NEWS- Pricey tickets: Stones, U2, Sir Paul set records

Powerhouse tours by the Rolling Stones, U2, and Paul McCartney helped drive concert ticket revenues in North America to a record $3.1 billion in 2005, even as the number of tickets sold declined for the third year in a row.

Fans purchased 36.1 million tickets to the top 100 concert tours, compared with 37.6 million in 2004 and 38.7 million in 2003, according to Pollstar, the industry trade magazine.

"You have to figure that's not a healthy sign for the industry overall,'' says Gary Bongiovanni, Pollstar's editor-in-chief.

Despite a slow first-half of the year and the decline in number of tickets sold, concert tours in 2005 represented a 10.7 percent increase in gross receipts over last year's total of $2.8 billion.

The record revenue was due largely to the rare confluence of superstar artists touring.

"You don't normally see three huge acts like that out touring in the same year,'' Bongiovanni says. "McCartney and The Stones alone really helped drive up ticket prices.''

The average ticket price for the top 100 tours rose to a record $57, compared with $52.39 in 2004, according to Pollstar.

The average ticket price has gone up nearly $7 since 2003.

Still, concertgoers proved this year that they remain willing to pay more to see their favorite acts, and the roster of legends that filled touring arenas had little trouble packing them in.

Until this year, the biggest tour of all time had been The Rolling Stones' 1994 "Voodoo Lounge" tour, which drew $121.2 million in gross receipts, Bongiovanni says.

"Both U2 and The Stones went way beyond that this year,'' he says.

The Rolling Stones' "A Bigger Bang'' tour led all other concert tours in 2005 with $162 million in gross receipts, according to the magazine.

The average Stones ticket was $133.98. The tour sold around 1.2 million tickets.

U2 generated the second-most gross receipts, $138.9 million, with an average ticket price of $96.92. The Irish rockers' "Vertigo 2005'' tour sold the most tickets, around 1.4 million.

McCartney's tour earned $77.3 million in gross receipts, with the average ticket selling for $135.46. The tour sold around 570,000 tickets.

Other veteran acts ending the year among the top 20 in sales receipts included the Eagles, Elton John, Neil Diamond, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Motley Crue, and Jimmy Buffett.

Green Day, Rascal Flatts, Dave Matthews Band, Toby Keith, Kenny Chesney, Coldplay, Gwen Stefani and the Anger Management Tour were among the contemporary acts to break into the top-20 biggest earners.

Celine Dion and Barry Manilow, who performed mostly in Las Vegas, also were top draws in 2005. The Canadian diva's shows pulled in $81.3 million in total gross receipts, the third highest. Manilow's shows drew $22.7 million in gross receipts.

"The baby boomers really continue to support and fuel the concert business,'' Bongiovanni says.

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Mick Jagger and Keith Richards may have grossed the most money, but in terms of fans at shows, U2 and Charlottesville's own Dave Matthews Band were North America's most popular acts.

About 1.43 million caught U2, while the Stones performed before 1.2 million to DMB's 1.21 million.

"They edged out the Stones," says Gary Bongiovanni, editor of Pollstar, the concert industry mag.

Not only that, but the Charlottesville-based act was the only one to make Pollstar's top-10 money list with an average ticket under $50. At just $47.09 per ticket, a seat at a DMB show cost about a third of the average price to see the Stones or Las Vegas-based melodramatist Celine Dion, who had the priciest ticket of the year at $136.04.

Now in its 16th year, DMB can't yet match the longevity of ex-Beatle Paul McCartney, but while McCartney sang for just 570,000 North American fans, more than twice as many saw the boys from Charlottesville.

"They've become one of the evergreen acts in the concert business," says Bongiovanni, "and they're young enough that you can conceive of them touring ten years from now. It's hard to say that about the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, or the Eagles."

NEWS LIST- Top 20: Touring artists ranked by dollars

Total gross*/Average ticket/

1. The Rolling Stones $162.0 million / $133.98

2. U2 $138.9 million / $96.92

3. Celine Dion $81.3 million / $136.04

4. Paul McCartney $77.3 million / $135.46

5. Eagles $76.8 million / $104.17

6. Elton John $65.8 million / $102.46

7. Kenny Chesney $61.8 million / $54.63

8. Dave Matthews Band $57.0 million / $47.09

9. Neil Diamond $47.3 million / $63.02

10. Jimmy Buffett $41.0 million / $76.49

11. Mötley Crüe $39.9 million / $46.48

12. Green Day $34.8 million / $38.07

13. Toby Keith $31.6 million / $46.11

14. Rascal Flatts $28.2 million / $34.92

15. Bruce Springsteen $26.3 million / $81.00

16. Gwen Stefani $24.2 million / $54.46

17. Coldplay $24.1 million / $40.80

18. Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers $23.6 million / $38.05

19. Barry Manilow $22.7 million / $153.93

20. "Anger Management Tour" $21.6 million / $64.03

– Pollstar

NEWS LIST- Audience counts: Top grossers ranked by tickets

Total audience* Avg. aud. cities/shows

U2 1,432,890 33,323 43/78

Dave Matthews Band 1,221,430 24,229 50/65

The Rolling Stones 1,209,601 31,827 38/42

Kenny Chesney 1,131,326 17,958 63/71

Green Day 912,843 13,625 67/68

Motley Crue 858,815 8,258 104/106

Rascal Flatts 807,899 10,630 76/80

Neil Diamond 750,210 17,050 44/57

Eagles 737,279 18,432 40/63

Toby Keith 684,968 12,924 53/55

Elton John 642,253 20,070 32/75

Tom Petty & Heartbreakers 621,065 16,786 37/40

Celine Dion 597,632 3,856 1/155

Coldplay 591,535 16,901 35/37

Paul McCartney 570,309 21,935 26/37

Jimmy Buffett 536,391 24,381 22/26

Gwen Stefani 444,368 11,109 40/41

"Anger Management Tour" 337,171 16,056 21/22

Bruce Springsteen 324,116 6,615 49/55

Barry Manilow 147,346 1,459 2/101