Bon Jovi Gets It Done On The Road

Lucas Jensen | December 11, 2008 10:45 am

The numbers for the year’s biggest tours are in, and it looks like Bon Jovi’s country-tinged Lost Highway Tour is 2008’s top grosser, pulling in $210.6 million and two million fans. And they didn’t just drive back and forth in New Jersey! They totally left the state!* In fact, New Jersey kept on rocking at No. 2: Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band’s Magic Tour conjured $204.5 million dollars (plus $31 million not counted from last year). That’s a lot of Camaros! Full list after the jump:

1. Bon Jovi ($210.6 million) 2. Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band ($204.5 million) 3. Madonna ($162 million for the still-underway Sticky & Sweet tour) 4. The Police ($150 million on the second leg of their reunion tour) 5. Celine Dion ($91 million) 6. Kenny Chesney ($86 million) 7. Neil Diamond ($81.2 million) 8. Spice Girls ($70 million) 9. Eagles ($56.6 million) 10. Rascal Flatts ($55.8 million).

No real surprises here, though country fans are pretty loyal, no? Two of the acts on the list are straight-up country, the Bon Jovi tour had country crossover appeal, and the Eagles are a little bit country, a little bit rock and roll.

Also, people still really love the Spice Girls! That $70 million take was from only 17 shows, making them the largest per-engagement earners. Also coming in high on the highest-grossing engagements list was Bonnaroo, which pulled in $17 million. (To compare, Lollapalooza grossed $14.1 million over three days, while Coachella brought in $13.9 million over the same timeframe.)

Overall, the numbers are mixed for the industry as a whole. Grosses were up 13% from last year to just under $4 billion, the most ever for one year. Total attendance in North America is down 2%, though the dip isn’t as much as last year’s 20% plunge (!). This could be attributed to a decrease in overall shows, as attendance and profits per show were way up.

It’s hard to look at these numbers and not feel slightly optimistic, even if the chart’s upper reaches are mostly populated by legacy acts. It gives a bit of pause to my sometime belief that people just don’t care about music like they used to. I think that what concerts offer, though is a rich, visceral experience for fans. I’m of the opinion that if you offer rich experiences to music lovers—nice LP packages, big shows, etc.—they will pay for it. Maybe fans just don’t want to pay for crappy CDs with forgettable artwork. Movie theaters still bring them in, and IMAX is booming. Maybe the survival of the music biz is predicated on offering these sorts of big, bang-for-your-buck experiences. Unfortunately, that seems weighted towards the acts that draw these kinds of crowds and profits. I doubt we’ll be seeing much new blood on this list anytime soon.

Bon Jovi Scores 2008’s Top-Grossing Tour [Billboard]

* I say this only because one time I went to karaoke in Hoboken, and I joked to my companions beforehand that it would be all Bon Jovi and The Boss. And it pretty much was all Bon Jovi and the Boss, at least two out of every three. People even cycled back and did songs that had already been done not 20 minutes before to the same enthusiasm from the bargoers.