Take nonthreatening hunks, silky harmonies and fancy dancing, add high-tech stage shows and music videos. Then stand back and wait for the young girls to show up with cash in hand.
It's a simple formula, really, but for 'N Sync it added up to another stellar year at record stores and concert venues as the group finished, by grosses, with the second most successful tour and the third-best selling album in the U.S. market.
That double shot of success put the quintet (they are, for the record, Justin Timberlake, J.C. Chasez, Chris Kirkpatrick, Joey Fatone and Lance Bass) atop Calendar's fifth annual Ultimate Top 10. The tally draws its numbers from Pollstar magazine's ranking of the top 100 concert tours in North America in 2001 and SoundScan's ranking of the 200 best-selling album titles during the year. (The SoundScan list does not include the sales of catalog albums, defined as titles more than two years old.) For the album grosses, we multiply the copies sold during the year by $13, an industry average. This year's rankings:
1. 'N Sync, $152.3 million. The boys finished No. 1 in 2000 as well with a gaudy $219 million, making them the first act to repeat as champion of the UT10. This year's total accounts for $86.8 million from their tour, $53.3 million for sales of their latest release, "Celebrity," and another $12.2 million for their previous album, "No Strings Attached," which was still in the Top 200 for 2001. Most satisfying for the group? With this year's success, no one calls them the kid brothers of the Backstreet Boys anymore. Last year: No. 1
2. U2, $130.5 million. The Irish rock veterans had the top tour of the year, pulling in $109.7 million with their triumphant 80-show run through North America. That total is not only impressive, it's nearly historic: Only the 1994 Rolling Stones tour finished a year with a higher gross ($121 million), and Mick and company were playing stadiums that year, not the arenas that U2 chose this time around. The band's album "All That You Can't Leave Behind" came out in late 2000 and finished at No. 39 among 2001 bestsellers. U2 walks onto our list for the first time since 1997. Last year: didn't place.
3. Backstreet Boys, $109.9 million. The other youth-pop squad had another torrid year, although the tour was scaled back from stadiums to arenas and, according to Gary Bongiovanni of Pollstar, the group "had some troubles filling up those arenas. I think we've seen the high-water mark for the youth pop. I wouldn't expect 'N Sync or Backstreet Boys to do as well next year." Ouch. The Backstreet Boys add to their $82.1-million tour gross with the albums "Hits--Chapter One" and "Black & Blue," which combined to sell 2.14 million copies in 2001. Last year: No. 5
4. Dave Matthews Band, $98.2 million. Consistency is a tough trick to pull off in the Ultimate Top 10. Only three acts that made the list in 1998 and 1999 are back this year: 'N Sync, the Backstreet Boys and the Dave Matthews Band. With the hit album "Everyday" (it barely missed the SoundScan list of the Top 10 titles of 2001, finishing with 2.9 million copies sold to land at No. 12) and the usual touring success, DMB is the list's most consistently bankable young rock act. Last year: didn't place.
5. Madonna, $77.5 million. She makes the list on the power of a high-priced ticket. Her two most recent releases, "Music" (released in 2000) and "Greatest Hits: Vol. 2," combined for 1.75 million copies sold this year. She amassed the bulk of her grosses for the year from the elaborate and expensive "Drowned World" tour. The best seats went for $500 a pair, which means the Material Girl will be able to buy a lot of material goods in 2002. The tour, just 28 shows, pulled in $54.7 million. Last year: didn't place.
6. Janet Jackson, $75.9 million. Michael who? Her brother may have been the Jackson who tried hardest for the spotlight in 2001, but the Jackson that finished the year as the money player was Ms. Janet. Her album "All for You" finished at No. 14 on the year-end list and her tour was No. 8 on the Pollstar list. Last year: didn't place.
7. Destiny's Child, $71.5 million. They may or may not still be a group (depends on who you ask and when), they had some thinning crowds during their tour this year and there are plenty of music industry naysayers who believe they have risked overexposure with their relentless appearances in the past two years. But Beyonce Knowles, Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams finished 2001 as a top act. Their 2001 disc, "Survivor," finished No. 7 on the year-end list with close to 3.7 million copies sold and their 1999 album, "Writing's on the Wall," finished at No. 156 with 598,000 copies sold. Their tour brought in $17 million. Last year: didn't place.