How to Build a Top-Grossing Tour

How to Build a Top-Grossing Tour

Why you should care

U2’s 2009 album may not have been a hit with fans, but their concert tour broke records anyway. Here’s a look at how they did it.

Bono was disappointed by the sales of the band’s 2009 album, No Line on the Horizon. Sure, critics may have loved it. Rolling Stone named it the album of the year and the 36th best album of the decade. But the eclectic album and its Moroccan influence didn’t take off in the charts.

Nevertheless the album’s tour, U2 360°, became one of the highest-grossing concert tours of all time, beating out the Rolling Stones’ a Bigger Bang Tour by a cool $178 million. How did they pull this off?

U2’s 360° Tour by the Numbers

$736 million

revenue from ticket sales

7.2 million

number of tickets sold in 30 countries across 5 continents

110

number of shows

60+

number of venues at which concert set accommodation records (in part due to unique stage design)

$750,000

production costs per show

Sources: Billboard, OurStage, USA Today, Daily Mail

Part of the ticket sales can be attributed to the tour’s staging. Despite featuring the largest concert stage ever constructed, the stage’s shape allowed an unusual 360-degree seating arrangement and featured ”The Claw,” a four-legged structure that hovered above the stage with sound equipment. These arrangements increased venue capacity by as much as 25 percent.

Part of the revenue could also be attributed to a lot of shows — three legs and 110 stops. And part of it had to do with, y’know, being U2. Nevertheless, the tour showcased the band’s adaptability to a world of music consumption quite different from the one that existed when they released their first album in 1980. The idea of listening to an entire album is almost dead, except amongst the most ardent of fans — hurting an album like No Line on the Horizon, which was carefully crafted with a specific beginning, middle and end. But even bands that once enjoyed staggering album sales have to rely more heavily on their concert tours to remain commercial blockbusters.

Bono of U2 performs part of the band's U2 360 tour at Sam Boyd Stadium on October 23, 2009, in Las Vegas, Nevada. Photo by Tim Mosenfelder / Tim Mosenfelder 2009

Source Tim Mosenfelder/Corbis

Fans went nuts in July over rumors that the next U2 tour was imminent, but sadly, no such luck. So while you’ll have to wait to experience the band that after 37 years together can make an enormous arena feel like an intimate club, we can promise that you won’t be sorry that you did.

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