Bruce Springsteen, Coldplay , Adele and Justin Bieber were the big winners at the 13th Annual Billboard Touring Awards, held Wednesday night (Nov. 9) at the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills, California. The evening — hosted by former American Idol host Brian Dunkleman — honored Jon Bon Jovi as The Legend of Live and Bieber’s manager, Scooter Braun, as this year’s Humanitarian Award recipient.
Peering out into the crowd, Dunkleman marveled, “How amazing does Jon Bon Jovi look? I would let him grab me by the p—sy anytime, I swear to God.”
Bon Jovi, who attended with Bon Jovi members drummer Tico Torres, keyboardist David Bryan and producer John Shanks, was humble as he thanked former Maple Leaf CEO Tim Leiweke, manager Irving Azoff, Bon Jovi production manager Paul Korzilius, and Billboard for “asking me to fly to California after being up very late last night” (appearing at a Hillary Clinton benefit in Philadelphia).
Bon Jovi — who has the distinction of having a No. 1 album in each of the past three decades and is on track to yet another No. 1 debut with the new album, This House is Not For Sale — has sold over 130 million albums worldwide and performed more than 2,800 concerts in 50 countries for more than 35 million fans. The band has also earned $1 billion in ticket sales. Before 2013’s Because We Can world tour secured the highest grossing tour of the year, Bon Jovi earned the No. 1 grossing worldwide tour in 2010 for The Circle Tour, which grossed $201 million total, and 2008’s Lost Highway Tour, which grossed $210.6 million.
“Recently I have been asked a lot to explain our success. It is easy for me to say that it is about hard work and a little bit of luck, and usually I can go on about our integrity and caring for each other and for our craft, but at the end of the day I know it is because we produce songs of optimism and hope. Regardless of fashion and fads, that message has remained consistent,” he said.
“Some may say that is naive and a romantic’s point of view, but tonight I won’t fully disagree,” he added, saying the characters of Tommy and Gina in the song “Livin’ on a Prayer” and “It’s My Life” represent not “red, not blue, not black, not white,” but “kindness and spirit that we have many more things in common than the differences that divide us.”
“Music transcends borders and beliefs. We spent our lives traveling to places both near and far to deliver that message to the people who were spending hard-earned money to hear us tell their story and we always tried our best to never let them down,” he said. “Success can be measured in many ways. It’s not just in Boxscores and chart positions. It can also be measured by the impact it has on those you share it with.”
With the presidential election results seemingly on his mind, Bon Jovi also made a plea for unity in a bitterly divided nation. “We sing songs for those who are threatened by a wall; in fact, we sang songs to the Soviet Union when there was a wall,” he said. “We ask you to tell your artists to sing their song to the Muslim and the disabled, for marriage equality and for the LGTBQ community. Sing for the empowered independent women, because equal rights are human rights. We can all sing to the disenfranchised and the scared who need a bit of optimism. Sing, because we can and because as we in this room already know, music is a healer. We have the unique ability to deliver that hug, that handshake, that look into the eye of those we serve with our message of healing and we, this diverse music community, can be the ones to start that evolution… this is my hope, my prayer for a revolution.”
Fellow New Jerseyan Springsteen was not in attendance, but E Street Band pianist Roy Bittan was on hand to accept the prize for Top Tour. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band’s The River tour was 2016’s most successful trek. Bittan took time to thank the promoters as well as Jon Landau Management for being there supporting the band through the years.
“Way back in 1974, there were no cell phones. You had to stop by a pay phone to make a call. There was no internet to watch porn on, and if you tweeted, you were a parakeet,” he said. “To make it in the music business, you had to create a buzz by playing live. You couldn’t make a video and have Scooter Braun discover you. We started a love affair with our fans, and for Bruce and the E Street Band our concerts became our most direct, emotional medium of communication and I believe it still is today, like so many other artists.”
“I started at Maverick when I was 17 years old,” he said. “It was a record company, and I am really thrilled to continue with it many years later. The music business was, you toured to promote your album, and today you make albums to promote your tours. So touring is really the number one thing that matters.”
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.
Other honorees included Braun, who received the Humanitarian Award for his philanthropic efforts with Make-A-Wish, which grants wishes to children with life-threatening illnesses; Pencils of Promise, which builds schools in developing nations; and F— Cancer, founded by his wife, Yael Cohen, which promotes prevention and early detection of cancer. Braun was introduced by actress and singer Rita Wilson, who met the manager in 2009, “before the world knew who Justin Bieber was.”
Wilson was immediately taken with the then-28-year-old’s interest in family and his desire to make other people’s lives better. She praised Braun and wife Yael, who are expecting a second child in three weeks, as partners who “share the same values, the same kindness, the same heart.”
“What he wants for his children is more than financial success. Scooter wants his kids to be good people, to do for others, to be good human beings. He would want them to be humanitarians, just like he is,” she said.
Stepping to the podium, Braun thanked his wife for “showing me that my problems are inconveniences… She deals with real problems.”
“It’s interesting winning a humanitarian award on Nov. 9, because I thought it was going to be a very different conversation,” he said, also alluding to the historic election results. “That word humanitarian is the idea of wanting to further human welfare. To work in welfare is the idea of helping your community and those around you. The last year, we haven’t done a lot of that. We fought with each other as a nation, we’ve devalued each other and we forgot we are our brother’s keepers, and most recently we forgot we are our sister’s keepers.
“I think the most important thing we can do now is take our influence back home and make a real difference in a very divided nation,” Braun continued. “I’m 35 years old with a 22-month-old son and one on the way and that seems to be the work I want to do with my life now. Up until now, there has been something missing — a passion. I dedicated the last year and a half of my life to help Hillary Clinton become the President of the United States and I thought that would help, but that didn’t happen. And instead of sulking, I think the best thing that happened is we are aware. We know where the hate is, we know where it lives, we know our issues. We admit the frustration of the working man who came out and voted, but we see that so many people deserve a better nation than what they have now. They deserve to know if they are Muslim they should be able to be the President of the United States. If they are Mexican-American they should be able to explain to their kids what is going on in the White House, and if they are a woman, they should be treated equally, if not better than all of us. I hope that last night makes us all take a pledge not to be discouraged but to all be humanitarians, to all care about each other, to be kind, and more importantly, no more ‘we don’t talk religion or politics’. That is how we got here.”
Coldplay earned honors for Top Draw as well as Top Boxscore, with Marty Diamond, Head of East Coast Music at Paradigm, accepting on behalf of the band. Bieber’s highly successful Purpose tour featuring singer/songwriter Moxie Raia and rapper Post Malone won Top Package. Bieber’s manager, Braun, accepted on behalf of the star, joking that the audience was the “exact age demographic” of the average fan of the pop star.
Kirk Sommer — partner at William Morris Endeavor — accepted on behalf of Adele, who won Breakthrough Artist over The Weeknd and Twenty One Pilots. In addition to headlining England’s Glastonbury Festival in June, Adele had the must-see tour of 2016, which included eight sellouts at Los Angeles’ Staples Center, grossing $13.8 million, and six nights at New York’s Madison Square Garden, which grossed $9.8 million.
It wasn’t all seriousness, however. Dunkleman decided it wasn’t too soon to joke about the 2016 election and President-Elect Donald Trump. “Look at the bright side — marijuana is now legal in California,” he quipped. “So everybody just take a big hit and exhale in four years.” The evening is not to talk about politics, “unless it’s the politics of dancing and feeling good,” he said, referencing the ’80s hit by Re-Flex.
Of course, Dunkleman couldn’t resist taking a shot at his former employer in his monologue.
“So much has happened in the world of music. American Idol was canceled,” he said. “I knew that show would never last without me. Who’s the genius now? Did anybody see me on the finale? Three people, great. Everybody asked me the same question: What did you whisper in Ryan Seacrest’s ear when you guys hugged? I’ll tell you what I whispered: ‘I’m going to f—ing kill you.’ I’m really kidding, what I really said was, ‘Can I please have some money? Just enough for an Uber.'”
Other winners included Coachella for Top Festival, Chance the Rapper for the Concert and Marketing Award and Brian Murphy of Goldenvoice/AEG Live, who took home the Gold Circle honor.
Kevin Hart won for Top Comedy Tour for the second year in a row.
2016 Billboard Touring Conference & Awards winners:
Top Tour: Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band The River Tour
Top Draw: Coldplay
Top Package: Justin Bieber Purpose Tour feat. Moxie Raia and Post Malone
Top Comedy Tour: Kevin Hart
Top Festival: Coachella
Top Promoter: Live Nation
Top Independent Promoter (U.S.): Another Planet Entertainment
Top Independent Promoter (International): SJM Concerts
Top Agency: Creative Artists Agency
Top Manager: Maverick Management
Top Boxscore: Coldplay @ Wembley
Top Arena: The O2, London
Top Club: HOB Boston
Top Amphitheater: BB&T Pavilion, Camden, N.J.
Top Venue (Under 10,000 seats): Radio City Music Hall
Top Venue (Under 5,000 Seats): Colosseum at Caesars Palace, Las Vegas
Concert Marketing & Promotion Award: Chance The Rapper
Golden Circle: Brian Murphy, Goldenvoice/AEG Live
Humanitarian: Scooter Braun
Legend Of Live: Bon Jovi