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The Rolling Stones Help October Boxscore Results Surpass Pre-COVID Highs

The Rolling Stones are back. One of the most reliably powerful touring acts in the world over the last half-century, their 2021 edition of the No Filter Tour crowns Billboard’s Top Tours chart for October, grossing $56 million from 259,000 tickets sold according to figures reported to Billboard Boxscore.

After European legs in 2017 and 2018 and a North American sweep in 2019, The Rolling Stones are back with a U.S. addition to the No Filter Tour. The run began with two shows in September and then played six shows in October. That means that October’s No Filter shows averaged $9.34 million per show – more than the $8.6 million and $8.4 million of the 2017-18 European legs but under the $11.1 million benchmark pace of the summer ’19 run.

The Stones also dominate the month’s Top Boxscores chart, owning half of the top 10 with placements at Nos. 2, 4, 6, 7 and 9. The tour’s highlight so far was the two-night extravaganza at Inglewood’s Sofi Stadium, about 15 miles outside of central Los Angeles. Those shows earned $18.9 million and sold 81,700 tickets on Oct. 14 and 17.

It’s the Stones’ second month atop the Top Tours chart, following their victory over August 2019. That month’s $95 million haul still stands as the highest one-month gross since Billboard began monthly Boxscore recaps in February 2019. The No Filter Tour continues with a handful of dates in November.

Harry Styles claims the No. 2 tour of the month with $35.3 million in the bank and, edging out The Rolling Stones by a margin of 3%, 268,000 tickets sold for the month’s highest attendance count. In U.S. arenas rather than the Stones’ stadiums, Styles played 16 shows, including five at Madison Square Garden, plus double-headers at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. and Atlanta’s State Farm Arena.

Styles’ MSG run breaks into two Boxscore reports – one for Oct. 3-4 and 16 (with support act Jenny Lewis) and a second branded as Harryween on Oct. 30-31 (Orville Peck). They rank at Nos. 8 ($8.1 million) and 12 ($5.7 million), respectively, on the Top Boxscores chart but if counted together, the five shows would amount to $13.8 million, good enough for No. 3.

 

The Stones and Styles form a powerful one-two punch, helping the month’s top 30 tours gross a combined $388.3 million and sell 3.6 million tickets. Quite notably, those figures blow past totals from October 2019 – $317.7 million and 3.2 million tickets – the last comparative timeframe before the COVID shutdown.

Back then, Post Malone had the top tour with a $28.4 million gross, about half of the Stones’ breakneck speed. But it isn’t just the force of the world’s biggest band that gives Oct. 2021 its glory, as ‘21’s supporting cast does as much heavy lifting. In October 2021, there are four $20 million tours, compared to three in 2019. There are 16 $10 million tours, versus 13 in 2019. Nearly all of Oct. ‘21’s top 30 tours out-gross the corresponding rank from Oct. ‘19’s list, all the way down to No. 30 (2021’s Bruno Mars, $5.1 million vs. 2019’s Twenty One Pilots, $5 million).

Even beyond the top tours, which ultimately make up a tiny fraction of the entire global touring landscape, the biggest promoters are also up from 2019. The top 10 promoters of October ‘21 combine to $580.7 million and 6.3 million tickets, up 18% from October ‘19’s $490.9 million and 5.7 million tickets. That includes powerhouses Live Nation and AEG Presents, up 13% and 50%, respectively, from two years ago.

 

Of course, the circumstances surrounding these totals mean that we can’t simply celebrate the plain victory of post-COVID touring. Billboard Boxscore figures are reported by promoters, venues, and artist teams around the world, which means that not every single show is reported – not in October 2021, nor in 2019.

And while these tours are playing out in 2021, much of the revenues displayed on the charts are from 2019. The Rolling Stones and Styles, for instance, both put their chart-topping tours on sale before the COVID shutdown, meaning that the grosses being reported in the last few months don’t fully represent concert-attending and ticket-purchasing behavior in the virus’s aftermath. Boxscore results in 2022 will continue to tell that story. Still, several of this month’s biggest tours did make their business in 2021 – the Eagles (No. 3), Jonas Brothers (No. 4), Lady Gaga (No. 10) and several others went on sale in the last six months, proving that ticket sales are, at the very least, on the road to recovery.

Further, the effects of COVID undoubtedly continue to impact concert attendance and venue calendars, with international borders still opening and the general public’s wildly varied responses to the ebbs and flows of the Delta variant.

But after close to a year and a half with scattered livestreams and drive-in shows, it is promising, to say the least, to see A-level tours operating at this level so soon after the lights turned back on. With the (hopeful, but likely) return of more international markets in 2022, the strength of October’s U.S.-centric touring slate bodes very well for the full-fledged return of concerts around the world.