By name, he's Prince again, but on the concert trail he was king. Prince's Musicology tour grossed $87.4 million in 2004, tops among concert attractions in North America, according to Pollstar magazine.
The concert-industry-tracking publication will finalize figures this week for some acts that are on tour through the end of the year, but no one will earn enough in the next few days to dislodge Prince, whose tickets averaged $61.04 on his stops in 69 cities. He also sold more tickets than any other act, more than 1.4 million.
His tour gross, however, fell considerably short of 2003's top draw, Bruce Springsteen, who sold $115.8 million worth of tickets. The Rolling Stones remain the all-time box-office champs for their 1994 tour, which raked in $121.2 million.
The word "tour" applies loosely to the year's No. 2 finisher, Celine Dion, who grossed $80.4 million from 154 performances in a grand total of one city: Las Vegas, where she has a long-term engagement at the Colosseum, the Caesars Palace showroom built for her. Madonna's "Re-Invention" tour wound up right behind Dion with a total gross of $79.5 million, but she took honors for the highest average gross, pulling in almost $5.7 million a night during 39 shows in 14 cities.
The most expensive tickets were for Elton John's 60 shows in 11 cities, many of them his "Red Piano" shows at Caesars' Colosseum while Dion took a holiday. Fans paid an average of $158.22 for tickets to the British rocker's concerts, which trumped by a nickel the record for a rock act set last year by the Stones.
"I think we saw some price moderation in the second half of the year," Pollstar editor Gary Bongiovanni said. "Concert business kind of fell off a cliff in mid-April, after which a lot of promoters did a lot of discounting, $20 for lawn tickets at outdoor amphitheaters and 2-for-1 deals that brought the average ticket price down."
Even so, Pollstar's preliminary figures indicate that tickets still got more expensive in 2004, up 3.5 percent over 2003 to an average of $52.06 for the top 100 tours. That offset a 3 percent drop in the total number of tickets sold, leading to a modest 1 percent increase in ticket revenues for the year.
The rest of the top 10 acts were: Metallica ($60.5 million from 83 shows), Bette Midler ($59.4 million from 66 shows), Van Halen ($54.3 million, 79 shows), Kenny Chesney ($50.8 million, 77 shows), Sting ($50.1 million, 83 shows), Toby Keith ($43.7 million, 75 shows) and Elton John ($43.3 million for 60 shows).
Usher, who posted the year's biggest-selling album with more than 7.5 million copies of his "Confessions," came in at No. 18 with a total concert gross of $29.1 million from 42 concerts.
"As usual," Bongiovanni said, "you don't see a lot of new names high on that list. There still isn't a huge correlation, as there once was, between concert ticket sales and album sales."