Prince proves king of road

Pollstar estimates gross sales hit $1.96 billion

Prince’s 96-show tour, the largest he has ever done, was the year’s top earner, pulling in $87.4 million, according to industry tracker Pollstar.

Celine Dion’s 154-date stand at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas pulled in $80.4 million, No. 2 for the second year in a row.

Less than a million dollars behind was Madonna, who pulled in $79.5 million from 39 concerts. She was followed by Metallica at $60.5 million; Bette Midler, $59.4 million; the reunited Van Halen, $54.3 million; and country singer Kenny Chesney, $50.8 million.

Pollstar estimates gross sales hit $1.96 billion, an increase of 1%. Tickets sold, however, dropped 3% to 37.6 million. Prince, Chesney and Metallica were the only acts to sell more than 1 million tickets.

Prince started his tour soon after his appearance on the Grammy Awards telecast in February, coinciding with the release of the “Musicology” album. Artists who helped get 2004 off to a strong start included Kanye West; Neil Young; Rod Stewart; and a triple bill of Beyonce, Alicia Keys and Missy Elliott.

Overall, ticket prices for the top 100 acts rose 3.5% to $52.06 this year. Given impressive numbers posted in the first quarter, industry observers believed ticket prices would rise throughout the year. But a number of summer tours were hit hard by fan indifference, leading to discounted ticket strategies such as two-for-ones.

Elton John, whose “Red Piano” show also plays the Colosseum at Caesars, had the highest average ticket price, $158. Prince ducats went for an average of $61.

Early 2005 domestic tours with the potential to generate significant paydays include a reunited Motley Crue playing February through April; Duran Duran during the same time frame; Elton John in Vegas for much of February and a week in April, with March in the Midwest and the South; the Eagles in the East in March and April; and Sarah McLachlan’s 33 dates in April and May.

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