A look at the Hot 100 since the 1950s shows a link between chart performance and touring muscle, although hits have been no guarantee of touring success. The artists with the most overall Hot 100 Number One hits are only infrequently among the world's top touring artists, the exceptions being Paul McCartney, Madonna, Janet Jackson, Elton John, and the number one touring band in the world, the Rolling Stones.
Other artists who racked up a wealth of hit singles decades ago still have cache with ticket buyers as well. And hit-making prowess can also translate into touring success in the current decade, as evidenced by the road performances of such Hot 100 stalwarts as Justin Timberlake and Christina Aguilera. But some frequent visitors to the pop charts have failed to match that success as touring acts.
What follows is a decade-by-decade review of how some of the biggest Hot 100 stars have fared on the road.
1950s and 1960s
The artists with the most Hot 100 No. 1 hits of the 1950s and 1960s for the most part can still tour today. Former Beatle Paul McCartney is one of the elite touring acts in the world, and on a lesser scale the Beatles' other surviving member, Ringo Starr, remains a consistent touring draw with his All Starr Band.
The Rolling Stones are indisputably the kings of touring, though they are decades passed their hit-making hey day and haven't topped the Hot 100 since they reached No. 1 with "Miss You" in June 1978. New singles or even albums hardly matter anymore to the Stones, who own four of the top six highest-grossing tours of all time, including A Bigger Bang of 2005-2007 which took in a staggering $558 million at the box office.
While they're not arena-level headliners, '50s and '60s hitmakers Chubby Checker, Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons, the Beach Boys, Bobby Vinton, and Felix Cavaliere of the Rascals maintain full touring schedules and are popular draws at casinos, fairs, festivals and private dates.
But even a long resume of No. 1 hits can't ensure success on the road. Diana Ross led a Supremes "reunion" tour in 2000, but the trek (which didn't include original Supreme Mary Wilson or Florence Ballard replacement Cindy Birdsong) was cancelled after only 12 performances due to poor ticket sales. Variations of the group without Diana Ross still work the road today.
The Bee Gees were the disco kings of the '70s at radio but they have toured only sporadically since then, even before Maurice Gibb's death in 2003. But many other acts from the decade are huge concert draws when they tour, including McCartney, the Eagles, Stevie Wonder, and Barbra Streisand.
McCartney will likely tour in 2009, and if he does it will surely be one of the top moneymakers of the year. Macca grossed $60 million in 2005 from just 29 shows, according to Billboard Boxscore, and in 2002 he was tops for the year at $126 million.
The Eagles remain one of the most consistent ticket sellers in the business, dating back to the 1994-'96 Hell Freezes Over reunion tour that remains the ninth highest-grossing tour of all time at $197 million. For the most part, the Eagles have been more than satisfying their fans with a "greatest hits" setlist, but the band is now showcasing new material on the road from their platinum-selling 2007 album "Long Road Out of Eden."
Barbra Streisand has only toured sporadically since the 1970s, but when she does play live, she remains a huge draw. Streisand came out of "retirement" in 2006, grossing $476 million from just 17 concerts.
Stevie Wonder, though he tours infrequently, has recently resurrected that part of his career, taking in about $20 million in limited touring in 2007 and 2008.
Though they don't put up the glittery numbers of some of their '70s contemporaries, K.C. and the Sunshine Band stay very busy on the road and are an extremely popular party booking at fairs, festivals, casinos and private or corporate dates.
For the most part, the top hitmakers of the 1980s are some of the top touring artists in the world today. Phil Collins' band Genesis was the second highest grossing tour of 2007 (behind another '80s success, the Police), grossing $130 million from a worldwide tour.
Madonna owns the top-grossing tour ever by a female artist with her 2006 Confessions tour ($194 million), and is poised to break that record with this year's Sticky & Sweet world tour.
Bon Jovi has never been more successful as a touring act than they are today. The band was third among all touring acts in 2006, with more than $131 million in box office, and they're on track to be the top tour of the year in 2008, with more than $200 million in ticket sales.
Rock funkmeister Prince is another powerful touring artist. Prince was second among all touring acts in 2004 with $90 million in box office, and last year Prince's 21 sellouts at the O2 Arena in London was the top Boxscore of the year at more than $22 million. George Michael enjoyed a hugely successful European tour in 2007, and has toured successfully in the U.S. this year.
What about '80s chart king Michael Jackson? The general consensus is that Jackson could still be a draw if he chooses-or is physically capable-of touring, particularly on an international level.
The hit-making superstars of the 1990s are mostly solid touring artists, none more so than Celine Dion. Dion's historic, nearly five year run at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas grossed a staggering $385 million, drawing nearly 3 million people to 717 shows. Proving that she has not in any way diluted her market, Dion is currently in the midst of a global tour that will rank among the year's most successful.
Janet Jackson has shown that she can sell out at the arena level, most recently on her All For You tour in 2003, which grossed $46 million and drew 758,853 fans. Her fifth world trek, the Rock Witchu Tour, begins this month. Mariah Carey has never been an overly active touring act, but she can do arena-level business in many markets. Her Adventures Of Mimi tour in 2006 grossed $26 million from 28 dates reported to Boxscore.
Farther down the list, the going is more of a mixed bag. TLC and Wilson Phillips are pretty much non-existent as touring entities, though Monica does tour, and Boyz II Men are enjoying a successfully year on the road playing large fairs and casinos. Paul Abdul is a non-factor as a touring artist, even though she maintains a high profile as a judge on American Idol. Bryan Adams is an arena-sellout artist in Canada, and still tours worldwide. This year, Adams rang up $981,104 from 17 shows reported to Boxscore.
Several hot hitmakers of the new millennium are also arena-level touring stars, which bodes well for the ongoing power of the hit single. The top touring artists that have broken big with hits are Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera, and Beyonce. Timberlake was third among all acts on the road in 2007 at about $130 million, and Aguilera was ninth at about $50 million. Last year, Beyonce reported 28 shows to Boxscore that grossed $24 million and drew 256,071 fans.
Others new millennium acts have shown a willingness to work the road and build a touring fan base, including Usher, Alicia Keys, and Fergie (with the Black Eyed Peas and as a solo artist). Like the genre in general as a touring concern, hip-hop stars such as 50 Cent and T-Pain have toured less frequently and with mixed results, but Kanye West is currently on his biggest tour yet, the Glow in the Dark extravaganza. The 33 Glow tour dates reported to Boxscore have grossed $24 million and moved 386,174 tickets.