Music for Screens: Winter 2012

As the Rolling Stones, considered by many to be the world’s greatest rock ‘n’ roll band, approaches its 50th anniversary this year, music fans and industry insiders alike are hoping the band will hit the road again, in what will likely the biggest sold-out concert tour, ever.

Thus far, the group and its reps remain mum on the subject of a tour, claiming “nothing has been decided at this time.” But from all observations, the Stones are already gearing up for a jump back into the spotlight.

Copious product is already in place to cash in on the milestone, including numerous live archival recordings, re-mastered deluxe versions of Stones classic albums, and a number of DVD titles. The group recently signed exclusive deals with Google Music (to provide promotion and online distribution of a vast collection of upcoming “official” bootlegs), Bravado (to exclusively market the band’s brand and merchandise), Eagle Rock (releasing a plethora of Stones DVDs) and, dating back to 2008, the Universal Music Group (who have the sole rights to release and distribute its entire catalog).

A number of surviving 1960s pop acts are cashing in on the 50th anniversary marketing hook (the Beach Boys, the Zombies and the Yardbirds among them) but since 1962’s other charter band, the Beatles, is no longer around to perform, that leaves The Rolling Stones, with their volatile history, most likely to be the real financial winners on an already crowded concert highway.

“Like many others, I have always felt these guys are going to play until they are dead,” says Danny Zelisko, the former southwest chairman of Live Nation, and currently president of Danny Zelisko Presents. “What else are they going to do? They get their ya-yas out when they tour and they like to play. And besides, there is simply too much money at stake, not for them to tour.”

With the economy being so tight, the outcome of a Stones tour announcement could effect ticket sales for the other big tours scheduled for 2012, among them: Paul McCartney, Roger Waters, Madonna and Coldplay.

The hold up for any official announcement may be due to an on-going, non-compete legal battle between Live Nation and its former chairman, Michael Cohl. Cohl had become the head of LN after a long and successful run promoting the Stones, Frank Sinatra, Michael Jackson, U2 and many others.

In November 2010, Live Nation filed suit for $5.35 million against Cohl for an alleged breach of contract involving a 2008 agreement when Cohl left the company. Cohl claims he paid Live Nation for an exclusion in his non-compete that included the Rolling Stones. Live Nation alleges the payment was not made. The suit between LN and Cohl only indicates what the financial potential of a 2012 global trek could be.

But in a statement issued Feb. 2, the band announced that in the wake of the Bigger Bang world tour in 2007, “the Rolling Stones became free from any contractual arrangements or agreements with Michael Cohl. He is neither their representative nor their tour promoter.”

That same statement “confirmed today they have no firm plans to tour at this time.”

Still, the rumors persist. A number of press outlets in the U.K. have reported all the members (including former Stones Bill Wyman and Mick Taylor) have been seen entering the same building for a proposed tour meeting. And Keith Richards, Mick Jagger and Ron Wood have all made various statements to the press, including the Guardian UK and Rolling Stone, that the band would likely be working during its 50th anniversary.

“We’d like to be ready to be able to do it if the idea starts to happen,” said Richards to Rolling Stone. “I’d even invite Bill Wyman and Mick Taylor back in. Why not? It’s 50 years. Everyone deserves a party.”

“I have always said if they were doing some sort of real big special for a real big, important charity, or a special anniversary, or something like that, and they asked me to do it, I would probably agree,” Wyman tells Variety, “provided I would have some rehearsals with them and all that.” However, Wyman stops short of confirming he has been invited back by the band.

Both Wyman and Taylor have worked with the band in the studio recently. Wyman played bass on a Stones’ cover of Bob Dylan’s “Watching The River Flow” for a 2011 tribute album to late keyboard player Ian Stewart, and Taylor added additional guitar to new tracks recorded for the band’s re-release of 1972’s “Exile On Main Street.”

Throughout its rocky career, the massively popular band has weathered drug abuse, internal bickering and public scandals. Formed in April 1962, rock’s original bad boys have recorded more than 240 songs, sold over 200 million records and have had nearly 25 sold-out global tours since 1964.

The band last played live together in August 2007 at London’s O2 Arena, concluding its two-year, $558 million Bigger Bang tour.

No matter what happens, the Stones will command huge money for their shows, with a possible average ticket price close to $250.

Says Zelisko: “Maybe that will happen, but the average price on the last tour wasn’t that high. They can do whatever they want. They have proven that. After all, there is only one Rolling Stones.”

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