U2 biggest earning band

By Andrew Johnson

Who says there's no money to be made in the music business any more? While downloading may be killing the rock stars who rely on album sales, there is still a welter of cash around for those on tour.

A glance at the Forbes list of the top 10 grossing bands of last year shows only a slender presence by the shining lights of Generation YouTube. Instead, the list is mostly full of more venerable rockers who have completed massive tours.

The list is topped by U2 with gross earnings of $182m thanks to their global 360 tour. Second are the veteran Aussie hard rockers AC/DC, with $160m from touring and the Iron Man 2 soundtrack. Beyonce is third with $122m; Bruce Springsteen fourth with $88m and fifth is Britney Spears with £41.8m.

Not until we get to number seven, and Lady Gaga, do we find a breakthrough artist. Lady Gaga is queen of the downloads - Poker Face was downloaded four million times. But the revenue from that will have been dwarfed by ticket sales from the New Yorker's outrageous shows.

The music broadcaster Paul Gambaccini points out that the Black Eyed Peas, joint 10th with Coldplay, are the other representatives of the download generation, holding the record with five million downloads for I've Got A Feeling.

"It's no secret that album sales have gone through the floor," he said. "If we go back to the 1960s and Seventies, artists put out a couple of albums a year, thereby building up two-and-a-half hours of hits which is what people want to see. A band such as Oasis, by contrast, only got as far as Sgt Pepper, if you like, but over a much longer period. This has led to a crisis in concert promotion in the US. So it's no surprise that the biggest earners are veteran bands with a catalogue of hits. Also, downloads are cheaper than CDs, so you don't make as much money from them."

But even the lucrative concert business may be wilting. Live Nation, which recently merged with Ticketmaster to become the most dominant force in live music, recently announced that ticket sales for its top 100 acts dropped 9 per cent this year, amid a 17 per cent drop in the concert business at large, and it expects further falls.

"Everybody was surprised by how well the business held up last year, despite the economy crashing around us," said Gary Bongiovanni, the editor of Pollstar, a trade publication.

- INDEPENDENT

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