Survey puts Madonna in league of her own

Survey puts Madonna in league of her own
Randy Lewis / Los Angeles Times

It’s official: Madonna tops the Los Angeles Times’ Ultimate Top 10, an annual survey combining sales of concert tickets, albums and digital downloads to measure which acts were most popular with the broadest swath of music lovers.

Madonna was the No. 1 concert attraction in North America during the year, according to Pollstar, the concert-tracking magazine, and she enjoyed album sales to the tune of $12.5 million in addition to downloads of $2.3 million.

This year there’s also a total split between Nielsen SoundScan’s ranking of the 10 biggest-selling performers of 2008 and Pollstar’s Top 10 highest-grossing North American concert tours. The highest any Top 10 SoundScan act finished in Pollstar’s 2008 ranking was No. 13, where the Jonas Brothers (No. 7 among album sellers) landed after playing to 1.3 million fans last year.

Concert revenue hit $4.2 billion in 2008, according to Pollstar, a 7 percent rise over the previous year, even though the number of tickets sold was down. An 8.4 percent increase in average ticket prices was behind the rise, figures that are “astounding considering the economic environment in which they were generated,” Pollstar Editor Gary Bongiovanni said.

The road is still where artists tend to make the most money. Only three of the Nielsen SoundScan biggest-selling artists of 2008 — AC/DC, Coldplay and the Jonas Brothers — make the Ultimate Top 10, even folding in their revenue from digital track sales.

The best example? Taylor Swift sold more albums than any other act last year: 4 million, giving her $52 million in revenue from album sales using $13 as the average price of a CD. But she placed No. 12 in the Ultimate Top 10 calculations because she played only a handful of concerts as a headliner. She spent most of the year as a supporting act on Rascal Flatts’ tour.

That leaves the upper reaches of the Ultimate Top 10 to the veterans, and no one outperformed Madonna, whose combined income of $120 million is a drop from last year’s winner, the Police, which logged $140.7 million.

1. Madonna ($120 million). The Material Girl took in $105.3 million from touring, in addition to $14.8 million from music sales. It’s hard to decide what’s more impressive. The average gross at her shows, mostly in stadiums, was $5.5 million, and she drew about 36,000 people per show. Additionally, the average ticket price was $153.88, easily the highest among Pollstar’s Top 50 grossing tours. Worldwide, according to Pollstar, she amassed $281.6 million.

2. Celine Dion ($106.8 million). Dion posted her highest finish in a decade after ditching her residency at the Colosseum in Las Vegas for an old-fashioned, if high-tech, tour. She grossed $94 million, added $11.4 million in album sales and $1.3 million in digital tracks. Average ticket price: $119.00. Dion finished at No. 8 last year.

3. Kenny Chesney ($95.7 million). This favorite son of Luttrell, Tenn., again proved the most popular country music act on the road last year, pulling in $72.2 million, and was the only artist to sell more than 1 million tickets in North America. Chesney sold $20.8 million worth of albums and $2.7 million in digital tracks. Average ticket price: $71.24. He’s up from No. 4 on last year’s list.

4. Eagles ($90.7 million). The group might have taken the long road out of Eden, but it was pretty near paradise on the concert trail with the band’s take of $73.4 million. CD sales added $15.6 million and the veteran act notched $1.7 million worth of downloads. Average ticket price: $128.82.

5. AC/DC ($82 million). The new “Black Ice” album took the veteran Australian hard rock band back to the top of the charts and also made its concert tour one of the year’s hot tickets. The band’s tally was almost evenly divided, with $37.5 million coming at the concert box office and $44.5 million from album sales. Like Kid Rock, AC/DC doesn’t do digital tracks. Average ticket price: $99.73.

6. Coldplay ($81.6 million). Although finishing sixth, Coldplay is in the enviable position of balancing its power in concert and at retail. About $40.8 million worth of concert tickets were bolstered with $35 million in CD sales and $6 million worth of 99-cent track downloads. Average ticket price: $79.87.

7. Bon Jovi ($81.4 million). The New Jersey band posted another good year, with $70.4 million from 45 shows in 31 cities, plus $8.6 million in CD sales and $2.5 million in digital tracks. Average ticket price: $95.39.

8. Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band ($79 million). This year, the Boss and the E Streeters pulled in $69.3 million on the road and, without a new album, added $8 million in catalog sales and $1.8 million in digital tracks. Average ticket price: $94.17.

9. Jonas Brothers ($77.9 million). The newest act to join the Ultimate Top 10 did almost equally well at the box office as at retail: $41.5 million worth of tickets, $30.4 million in albums and $6 million digitally. An average ticket price of $43.69 made theirs the least expensive ticket among Top 10 finishers.

10. Rascal Flatts ($77.1 million). This good-time country trio is becoming a concert juggernaut, with $55.8 million on the road, $18.2 million in album sales and $3.1 million digitally in 2008. Average ticket price: $59.47.

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Posted on January 14, 2009, in Charts, Madonna, Music and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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