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Quite a bang at the bank too

Thanks to a lucrative tour, the Rolling Stones were No. 1 in combined concert and album sales revenue in 2006.

January 06, 2007|Randy Lewis | Times Staff Writer

It was another dour year for the music business in a lot of ways, but don't tell that to the Rolling Stones. By extending the group's "A Bigger Bang" tour through much of 2006, the indefatigable band has topped Calendar's 10th annual Ultimate Top 10, which combines album sales with revenue generated by pop acts at the concert box office.

It's the Stones' third time leading this poll, raking in a bit more than $150 million last year, most of it from concert ticket sales.

It's a display of the kind of staying power that seems to be a vanishing commodity in the pop world, as fans move hummingbird-like from trend to trend, style to style and band to band.

One measure of fans' ever-decreasing attention spans is the fact that the longest any album stayed at No. 1 on the national sales chart last year was three weeks, a feat managed only by Rascal Flatts, the country trio who sold more albums than any other act in 2006, and the "High School Musical" soundtrack. And just half a dozen albums spent even two weeks at No. 1. That's a big change from the days in 1992 when Whitney Houston's "The Bodyguard" logged 20 weeks at No. 1, or 1984 when Prince topped the chart for 24 weeks with "Purple Rain," a year after Michael Jackson's "Thriller" fended off all comers for 37 weeks.

The digital domain is becoming increasingly significant in the music industry, but so far, the additional revenue generated by sales of downloaded tracks and ring tones wouldn't alter the results of the Ultimate Top 10, so we're not factoring those in yet. But this year could be when that changes.

Side note: Falling just short of the Ultimate Top 10 was the musician who sold more albums last year than any other act except Rascal Flatts: Johnny Cash. Fans bought 4.8 million of the Man in Black's albums, or $62.8 million in revenue, using $13 as an average cost per album. And that doesn't include the soundtrack to the "Walk the Line" film that helped take interest in his music to new heights. With album revenue alone, Cash came in No. 11 overall.

The Ultimate Top 10 for 2006, compiled with figures for North American concert revenue as reported by Pollstar magazine and North American album sales as tallied by the Nielsen SoundScan sales monitoring service:

1. The Rolling Stones

($150.9 million)

Proving once again that nothing bolsters a rocker's bank account better than hitting the road, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Ron Wood collected $138.5 million from North American fans. Even without adding in the $12.4 million the group's album sales generated last year, the Stones would have topped the Ultimate Top 10 list once again. As usual, pop music's relative old-timers pulled in the most bucks at the box office, since it's their boomer fans who have the deep pockets to afford average ticket prices that commonly run into three figures. That gives them a leg up over the year's biggest album sellers in these days when multi-platinum selling CDs are also becoming fewer and further between. The average price of a ticket to "A Bigger Bang" was $136.63, up a few dollars from a year earlier. Hefty? Yes, but not even close to 2006's priciest tour.

2. Tim McGraw/Faith Hill

($133 million)

The poster children for marital stability would never otherwise be accused of cheating, but their finish at No. 2 on the Ultimate Top 10 list might not seem fair to the other acts who got there alone. Both are strong concert draws on their own, and together they created the biggest country tour of the year, taking in $88.8 million. Add in his album sales ($35.1 million) and hers ($9.1 million), and they were able to edge out all but the mighty Stones. Average ticket price: $80.92.

3. Rascal Flatts

($108.2 million)

The squeaky clean country trio sold more albums last year than any other (just fewer than 5 million), which accounts for the majority ($64.6 million) of its combined concert-album total. The group might have fared even better if it had upped the cost of tickets from a relatively thrifty average of $46.17, making it one of the most affordable of the year. Even so, their tour generated $43.6 million.

4. Kenny Chesney

($106.2 million)

The Luttrell, Tenn., singer keeps pulling in fans year after year: He sold 1.13 million tickets last year, once again more than any other act. At 39, he's young enough to be Mick Jagger or Barbra Streisand's son, as is Rascal Flatts' 37-year-old singer Gary LeVox. Could be worse: 23-year-old Carrie Underwood could be their granddaughter. Average ticket price: $58.34.

5. Madonna

($97.1 million)

The excitement Madonna generated with her "Confessions On a Dance Floor" tour didn't result in a wave of continued sales of her 2005 album of the same name. It sold an additional half a million copies, and contributed to her total album revenue for the year of $11.2 million. On the concert trail, it was another story: She sold $85.9 million worth of concert tickets. The difference: Her average ticket cost of $183.76 was second highest on Pollstar's list.

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