Back In Black: Billboard Touring Conference & Awards Celebrate Live Music's Comeback
Back In Black: Billboard Touring Conference & Awards Celebrate Live Music's Comeback

The artice below on this year's Billboard Touring Conference and Awards is from a Special Feature in the new issue of Billboard on the conference and the state of touring. You can buy this issue -- which also features a cover story on Alicia Keys, lyric videos as a revenue stream, Taylor Swift's big sales for her "Red" LP and more -- right here or sign up for a yearly Billboard subscription here.

Roger Waters and Madonna (inset) are finalists along with Bruce Springsteen for the Top Tour Award

(Photos: Roger Waters by Larry Marano/Getty; Madonna: David Becker/Getty)

The down year for the live industry in 2010 is looking more like a blip on the radar and less like the new normal, as evidenced by the lineup of finalists for the 2012 Billboard Touring Awards. The list of top performers for the year is made up of a healthy mix of genres, touring strategies and positions on the career arc, and show big successes on a global level.

Read all of Billbaord's Touring Conference & Awards Coverage Here

The awards are primarily based on actual numbers reported to Billboard Boxscore, reflecting real business being done, as opposed to any sort of voting procedure. The exceptions would be such honors as Legend of Live (Neil Diamond), the Concert Marketing & Promotion Award, the Humanitarian Award (the Apollo Theater), the Road Warrior Award presented by Shell ROTELLA and the Creative Content Award ("Michael Jackson Immortal" by Cirque du Soleil), as well as the Eventful Fans' Choice Award, determined by online fan "demands" at for Boxscore's top tours.


The nature of the business and the prep time involved in tabulating finalists and winners does not always neatly match up with tour schedules, which means that some tours have to be broken up between different years. Still, for a given year, the Billboard Touring Awards showcase which acts, venues and firms were doing the highest level of business in the preceding months. The awards are based on numbers reported to Billboard Boxscore from Oct. 1, 2011, through Sept. 30, 2012.

Look to for coverage of this year's conference and awards show and see the latest updates on Twitter using the hashtag #TouringConf.


The finalists for the top tour, based on Boxscore gross, and top draw, based on Boxscore attendance, are almost always the same three acts. That's not the case this year.

Roger Waters' groundbreaking The Wall Live is a finalist in both categories. The other two finalists for top tour are Bruce Springsteen's Wrecking Ball tour and Madonna's MDNA tour, both of which made a run through European stadiums before landing on North American shores.

Madonna, as is her style, created buzz and massive ticket sales wherever she went this year. "A brilliant show and tremendous success worldwide," says chairman of global touring for Live Nation Arthur Fogel, now on his fifth Madonna tour. "That's how she rolls."

Meanwhile, Waters' tour transformed the landmark 1979 Pink Floyd album into a touring tour de force. "This tour may gross a lot of money-whatever money I get I tend to spend on the next project or whatever-but I get an enormous reward from the work itself," Waters told Billboard during the tour (Billboard, July 28). "I cannot imagine doing anything for the money."

For Springsteen's part, Wrecking Ball was his first tour without the imposing presence of E Street saxman Clarence Clemons, who died in 2011. As it turns out, Springsteen embarked on one of the most successful and critically acclaimed tours of his career, including some marathon shows that were among the longest and most exuberant he and the band have ever performed.

Springsteen and Waters again show up in the top draw category, along with Coldplay, which toured in support of its 2011 album, Mylo Xyloto.

The top package award, which goes to the top-grossing tour with three or more artists on the bill, is designed to reward synergistic packaging and value offered to consumers. Country has always been both value-oriented and package-friendly, and the result is all three finalists for the top package award this year are Nashville-based country acts.

Seven-time top package award winner Kenny Chesney upped the ante this year with his Brothers of the Sun stadium tour, featuring Tim McGraw, Grace Potter & the Nocturnals and Jake Owen.

Taylor Swift's Speak Now tour is up again for the top package award, after losing out to Chesney last year. Support included Needtobreathe on all dates, along with such third acts as Danny Gokey, Frankie Ballard, Hunter Hayes, Randy Montana, Josh Kelley and several others.

The other finalist for top package is the red-hot Jason Aldean, who, on the second year of the My Kinda Party tour, took to the road with Luke Bryan, either Lauren Alaina or Rachel Farley in the middle slot, and Dee Jay Silver as the opener.

Recognizing that comedy is a strong and growing market, Billboard added the top comedy tour award to the mix four years ago. This year, the three finalists are master ventriloquist and YouTube superstar Jeff Dunham, Flight of the Conchords and British stand-up comedian/TV star Michael McIntyre.


Two of the three biggest boxscores of the year are festivals. This year, two weekends of Coachella, with Radiohead, the Black Keys, Pulp and a surprise appearance by a hologram of Tupac Shakur with Snoop Dogg; and Outside Lands, headlined by Metallica, Stevie Wonder, Foo Fighters, Neil Young & Crazy Horse and Jack White, join Waters' magnificent run at the Estadio River Plate in Buenos Aires as the year's boxscore finalists.

In the festivals division, the three finalists are Coachella, produced by Goldenvoice; Outside Lands, produced by Another Planet Entertainment and Superfly Productions; and Lollapalooza, produced by C3 Presents.

Global promoters Live Nation and AEG Live are finalists for the top promoter award, based on total box-office gross for the time period, and this year Brazilian promoter Time 4 Fun (T4F) joins the list of promoters generating the most ticket revenue.

Global treks by such artists as Madonna, Jay-Z/Kanye West and Lady Gaga, along with scores of international dates by sellout acts like Waters, Springsteen and Coldplay; a sturdy lineup of country tours, including Aldean, Toby Keith, Brad Paisley, Rascal Flatts, Miranda Lambert and Lady Antebellum; and a robust amphitheater season that included the Black Keys, Wiz Khalifa/Mac Miller, Drake, Florence & the Machine, One Direction, Train and many others powered another super-busy year for Live Nation.

Demonstrative of its global reach, top Live Nation grosses reported for the period are three sellouts by Lady Gaga at Saitama Super Arena in Japan, Madonna's two sellouts at Yankee Stadium in New York and two Springsteen sellouts at Ullevi Stadion in Gothenburg, Sweden.

Bob Roux, co-president of North American Concerts for Live Nation, told Billboard that Live Nation's amphitheater business is up year over year in terms of both show count and average attendance. "We're seeing the emergence of a bunch of younger new bands taking a prominent place in the amphitheater lineup," he says.

Festivals and a mega-country tour drove the train for AEG Live this year, with Coachella and Stagecoach fests in Indio, Calif., and Chesney with McGraw, with the Messina Group, on the Brothers of the Sun tour producing the top boxscores. Other tours that performed well for AEG Live include Justin Bieber, Enrique Iglesias/Jennifer Lopez and Carrie Underwood.

"While Justin Bieber and Carrie Underwood did the expected-sold out their shows-2012 was the year of the package, as evidenced by Enrique/J-Lo and Chesney/McGraw for AEG Live, and Jay-Z/Kanye West for Live Nation Entertainment," AEG Live president Randy Phillips says.

T4F did knockout business with Cirque du Soleil's "Varekai" this year, including a whopping 69 shows at Parque Villa-Lobos in Sao Paulo, which attracted 157,409. Waters brought his The Wall Live tour to Estadio do Morumbi in Sao Paulo for two shows with T4F, and another at Estadio Beira-Rio in Porto Alegre, Brazil; and Pearl Jam was huge at Estadio do Morumbi, drawing nearly 100,000 to two shows.

For the top independent promoter (international) award, EvenPro/Water Brother in South America sold 71,863 tickets to the Bieber-headlined Z Festival in Sao Paulo, and did another 50,000 in attendance with the pop superstar in Rio de Janeiro, along with a show by Eric Clapton at Estadio do Morumbi that moved 37,901 tickets.


In Montreal, Evenko did remarkable business with the Osheaga Music & Arts Festival and killed with Cirque du Soleil's "Dralia" and "Michael Jackson Immortal," along with dates from Coldplay and Madonna at the city's Bell Centre.

For top independent promoter (U.S.), a wide range of festivals like Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits contributed to the year for C3 Presents, as did its partnerships in Masquerade Motel Miami and the SnowGlobe Music Festival in Lake Tahoe. For one-offs, Red Hot Chili Peppers in Sunrise, Fla., and Radiohead at Frank Erwin Center in Austin led the way for C3.

Another Planet in San Francisco partnered with Superfly Presents on the Outside Lands festival, and did great business with Phish, the Chili Peppers and Furthur in the Bay Area.

Chicago-based Jam Productions hosted Springsteen at Wrigley Field, and did 15,000 paid with Mumford & Sons' Gentlemen of the Road tour stop at Page Park in Dixon, Ill., and the Chili Peppers at Chi-town's Allstate Arena.

The top manager award recognizes the management firm with the combined highest-grossing clients among the top 50 tours. Sometimes the finalists are managers with one mega-client who toured at the highest level in a given year. This year, the latter is the case, with Mark Fenwick (Waters), Jon Landau (Springsteen & the E Street Band) and Guy Oseary (Madonna) as the finalists.

Similarly to the top manager award, the top agency award goes to the booking agency with the highest-grossing combined tours among the top 50, with multifaceted full-service agencies William Morris Endeavor (WME), CAA and Paradigm Talent emerging as the three finalists.

Chip Hooper, the music division head of Paradigm, which fielded tours by such acts as Keith, Dave Matthews Band, Coldplay, Phish and Aerosmith in 2012, says that being a top agency finalist "is clearly a reflection of our tremendous clients and the people that are part of our team."

For WME, such acts as Waters, Lady Gaga, Swift, Paisley, Rascal Flatts, Pearl Jam, the Chili Peppers and Lambert all enjoyed packed houses for the time period. "The strong year we've had is a reflection of a couple of things," WME head of music Marc Geiger says. "One, the work of the talented artists WME is fortunate enough to represent; and two, the incredible teamwork of the best colleagues in the business."

CAA clients like Springsteen & the E Street Band (booked in conjunction with longtime Springsteen agent Barry Bell), Jay-Z/West, Iglesias, Eminem, Bieber, American Idols Live and metal act Iron Maiden all set turnstiles spinning in 2012, as did top comedy tour finalist Dunham and CAA's Lady Antebellum. Additionally, CAA client McGraw added serious star power to Chesney's BOTS tour. Like Paradigm and WME, CAA artists at all stages of the career arc were highly visible at festivals on a global level.

"Our success this year continues to be driven by CAA's collaborative culture," CAA head of music/managing partner Rob Light says. "Our ability to tap into the agency's vast resources to deliver new and innovative opportunities for an artist, as well as our approach to working hand in hand with a client, their manager, promoters, labels, sponsors and venues enables us to service clients on a more expansive level. This approach has been the cornerstone of our business, and I am proud to work with such a talented and passionate team of agents."