner John Marx, the ­singer's agent for tours. Halpin is ­president/CEO of Silent House Productions, whose credits include recent tours by Taylor Swift and Pink and Katy Perry's Super Bowl halftime show in 2015. With ­bigger production, Gomez is going for the ­largest live ­audience of her career, playing at least 79 shows in 27 countries, says Marx.

 

MUDCRUTCH
Label: Reprise/Warner Bros.
Promoters: VARIOUS
Agency: WME

When Mudcrutch plays Denver on May 26, the show will open the first national tour for the band -- which formed 46 years ago. Tom Petty co-founded Mudcrutch in his ­hometown of Gainesville, Fla., in 1970 before finding fame with The Heartbreakers (whose guitarist Mike Campbell and keyboardist Benmont Tench play in both groups). In ­addition to Live Nation and AEG Live, Mudcrutch ­notably has chosen to work on this tour with an array of ­independent ­promoters, including Jay TV, PromoWet, I.M.P., Webster Hall Entertainment, The Bowery Presents, Another Planet Entertainment and Noise Group/Goldenvoice. Although Mudcrutch played a few shows in California in 2008 after ­releasing a self-titled album, this summer marks the first chance for fans across America to hear the ­one-time house band at Dubs Lounge, a roadhouse bar in Gainesville.

 

ZAC BROWN BAND
Label: John Varvatos/Southern Ground/Big Machine Label Group/Republic
Promoters: Live Nation, AEG Live
Agency: CAA

"Even though we're often considered a ­country band, it's the greatest rock'n'roll show on the planet," says Zac Brown Band co-manager Will Ward of the group's performances. This summer's tour, ­opening May 19 in Hartford, Conn., is a mix of festivals, amphitheaters -- and a few stadiums. ZBB will headline New York's Citifield on Aug. 19 and Boston's Fenway Park on Aug. 20 and 21. Meanwhile, Brown continues to develop Camp Southern Ground, a summer camp in Georgia for emotionally and neurologically disadvantaged children. "Zac will be giving a dollar per ticket this summer to help build the camp," says Ward.

 

HALSEY
Label: Astralwerks
Promoters: Live Nation, AEG Live (for most U.S. dates)
Agency: Paradigm Talent Agency/AM Only

After previewing her summer show ­during the first weekend of the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival in Indio, Calif., Halsey will open her ­headlining tour on July 6 in Orlando and builds to a prestigious close on Aug. 13 at New York's Madison Square Garden -- a date already sold out. "This is the third leg of touring off her Badlands album," says AM Only agent Matt Meyer of the singer's 2015 release, which reached No. 2 on the Billboard 200. "Halsey's investing a ton of money into the tour and ­debuting a whole new stage show, with tons of hidden ­surprises in lighting and fire and everything."

 

KENNY CHESNEY
Label: Blue Chair/Columbia Nashville
Promoter: Messina Touring Group/AEG Live
Agency: Morris Higham Management

The country superstar has a message for fans who live in towns bypassed by his recent tours: He's coming for you this time. "I'm trying to play some of the places I haven't been to in a while," says Chesney, "so they know I've not forgotten them." Still, after dates from Rogers, Ark., to Bangor, Maine, to Cheyenne, Wyo., Chesney will close his summer tour on Aug. 26 and 27 at the site of many previous sellouts: Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., outside Boston.

 

RIHANNA
Label: Westbury Road/Roc Nation
Promoter: Live Nation
Agency: WME

As Rihanna brings her tour to European stadiums this summer for shows through late August, she can relish a review from another pop culture star. "It's the most profoundly psychosexual hour-and-a-half I have ever enjoyed," wrote Lena Dunham in her Lenny Letter newsletter after attending Rihanna's concert at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., on April 2. "From the moment she appeared in celestial white to Moan 'Stay' 'til her Helmut Newton-tinged grindathon finale of 'Kiss It Better,' I knew I was in the presence of otherworldly greatness."

 

STING and PETER GABRIEL
Label: Cherrytree/Interscope (Sting), Real World (Gabriel)
Promoter: Live Nation
Agencies: CAA (Sting), WME (Gabriel)

Sting and Peter Gabriel's Rock Paper Scissors Tour features the two veteran British stars, both with roots in the 70's, sharing the bill on a North American swing that opens June 21 in Columbus, Ohio, playing separately and together. "Truly, this isn't about patting myself on the back, but it was my idea," says Live Nation's Arthur Fogel, who has promoted Sting for 15-plus years and has handled Gabriel's most recent solo tours. "I floated it, and they both were interested." Could the 20-date tour be extended? "Hopefully they'll have such a great time," says Fogel, "they'll want to do more."

Contributors: Andy Gensler, Melinda Newman, Deborah Evans Price, Colin Stutz, Ray Waddell

This article was originally published in the May 7 issue of Billboard.

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